By Jason Islas
September 20, 2012 -- After Wilmont Chair Valerie Griffin suggested a private donor was paying the group's legal fees, the man in charge of Santa Monica's Miramar Hotel redevelopment called for full disclosure of funding sources Wednesday.
In an e-mail to The Lookout, Alan Epstein -- an executive with Michael Dell's MSD Capital, which owns the Miramar -- called for Griffin and all others involved in the Wilmont Board dispute to come clean about who is supporting them.
“In the spirit of full disclosure and to help resolve these disputes, we call on all parties in the Wilmont board dispute to disclose all of their funders to the Santa Monica public," said Epstein, adding that he hoped “the dispute is soon settled amicably.”
Epstein's statement comes after Griffin told members of the Neighborhood Council that Wilmont's legal fees are being paid by someone who wishes to donate to the organization. But she did not reveal who that donor was.
Griffin stated in a letter to The Lookout Tuesday that the money used to hire an attorney did not come from hotels or developers. She did not respond to two calls for comments Wednesday.
“Why exactly does Mrs. Griffin want to keep the source of these funds a secret?” asked Reinhard Kargl, one of the eight Wilmont members who ran in a controversial June 9 election for a position on Wilmont's Board of Directors.
Epstein -- the representative of the Miramar Hotel -- has joined a choir of voices calling for transparency in the Wilmont battle, which began when the board publicly endorsed the Miramar Redevelopment Project last year.
The project, which could add as many as 120 condominiums and three new buildings to its site at the southwestern edge of the Wilmont neighborhood, has proven controversial with some of its neighbors.
Jim Pickrell, a resident of Wilmont and one of eight who claim he was elected to the board on June 9, wrote in a letter to The Lookout Wednsday, “As for the Miramar: We know that the gigantic 550,000 square foot hotel redevelopment is financed by Michael Dell.”
“It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots,” he wrote.
Kargl was more explicit.
“I have long suspected that the incumbent board's lawyer is financed by developers and business interests,” he said. “It is simply payback time after Mrs. Griffin and her board approved the Miramar Expansion project, which is highly unpopular among the neighbors.”
“If he (Epstein) is calling for openness, then I'm all for it,” said Pickrell.
“We're thrilled that Alan is suggesting this,” said Jeanne Dodson, former Wilmont Chair and one of the eight. “We'd love to see Valerie reveal who is funding her legal fees.
“And we would love to do likewise because every single penny has come out of our own pockets and would be happy for all sides to reveal their donor list,” she said.
In her letter to The Lookout, Griffin stated that any member could request to see the organization's books so long as the request is reasonably related to the member's interest.
However, according to the group's bylaws, “All books and records of the corporation shall be open to inspection by the directors and members of the corporation at any reasonable time during office hours.”