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Top Volunteers on Art, Tree Boards Fail to Win Reappointment

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

July 2, 2019 -- Arts Commission Vice Chair Corin Kahn -- who has protested the board's lack of involvement in major decisions -- was not reappointed by the City Council last week to a second term on the 13-member commission.

Kahn was one of two members of boards and commissions who failed to be reappointed because they did not provide proof of having taken the City's ethics training.

Grace Phillips, who chaired Santa Monica's Urban Forest Task Force, was the other.

The two were rejected last Tuesday when the Council made 31 appointments to 16 boards and commissions.

Before any appointments were made,, Councilmember Kevin McKeown said he was taken aback by the number of volunteer members who had not completed the State-mandated ethics training required every two years.

He also cautioned his colleagues that he would not support any member seeking re-appointment who was not on the list of those who were issued certificates for the training.

"I was shocked to find out that there was a large number of board and commission members who may not be in compliance," said McKeown, adding that it would set a bad example to reappoint anyone who was not certified.

Mayor Gleam Davis wondered if those who were not certified may have unknowingly fallen into non-compliance

City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren said her office had taken multiple steps to ensure every board member and commissioner was aware they were required by law to take the training every two years.

The volunteer members, she said, received notices in December, then "periodically every month, then the last two months on a weekly basis" if they have failed to comply.

The members are notified in writing by post, by email and on the phone, Anderson-Warren said.

Phillips, who was appointed to the Urban Forest Task Force when it was created ten years ago, took the training on December 18 but failed to turn in her certification until the day before the Council's vote, Anderson-Warren told The Lookout.

"I didn't know until yesterday," Anderson said last Thursday.

Kahn said he received multiple notices and took the training but was not certified.

"I attended the training in April or May and signed the sign-up sheet," Kahn said.

He said that as a practicing attorney, he is required by the State Bar to take ethics training.

"I am fully certified and in compliance with my State Bar obligations concerning ethics," he told the Lookout.

Kahn said he was disappointed none of the Council members noted that fact during the reappointment vote. "There wasn't any effort made," he said.

On the other hand, Kahn said he understands that the Council members "need to draw a clean red line in the sand."

During his four years on the commission, Kahn became known as an avid champion of the arts who confronted Cultural Affairs staff when he felt the commission's input was not taken into account or not sought at all.

He objected when staff lent little, if any weight, to the Commission's 6 to 1 vote last November to recommend that the Council retain artist Yossi Govrin to manage the artist community he founded at Santa Monica Airport 15 years ago.

Instead Cultural Affairs director Shannon Daut recommended that the studios be turned over to the 18th Street Arts Center, which was chosen by a task force her staff appointed ("Council Votes for Changing Guard at Airport Arts Community," December 21, 2018).

Kahn also denounced Daut's failure to inform the Commission that Santa Monica was in jeopardy of losing the iconic "Pleasures Along the Beach" mosaic created for the city 50 years ago by renown California artist Millard Sheets.

At the June 17 Arts Commission meeting, Kahn confronted staff after learning in the Lookout that the mural was being donated by its owner to a museum in Orange County.

"This cannot happen again," Kahn told Daut. "This was an embarrassment to us and a real loss to the city" ("'Distressed" Arts Commission Learns Why Santa Monica Lost Its Iconic Mural," June 20, 2019).

Last Tuesday, the Council rejected Winterer's nomination of Kahn after McKeown indicated he could not support him.

"It is Mr. Kahn who has not completed his ethics training," McKeown said, "and therefore I feel it would be a very bad example to reappoint him."

Instead, the Council appointed Eric Chalice, founder of the non-profit JABS VI, a Jazz and Boxing Society for the Visually Impaired.

The Council also appointed Deepa Subramanian, a member of the Public Arts Commission, and Kathleen Zadikian, a working artist who maintains a studio in downtown LA.

In addition, the Council asked Mayor Gleam Davis to send a letter to all board and commission members reminding them that state law requires they take ethics training every two years.

And Council members asked staff to prepare a resolution removing those members who had not completed their training.

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