By Jason Islas
September 6, 2012 -- In a five-page letter dated August 27 and addressed to members and supporters of Santa Monica's Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition, Chair Valerie Griffin alleged that the opposition was “backed by powerful interests.”
The 2,000-word letter, which Griffin said was meant to “touch base with our membership,” also contains a list of the coalition's accomplishments over the years, including opposing the Hines development at the former Papermate site and pressuring the City to place additional stop signs in the Wilmont area.
The membership “has probably been getting confusing e-mails,” said Griffin, referring to correspondences sent by a group of Wilmont members who claim they were elected to the organization's board in a controversial June 9 election.
The letter, she said, was to let members know “we care and that we still exist.”
But the letter, in no uncertain terms, reiterated Griffin's position on the eight Wilmont members who claim they were elected to the board.
The election, she said, was staged by “an organized group, apparently backed by powerful interests” who “had been working to take over our Board of Directors.”
But Griffin would not specify what those interests were.
“Exactly who's backing them is less important than the fact that they have been organized by an outside interest,” she said.
Not everyone sees it that way.
Reinhard Kargl, one of the eight Wilmont members who recently had their membership terminated by Griffin after claining they were elected to the board, said there were no special interests supporting the group.
“The powerful interest by which we are backed is our personal interest in replacing those members of the board who have been grossly misrepresenting our interests,” Kargl said.
“There are no other outside backers,” he said. “This is made up to discredit us.”
Many of the eight members sited the board's endorsement of a comprehensive redeveloment of the Fairmont Miramar that would add as many as 120 condominiums in three new buildings replacing the two main buildings currently on the site.
Betty Mueller, a standing member of the Wilmont Board and former Rent Control Board member, said she wasn't sure about the claim that this group was backed by an outside force.
“I'm not sure what evidence there is for that,” she said. “I just hope they work it out.”
On August 20, Griffin and three other board members left a Wilmont meeting at Ken Edwards Center after seven of the eight members who claim they were elected to the board took seats next to them at the front of the room.
Of the old board members, only Mueller stayed at the meeting.
The letter also notes that the group's annual meeting will be held at a future date, where there will be an election, since Griffin maintains the election held on June 9 was not valid.
To defend that position, Griffin said that the Wilmont Board voted unanimously to hire a lawyer, paid for out of the Wilmont account.
Becki Kammerling has been representing the group since the trouble started in June.