Hermon Resident Defends Against Claims of Unethical ASNC Candidacy

Joseph Riser said that his candidacy to represent Scyamore Grove on the ASNC is legal, and that his motives for running are altruistic. Eliot Sekuler, one of the board's founding members, has publicly criticized Riser's efforts.

Speaking at Monday evening's meeting of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC) at Ramona Hall, Mount Washington resident Eliot Sekuler called current board member Joseph Riser's candidacy for the seat representing Sycamore Grove "unethical" and called on him to withdraw from the Oct. 13 election.

Riser currently serves as the board's At Large director for education and youth, at seat he's held since 2010. Before that, Riser served for four years on the board as Hermon representative.

Sekuler--one of the founding members of the ASNC--said that he believes Riser is attempting to take an advantage of new election guidelines--established by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the overseeing body of neighborhood councils--which allows candidates to run for seats in neighborhoods where they don't live or work by staking a factual claim to the neighborhood.

"Should he take over one of Sycamore Grove's two board seats, he would be serving eight consecutive years on the ASNC board and would be the only ASNC board member to hold a seat for that long a tenure," Sekuler said.

He also questioned Riser's motives for running for the Sycamore Grove seat, noting his recent support of an effort by the Hermon Community to secede from the ASNC and form its own neighborhood council.

"His attempt at carpetbagging by grabbing one of Sycamore Grove's two seats is especially alarming in light of his recent effort to lead the Hermon neighborhood in seceding from the [ASNC's] confederation and forming an independent Hermon council," Sekuler said.

Martha Benedict, current President of the ASNC, said she supported Sekuler's statements.

"I agree with Eliot. When the new board is seated in October, Joe Riser will begin his seventh year on the ASNC board with a guarantee of a two-year term. That puts him at double the old limit in the original Bylaws that Joe and Eliot worked on together."

Riser, however, said his candidacy for the Sycamore Grove seat is legal according to both the ASNC's bylaws and DONE's election guidelines.

The bylaws state that Geographic Representatives on the ASNC are only allowed to serve two consecutive two-year terms before giving up their seats. The same rules apply to At Large representatives. However, they do not set any overall term limits for board members.

"The ASNC Bylaws have never limited people to just four years, only four years in the same kind of seat--geographical or at-large," Riser wrote in an e-mail to Patch.

He also defended his support of a Hermon Neighborhood Council, saying it was a product of him listening to stakeholders' desires.

"The Hermon Neighborhood Council is a direct result of empowering one community to seek what's best for it own future representation," he said. "The stakeholders called for it in great numbers, and I answered with the process as outlined by City documents."

Spirit of the Bylaws

Sekuler said that the original ASNC bylaws, which he and Riser helped to craft as two of the board's founding members, sought to limit members from "making a career" out of serving on the board.

"I am dismayed that one of the original organizers of this neighborhood council has chosen to violate the spirit of our organizing group by misrepresenting himself as a voice for the Sycamore Grove community, to which he has no genuine ties," Sekuler said. "Joe Riser’s allegiance to his own neighborhood--Hermon-is well known, and though we cannot know his personal agenda, it appears that he is using changes in ASNC bylaws to skirt the issue of term limits and create a perpetual place for himself on this council. Even if he is in
compliance with the letter of neighborhood council bylaws, his misrepresentation of himself as a Sycamore Grove 'stakeholder' certainly violates their spirit."

Riser said his motives in running for the Sycamore Grove seat were altruistic and referred to his candidate's statement, in which he promised to continue his efforts to enlist new stakeholders and boost involvement in the ASNC.

"If that vision of involvement and outreach to an overlooked area constitutes some kind of agenda, then I only wish more neighborhood council board members came to the table with similar altruistic goals--hidden, or otherwise," Riser said.

Riser said that though he was eligible to run for re-election to his At Large seat, he chose to step aside for another candidate who was younger and "extremely qualified."

By running for the Sycamore Grove seat, Riser said he "was going where he was most needed."

"I started considering other possibilities where I could best serve.  About the same time, our second candidate for Sycamore Grove--a business owner--fell through, and a third possibility never materialized," Riser said. "Several times in the past, Sycamore Grove has only been represented by one person, and tackling its size and issues has been overwhelming to that individual, and so they basically did nothing for two years. Many have quit early and had to be replaced by unelected people."

He also noted that he is running unopposed for the seat, with only he and candidate Sergio Vidal-Echeverria vying for the two open Sycamore Grove spots.

Asked what he thought of Riser's professed motives in running for the Sycamore Grove seat, Sekuler said he was unconvinced.

"I have to say, I think what he's saying is patronizing and self-serving," Sekuler said.

JosephR September 25, 2012 at 10:40 PM
To be clear, there are really no "new election guidelines" involved here. These rules and definitions have been in place since 2008, and have been the governing structure for the previous two ASNC elections -- in 2008 and 2010. The ASNC has also had "factual basis" stakeholders serve on the board as both At-Large and Geographical reps in the past.
The MOG September 26, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Joe, I think you're in the right. ASNC Stakeholders have not had the representation they deserve. It seems the self-appointed elites would rather save positions for themselves, and their friends, rather than then risk losing them, by encouraging more outreach and stakeholder participation. I use Sycamore Grove Park for recreation, it is a 10 minute walk from my place. That is my factual basis as Stakeholder. How many mono-lingual speakers are represented on the ASNC? That's what I thought. Yet, the park has been used primarily by Spanish speakers for well over a decade now. Something wrong with that picture. Keep on giving 'em hell! All my best.
David Lyttle September 26, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Joe, I support the efforts you make on behalf of all ASNC stakeholders. I look forward to working with you as one of the Monterey Hills Geographic Reps.
David Lyttle September 26, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Don Grey September 26, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Joe, keep up the good work. Martha & Eliot are just obsticals for your representation of the people in SG
Martha Benedict September 26, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Please note that the current Sycamore Grove representative is bilingual.
The MOG September 26, 2012 at 03:31 AM
That's find, Martha, but the question concerned mono-lingual speakers...and for that matter, how many Blacks, or Asians are represented on the ASNC. Not many? One? None? I see a problem with this, not only for the ASNC, but also for the HHPNC. I think the Neighborhood Councils could use a little more diversity. Joe's emphasis is outreach, I applaud his efforts.
Katharine Parra September 26, 2012 at 03:38 AM
I find Mr. Riser's sudden desire to represent Sycamore Grove puzzling. I have only heard his desire to form a separate Hermon Neighborhood council for the past several months. As a stakeholder, I do not like that someone can continue on the ASNC board year after year just by changing seats. There is a reason that there are term limits in government...I must say, that I, too, support Mr. Sekular's statements.
Martha Benedict September 26, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Mr. MOG, on the board that has just completed its service, we had a Chinese American, an African American, Latino individuals and a Native American. Evidently you have not attended any ASNC meetings.
The MOG September 26, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Martha, thanks for the input, but I think everyone is familar with the goings on at the ASNC at this point. Let's leave it at that. I had my say, and you had yours. I'm sure we all want the best for our neighborhoods, in any case. Thank you again, and all my best!
Pat Griffith September 26, 2012 at 05:18 AM
I look forward to hearing about Joe's support for events and outreach in Sycamore Grove. Will Joe vote to support Lummis Day? Or to support non-profits like Avenue 50 Studio, where many Arroyo Seco artists exhibit, and just across the street from the Sycamore Grove boundaries? Or for repairs for the Lummis House?
Alice M. September 26, 2012 at 06:47 AM
If (Sekuler) "and Riser helped to craft" bylaws that were designed to "to limit members from 'making a career' out of serving on the board" - but those bylaws actually "do not set any overall term limits for board members" then it seems like their crafting didn't work very well, did it? Maybe the two of them should have consulted some lawyers. I understand quite a few local ones live in Mount Washington, and thereabouts. Maybe they would have helped out pro bono?
nonoise September 26, 2012 at 02:32 PM
All bylaws are approved by the city Department of Neigborhood Empowerment. (DONE). If anyone has a complaint, they need to contact them.
Sonya September 26, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Mr Riser will have a lot to prove as Sycamore Grove Rep because he has not supported Sycamore Grove for the last several years. :-P
Scott Rubel September 26, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Your "self-appointed elites:" is that the definition of the only people who put themselves out there and volunteer for ASNC when a call for candidates comes out? I would think that, to be "self-appointed" you would have to be somehow winning a seat unfairly against some competitors. Otherwise, you are in your seat because you got voted there and/or were unchallenged. Where is the "self-appointed" part of this? What does "elite" mean? That you have an ASNC seat? That you know something about something? That, because you have a seat you think you are better than everyone else? Most seats are won unchallenged. To get the representation we "deserve" I would think some involvement would be in order. We get exactly the representation we deserve.
Jack Fong September 26, 2012 at 09:00 PM
How can anyone say that Joe will work "on behalf of all ASNC stakeholders" when he has worked so hard to divide the ASNC by proposing to have Hermon secede from it (in order to form its own separate neighborhood council)? That was obviously not in the interest of all the communites which the ASNC encompasses. Joe had plenty of opportunity to serve the Sycamore Grove community when he was on the ASNC Board as an At-Large Representative, yet did not do so, but chose in effect to break it up by continuing to pursue certification for a new neighborhood council for Hermon (despite being told that there was “lack of proper legal basis for further processing” according to a letter from DONE (Dept. of Neighborhood Empowerment) dated January 5, 2012). Are we now being led to believe that if Joe is elected as a Sycamore Grove Representative, and simply for "altruistic" reasons he will switch his allegiance to Sycamore Grove & work for that community instead of Hermon? Will he start working on a Sycamore Grove Neighborhood Council then? Whereas current indications are that Joe & the Formation Group for the Hermon Neighborhood Council are still working to create their own neighborhood council without regard to the current ASNC. So which is it going to be? – the unity of all 5 communities of the ASNC (which includes Sycamore Grove as a part) working together, or just Hermon on its own?
Terry Dean September 28, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Good morning, here is an additional piece on the upcoming ASNC elections - http://thearroyosecojournal.com/?p=1318
Mark Legassie September 30, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Why isn't this Mr. Sekuler running for the board if he's so concerned about ASNC's future? It's tragic that the people who complain the most don't get involved themselves. No one on the current board can deny that Mr. Riser is the most knowledgeable of any member on our bylaws and history. He has been the glue that has held everyone together. After all, most of us on that board still can't recite the bylaws, standing rules, or financial guidelines (as shown by a defunct attempt to accuse the former Treasurer of wrong-doing). And I think it's nonsense that Mr. Sekuler and a couple of supporters from Montecito Heights talk about the need to live in that community to be a geographic rep. The right person is who will do the *most* for the community, not who lives closest to you! What if someone lived in SG all their life and just moved across the river to Montecito Heights? Are they now not qualified to serve as the SG rep? Since 2005 when I got involved, Sycamore Grove has been grossly under-represented at the ASNC and has received very little funding as a result. It's an embarrassment to Northeast LA to see this garbage-filled accusation come up at an ASNC meeting and then splattered in the news. Moral of the Story: Getting fame by pointing blame amounts to much shame. Shame on the accusers (and the media for attempting to sensationalize this just to get more readers).
Charles Inman October 02, 2012 at 12:17 AM
When I first joined ASNC some ten years or more. I was required to tender my utility bills to prove I was resident of Mt. Wash. Now I understand self-affirmation is all that is required to become an officer. This is for the birds in my opinion. This is admission few residents care for NC activities. Sycamore Grove is mostly blue-collar and Section 8. Even on my premiere block of Elyria, I think I am only the sole stakeholder. I agree with Eliot. Charles Inman/Mt. Wash. resident over half-century.
JosephR October 02, 2012 at 01:52 PM
This is also incorrect information. Board candidate filing is not by self-affirmation within the ASNC -- and never has been. A stakeholder's "stake" must be verified by the Independent Election Administrator and/or the DONE Elections division in Van Nuys, and he or she must produce documentation before their name is placed on the ballot. Stakeholder voting is, however, now by self-affirmation as approved by a vote of the ASNC board (in 2007, I believe). At no time, however. was stakeholder registration (aka, NC "membership" -- a practice now outlawed by the City attorney's office) -- ever limited to residents, and even before the CA's intervention to change the ASNC's bylaws this summer, about 20 percent of those registered to vote were non-residents -- including a number of past boardmembers and even recenf board officers. (At the first candidate's forum this week, the current ASNC treasurer revealed for the first time publicly that she ceased to be a resident of the ASNC area she now represents -- and is running to represent, again -- sometime after becoming the elected treasurer in 2011).
David Lyttle October 02, 2012 at 02:55 PM
A stakeholder is defined as “……those who live, work or own property in the neighborhood or to those who declare a stake in the neighborhood and affirm the factual basis for it.” Judy Knapton has not lived in Monterey Hills since October of 2011 and all of the ASNC PRESERVE slate members (which includes current ASNC Executive Committee members Martha Benedict, Jack Fong and Ariel van Zandweghe) were aware of it ……… or were they ? If Judy Knapton or Joe Riser want to run for geographic seats as “factual-based” candidates and Empower LA is OK with it I have no problem. My problem lies in the hypocrisy and cowardliness of the PRESERVE ASNC slate members who are quick to point out the “factual-based” candidacy of others while keeping it a guarded secret about their own slate candidate, Judy Knapton who is cut from the same cloth. Gee, I wonder if Mark Legasse had any knowledge of Judy Knapton’s “factual- based” status ……….…hmmmmmm??
David Lyttle October 07, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Martha, who is the Natve American who sat on the ASNC board that you make reference to ?
nonoise November 08, 2012 at 04:36 PM
And, anyone can claim a "factual basis". There is no such thing.


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