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Neighborhood Council Clashes Over Missing Equipment

Treasurer Judy Knapton says more than $10,000 in neighborhood council equipment is missing, but board member Joseph Riser says that number is "inflammatory."

Though the recently elected Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council pledged to move forward with mutual respect, a lingering issue regarding board property dredged up acrimony on Monday evening.

A report presented by Treasurer Judy Knapton--which listed more than $11,611 in missing ASNC-owned property--led to a protracted debate over the validity of the document and the motives behind it.

Among the priciest missing items are a cargo bin, a power generator and $2,500 in emergency equipment.

Knapton said she did not know where many of the items were now located. She added that former treasurer, Mark Legassie, had refused to hand over financial documents.

"The treasurer is not someone who I would trust on this, because she has a hidden agenda," said Sycamore Grove Representative Joseph Riser. 

Knapton and Legassie clashed during their time together on the board.

Riser and Legassie both disputed that report, saying that she failed to note board votes that authorized the expenditures.

On Monday night, Riser said that many of the items on the list were purchased by the ASNC for other organizations, such as the Hermon Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

He said it was "a little inflammatory" to suggest that the items were missing, when they were in fact purchased for community organizations.

Knapton responded saying it was her responsibility to compile the document for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the ASNC, and that it was not her responsibility to track down the items, only to note whether or not they were in the board's possession.

According to Riser, many of the items on the list are located in a storage bin that was purchased for the Hermon CERT team located behind the Hermon Community Church. The bin, as well as the keys and a pair of bolt cutters are all reported as missing on the list.

"We know that there is a bin filled with stuff and there is no way to get into it," Faith Based Organizations Representative Margaret Barto said.

Valerie Harragin, a new member board member, asked why the board was dwelling on the items.

"At what point can we move on?" she asked.

"It's not an issue for us to say you can move on," said Lisette Covarrubias, a DONE project coordinator who was supervising the meeting. "You need to locate it, because it is your stuff."

She also told the board they technically did not have the authority to purchase items for community groups, and that they were only allowed to grant funds.

"You do not have the authority to donate items to other organizations unless it's being done through the City Council," she said. "If these items were purchased for someone else, then you need to follow through with DONE's funding program."

Riser noted during the meeting, however, that rules regarding donations to community groups had changed several times during his ASNC tenure, and that many of the items where purchased for groups at a time where neighborhood councils were encouraged to do so.

David Lyttle October 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I can only hope that this is not indicative of other councils. Bravo to new Board member Valerie Harragin who is willing to step up and say "enough is enough", Perhaps the more ingrained and complacent Board members can take her lead.
El Cid October 31, 2012 at 12:43 AM
The resolution to such behavior is "Take away the $$$!!!"
nonoise October 31, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Items purchased by the neighborhood council can not be donated to any religious organization. I don't think that happened. But it might be inappropiate to store items on their premises there even if they are just in storage. Check with the city attorney or DONE. Those items should be moved to a place where they can be used and accessed.
nonoise October 31, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I agree, take away the money. And, it does not sound like DONE is helping with the situation. They are part of the problem. Grants can not be used for religious organizations.
nonoise October 31, 2012 at 01:20 AM
The neighbood council can grant money to CERT to purchase those items. Then the items belong to CERT and not the neighborhood council. Maybe clarification is needed. There may be a misunderstanding? The money that was granted to CERT was used to purchase those items so the community would have them in case of an emergency. In that case nothing was done wrong. The items belong to CERT and not the NC.
Meredith McKenzie October 31, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Current treasurer Judy Knapton presented at Monday's meeting a list of ASNC inventory as 'recovered'' and 'not recovered' per a request by LA's Dept of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE). She created this list by reviewing all available public records since the prevous treasurer did not provide an accounting of any inventoried items. All ASNC property is the property of the City of Los Angeles, per the DONE representative in attendance. I don't understand how the statement of 'not recovered' got translated into the grammatically incorrect headline which noted items were 'missing,' or why so many other details discussed at this meeting were not reported, like the names of the newly elected board members and the areas they represent, especially in light of board discussion about how to achieve better community outreach. During the swearing-in ceremony led by LA City Councilmember Ed Reyes, new board members agreed to be 'civil' and to 'respect the views and opinions' of others. Mr. Riser's 'hidden agenda' statement (accurately quoted) in this story came less than 40 minutes after his oath and was met by a number of audible groans from the audience of community members and stakeholders. I'm still perplexed as to how DONE could have released ASNC from exhaustive measures without demanding that any keys to a storage bin and all prior treasurer records and related ASNC documents be surrendered by the former treasurer. This reflects badly on City oversight and leadership.
Nimby pimp October 31, 2012 at 03:37 AM
It is obvious now that these genteel, pet loving, liberal gringos cannot operate a successful democracy. I move for a golpe de estado in which MOG is installed as Caudillo for Life. He alone can bring order and justice to NELA. Que Viva MOG!!
Mark Legassie October 31, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Please read by Blog posting entitled "There is No Missing Equipment as the ASNC Treasurer Claims" submitted for posting on 10/30. To start, significant accounting errors were seen, including duplicate entries (e.g CERT storage bin listed twice: $2500 & $2200). However, even more fundamentally flawed in Ms. Knapton's audit findings is her reasoning that ASNC owns the supplies and therefore they are currently unrecovered, or missing. It is against DONE policy for NCs to own their own emergency supplies! In summary, the President and Treasurer's audit is based on non-existent requirements that violate DONE's own policy on emergency supply purchases. Most of the equipment was emergency supplies purchased over the years for CERT and non-profits such as Noah's Wish, who provide local disaster relief.
Mark Legassie October 31, 2012 at 05:21 AM
I just read the responses and am surprised that people, including ASNC past and present officers including Meredith, blindly believe Knapton & Benedict and are unaware that NCs cannot own their own emergency supply bin or supplies which were the topic of this incorrectly performed audit. Guess there needs to be better training in this area.
The MOG October 31, 2012 at 02:38 PM
You are very funny. Mi Campo De Commandante Margarito has evolved from Politics to Business. We sell Hot Dogs now. We're known has MOG'S DOGS. Licensed, bonded, we're ligit. Try 'em, they're kosher. Just remember to chew this time, Nimby. You know how you are with wieners, tending to swallow without chewing...you can choke, ya know. (Coming Soon: MARGARITO'S BURITTOS). Now, getting back to the topic, Joe Riser's pounding sand. Sounds like the Treasurer will be a great asset to the board. The sour grapes are coming from Joe. Legassie's got to quit whining, & start playing ball. And YOU, Nimby need to get a life, & keep my name out of your mouth. @nonoise, El Cid, without the $$, NC's would have very little direct power to impact the community, or fulfill their missions in thier Advisory Capacity. The Emergency Equiptment deal was not ill adviced, but overly ambitous, & not thought through very well. It's a good thing this is being revisited, & the proporty of the ASNC will be inventoried. When they get it right, their aquisition of these emergency preperations can be a model for other NC's around the City to follow. Surely, this is an area for Northeast NC's to network together, & create a Region Wide CERT Plan, that could potentially serve as a City Wide initiative for General Neighborhood Preparedness. Knapton is only doing her duty.She's not being inflammatory in the least, as Joe wants to imply. He's a blow hard.@DavidLyttle,your gal Valerie sweeping something under a rug?
The MOG October 31, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Mark, you aren't making matters any better. Why don't you explain why you won't turn over documents requested by the new treasurer? No body "blindly believes" Martha. She has instilled confidence because of her hard work, & dedication to our community. & are you disputing the DONE supervisor who said NC's are not authorized to purchase for other organizations? Instead of Blogging on Patch, you should be compiling all relevent records to hand over to Judy ASAP. That would be helping. You are obstructing, now. The items in question are officially missing, up and until the time they are physically eye balled & accounted for. No one can truthfully, actually say where the items are, what the items are, or even if they exist. All that can be ascertained is there is a bin behind a church in Hermon. Say, that's Joe's part of town. No wonder he knows so much about it. Perhaps he can tell us who has the key? Can you imagine if the Back2Business Slate had won the election? This would have been swept under the rug so fast! Then they could "move on."
David Fonseca (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Hi Meredith. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'll try to respond to your concerns here, as best I can. "I don't understand how the statement of 'not recovered' got translated into the grammatically incorrect headline which noted items were 'missing,'" Several times during the meeting, board members Judy Knapton, Maggie Barto said the board did not know where the items where. Board member Roy Payan indicated that if anybody did know where the items where, they should turn them over. When several board members do not know where an item is, then I think it is fair to refer to that item in question as "missing." I also make it clear in the story that not all members--Joe Riser--agree that the items are missing. See his quote. Regarding that fugitive "of" in the headline, I don't know why it ended up in there either. A mistake on my part, I'm sure. It's fixed. Thanks for pointing it out! (cont.)
David Fonseca (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 03:57 PM
part 2 You also asked ... "or why so many other details discussed at this meeting were not reported, like the names of the newly elected board members and the areas they represent, especially in light of board discussion about how to achieve better community outreach." I'm not sure if you saw this, but a few hours before I posted this story, I posted one listing all the new members. There's also a video showing the swearing-in ceremony, and photos of every board member. In the captions, you can learn what boards the members sit on, and what offices they hold. That story was linked in this story's lede, but here it is again: http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/articles/watch-asnc-takes-oath-of-office
nonoise October 31, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Mark, that is what I said. The supplies are owned by Cert and not the NC. Just read my post above before anyone else jumped in. It is terrible that DONE does not even know the rules. The money should be taken away. The objective of the neighborhood council is to be a voice to city hall and not a money machine.
nonoise November 01, 2012 at 12:24 AM
MOG, which DONE supervisor are you talking to? I think there is a lot of wrong information being given. Also, there is a treasurer's handbook. It would be helpful for you to get a copy of it. http://done.lacity.org/dnn/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=28T0lOpQR2c%3d&tabid=116 http://parc3.lacity.org/done/nc/index.cfm
The MOG November 01, 2012 at 12:37 AM
@nonoise, I'm refering to the person mentioned in the article,Lisette Covarrubias. It says, she informed the NC that they "did not have the authority to purchase items for community groups, and that they were only allowed to grant funds." A simple reciept would clear up the confusion. Apparently Mark didn't keep any, or never had one to begin with. Where are the records? Does Mark have them, or not? Why not? Who took position of these items? Who made the actual purchase(Write the check, or swipe the card)? What EXACTLY are these items? These are the important questions, of this most peculiar NC purchase.
nonoise November 01, 2012 at 01:00 AM
I don't know if the link below helps but I would print out the handbook I gave a link to and speak to other neighborhood council treasurers. Neighborhood councils can grant funds and that is probly what happened. Then Cert used those funds to purchase those items. Nothing wrong with that. For a little while then DONE was being downsided they gave the o.k.. for the NC to go ahead and use the "p-card" which is the city credit card. DONE gave the o.k. to use the card for stuff they normally would not allow because they were so far behind in cutting checks for approved items. It possibly could be a conflict of interest having anyone on the board voting for funds that is also connected with CERT if that is a 503b or non-profit. Usually that person excuses themselves from voting on that item. I am just trying to help clarify a few things. But only DONE knows what went on. They should have all the treasurers records. DONE has to approve everything. Ask Lisette how these items got paid. http://done.lacity.org/dnn/Default.aspx?tabid=177
nonoise November 01, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Why is your NC paying rent to use the community center and the school? I don't think that is allowed. Check with DONE.
David Lyttle November 01, 2012 at 01:09 AM
DONE s incompetent........... Have a read and see how they botched the ASNC elections. http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-asnc-board-structure-change-problematic
The MOG November 01, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Thanks for the Link, nonoise. Very helpful!
David Lyttle November 01, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Its not always as it appears................. The sun "appears" to rise and set The sky "appears" blue The earth "appears" flat A rope can "appear" as a snake A Magician can "appear" to cut someone in half The problem with making conclusions based on what appears is that "it is not always as it appears" Case in point: Judy Knapton is not what she appears to be.
David Lyttle November 01, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Or more properly,..................... "It is not as it appears" to Judy Knapton Or possibly both...................................
nonoise November 01, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Just goes to show the new board has a lot to learn. They will learn more by attending other neighborhood council meetings than trying to learn from DONE.
David Lyttle November 01, 2012 at 04:46 PM
You can't teach an old dog new tricks The "New" Board is the "Old" Board. We got a lot of "Old Dogs" with drooling, slobbering tongues hanging out at the ASNC
nonoise November 02, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Well, then old board should know what they are doing by now. If they need help they should have some experienced board members from other NC's come and help. It doesn't seem like DONE is helping. They are making things worse. When is the next meeting?
David Lyttle November 02, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Festival Based Stakeholders like yourself gave them all of the help they needed. Thank you very much Susan - good job - Bravo !! Don't forget to calendar in the next Jazz Festival, Darius Adle is kocking on doors all over Monterey Hillls begging for money because his Fedeation is broke.
David brunk January 12, 2013 at 05:15 PM
So many people are commenting based on little experience and erroneous information. If donations of equipment were made to CERT, a citywide program, funded by LA and taught with instruction by the Fire Dept., even erroneously, why is this the reason for a dysfunctional year for the ASNC? The new member who wants to "move on" should be the next President. The loss of a years funding taught the Board nothing. Founding Member
El Cid January 12, 2013 at 06:11 PM
If NC's want to throw a COMMUNITY PARTY, DONE has your back!!! They are extremely SUPPORTIVE! Bring on the Mariachi music, drinks, food, and party favors! Keep the natives busy with bees and trinkets!!! If your NC is trying to bring CLARITY and CONSISTENCY to it with Procedures and By-Laws, brace yourself because DONE's mission is to make NC's DYSFUNCTIONAL and non-threatening to City Government!!! If your NC is disorganized, then DONE will CONTRIBUTE to it and make it so much worse! Depending on who you speak to, on what day, and what time - will get certain responses! On that someday another person speaks to DONE with the same time & day constraints and you will get another response! The revolving door personnel at DONE may also have contributed to ASNC's matter. As a NC board member, I recall endless amounts of conversations and emails with Grayce Liu (DONE's General Manager), City Attorney and General Manager with Bonk and many others requesting CLARIFICATION and got the usual Merry-Go-Around of EXCUSES and CONTRADICTIONS!!! DONE is a well-funded City entity used to placate the NC's, keep the battles locally; so that, our local leaders at City Hall can play politics as usual!!! In my opinion, the problem here is the misinformation provided by DONE, the past and current ASNC followed protocol at the time. Therefore, I conclude they both most likely acted in the best interest of ASNC
nonoise January 12, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Don, you are absolutely right! DONE is so dysfunctional. That is why many NC's are also so dysfunctional. Neighborhood council's have become the new cash cow to throw parties and give away freebies. Take away the money and get back to the reason neighborhood councils were formed to being with. The function of neighborhood councils is to be a voice to the city. Unfortunately, only a few neighborhood councils do the real job. Been there and tried that, but the NC would not allow it. Bottom line: take the money away.
JMarsh January 14, 2013 at 03:21 AM
I was hoping that things would get more civil with the neighorhood council. Sigh! I have visited that bin several times. It is not missing. It is on the property behind the Hermon Church. I don't know why this is an issue. They are nice enough to let CERT "park" it there for free. Most anywhere else you'd have to pay a monthly fee. I have been there when the bin was opened to organize and check the condition of the supplies. Everything that is supposed to be there is. I attended a neighborhood council meeting and made a plea for everyone to start acting more mature and to work together on behalf of the people they were elected to represent. Apparently my plea fell on deaf ears.

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