Rumors have been swirling in the community ever since Mar Vista Community Council Chairman Albert Olson of the Board of Directors meeting at the Mar Vista Recreation Center on Tuesday night.
According to the council’s bylaws, Olson was tasked with nominating a candidate out of the seven community members who put their names forward for the of an at-large member on the MVCC Board. The nominee had to be approved by two-thirds of the board (eight members) at Tuesday night’s meeting.
When Olson nominated Yvette Molinaro for the position, only seven votes were cast in her favor. Only six votes were cast in favor of Olson’s second nominee – Michael Millman. Olson then nominated Molinaro for a second time and this time only six votes were cast in her favor.
When Board Member Bill Scheding then asked if Olson would be willing to go down the list and nominate each candidate to see if any received a majority vote, Olson refused. The bylaws do not state that he must put every candidate to the vote.
Instead, Olson said, “There is a specific candidate some people are waiting to vote for. For reasons I don’t want to and will not get into I am not going to make that nomination. I am going to do something instead. I do basically regard the votes taken as a vote of no confidence and I am resigning my position both as a board member and as chair.”
Olson then stood up and walked out.
Patch reached out to board members about the issue. Some declined to comment, while others did not respond to our requests. However, one board member was willing to speak on the record, on condition of anonymity.
According to the board member the candidate Olson was referring to was Chelsea McFarland, who together with her husband, Rob, has become a well-known fixture in the community and has been an extremely active volunteer with the council, particularly with the Green Committee.
The McFarland’s run HoneyLove.org and are the catalysts for the push to create an in Los Angeles. On Tuesday night the council to support the project.
The issue regarding McFarland’s nomination apparently had to do with whether she was even eligible to be nominated as she may not actually be a stakeholder in Mar Vista. McFarland did not respond to Patch’s telephone and email queries to comment on this story.
The board member told Patch, “It’s complicated as some people say she’s not a resident of Mar Vista and that she doesn’t own property in Mar Vista. When she [gave the board] her candidate statement she said her business is in Mar Vista. It’s my understanding that when people looked into it, it appeared that the address she listed is not the address she operates from. I think that for this reason Albert was reluctant to put her name forward.”
Patch reached Olson by telephone. However, he declined to comment for this story, stating that everything he wanted to say had already been covered in his letter.
The board member also stated that McFarland’s “legitimacy [as a potential nominee], has been an ongoing discussion and it has gone to the [City] Council office.”
Patch contacted Councilman Bill Rosendahl who stated, “I don’t meddle in neighborhood councils, and I won’t comment on this. However, I have personally been against the definition of a stakeholder [as it currently stands]. I think it should be a person who lives in the area; not someone who owns property or works in the area.”
Rosendahl added that he knew he was in “the minority” in his thinking on the stakeholder issue. “If the board [of a neighborhood council] agrees on something, I go with it, though," he said. "I just accept what that is.”
Regarding Olson’s resignation, Rosendahl said, “All I can say is [Olson] is an incredible leader in Mar Vista. He’s a great guy and I’m sorry to see him resign.”
A broken voting process
The board member told Patch that Olson’s abrupt departure from the meeting was “pretty shocking. I had no idea that Albert was feeling that way or that he was considering resigning, although he might have been thinking about it.” The member also stated they were pretty certain nobody else on the board knew that’s what Olson was planning either.
They went on to say that they felt the whole “[nominating] process is broken. The process of appointing a new board member is not going to work with a board that has any kind of political division,” they said. “This system [of having the chair nominate a candidate] that requires a two-thirds majority vote simply gives the board the opportunity to filibuster the appointment and that’s what happened. There’s also no reason to believe that it would [be different] in the future.”
They added that the issue may have been about a candidate’s stakeholder status on Tuesday night but there will always be some issue that the board won’t agree on.
“In the future it could be about something else; the candidate’s politics or their authenticity,” they said.
The other issue they brought up was the very uncomfortable process of the candidates having to make their statements in a public forum; have the nominations read out in front of them; and the votes counted in front of them.
“We’re all volunteers,” the board member said. “So you’re left with a situation [as in this case] where you have to tell six out of seven people they’re not good enough. I don’t think our board should be doing this,” they said.
“I think we need to restructure the bylaws so that we hold a general election when a position on the board becomes vacant.”
The board member also noted that the board is only part of the council, that many community members sit on the council committees and even more volunteer to work on those committees.
“All those people who participate in those committees and the alumni should be able to vote too,” they said. “These people would come out and vote in a general election and we wouldn’t have to have this face-to-face selection process.”
Good faith alone no longer works
The current bylaws are the culprit, the board member said.
“The way bylaws work is that [the board] approves them and then never looks at them again until they really matter. Once I saw how [Tuesday night's nomination process] was going to work, it just didn’t make sense that the chair should get to decide the nomination for the entire board. I think the MVCC has reached a point of political maturity where good faith alone isn’t going to work. The process seems undemocratic,” they said. “We should be electing [members] not appointing them.”
Did Olson have to resign?
While the bylaws state that it is the chairman’s job to nominate a candidate from the list of people that put their names forward, there’s nothing in them that states he or she has to resign if a two-thirds majority doesn’t support that nomination.
“[Olson] could have brought this back to the next meeting if he wanted to, he didn’t have to resign,” the board member said.
However, when Board Member Kate Anderson proposed tabling the nominations until the December meeting on Tuesday night, Olson remained steadfast and said, “The bylaws mandate that this process take place on a certain timeline. We need to move forward if we can. Tabling isn’t really an option.”
The board member told Patch that they understood that Olson is a man of principal and integrity and saw Olson’s dilemma.
“If [the concerns] about McFarland are true, what would have happened if [Olson] had nominated her and she had been approved by the board?” they queried. “The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment could have come back to us and said, ‘Your board member isn’t a stakeholder.’”
Nonetheless, the member stated that they were saddened by Olson’s decision and felt that his resignation wasn’t necessary.
“Imagine you have a situation where there are four or five candidates for a position and no candidate receives greater than 60 percent support. If you nominate them and they are not approved, all that shows is that there isn’t a single candidate that has the full support of the board and that is the kind of situation we have here. This was not a vote of no confidence in Albert. It was simply that the board was unable to agree on a candidate and we shouldn’t have to lose our chairman because of it.”
Board Member Bill Koontz told Patch he too was sorry to see Olson go.
“I am deeply saddened at the loss of such a great chair and a great community leader,” Koontz wrote in an email to Patch. “Albert has become a friend to me these last few years and it sickens me to know the back story of what ultimately drove him from well-deserved office. I hope and know in my heart that he will stay active in his community. And I just want him to know, as far as I'm concerned that the door is always open for him to return to the board and we will welcome him with open arms."
The Mar Vista Community Council will be holding a special meeting of the Executive and Finance Committee tonight (Nov. 10) at 5:45 p.m. to officially accept Olson’s resignation.
What do you think of the MVCC’s current bylaws? Share your thoughts on this and on your reactions to Olson’s resignation in the comments section below.