Hours after election results were certified on Thursday evening, Councilmember Ed Reyes was on hand at the Adult Senior Citizen Center to swear in the new members of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.
New members pledged to "represent the neighborhood with dignity, integrity and pride," to "encourage differing viewpoints," to "respect all opinions" and to "find and promote the good in [their] neighborhood."
The swearing-in came as a surprise to some stakeholders and members of the outgoing board, who were scheduled to hold their final meeting on Thursday evening.
According to Grayce Liu, Interim General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the department scheduled the special meeting in addition to the regular meeting that was set to be held by the outgoing board.
[A copy of the original agenda can be downloaded from the media box above.]
"The election procedures state that the new board is to be seated at the next regular board meeting after the final certified votes and resolution of any challenges. For HHPNC, this can be as soon as 5 p.m. tonight," Liu wrote in an e-mail to stakeholders on Thursday afternoon. "We posted a special meeting agenda with the seating of the new Board as a safeguard if indeed this was the case. If there are valid challenges, then the regular meeting agenda that was posted would proceed as scheduled. Unfortunately, we will not know until right before the meeting whether it will be the special or regular meeting."
Gemma Marquez, a HHHPNC stakeholder, took issue with the last-minute scheduling, saying that it stripped community members of their right to thank the outgoing board for the years of service to the community.
"When I think of the countless hours exiting board members volunteered to the HHPNC, do we not have a responsibility to enter into a smooth transition and show our appreciation?" Marquez wrote. "Instead DONE determined it was time to get rid of the old board without reason, not allowing the customary smooth transition we (Highland Park) had hoped it would be."
In a response to Marquez's email, Liu said that DONE had attempted earlier in the week to convince the outgoing board to amend their agenda to allow for the seating of the new board. She said that request was denied.
"They wanted to carry out the existing agenda, which contained potentially $11,000 worth of expenditures, which is nearly a third of the HHPNC funding allocation for the year," she wrote. "Therefore, we had to issue a special meeting agenda where we only added the seating of the new Board and kept the remaining items the outgoing Board had on the regular agenda."
Though few members of the outgoing board were on hand to hear it, new HHPNC President Monica Alcaraz took a moment during the meeting to recognize their service to the community.
The final certified results, which included provisional ballots, broke a tie between candidates Trisha Gossett and Alheli Hernandez in favor of Hernandez.