Candidate for Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Challenges Election Results

Mark Haskell Smith files complaints against contender Peter Hilton and outgoing ERNC President Michael Larsen.

An unsuccessful candidate for a seat on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council has challenged the validity of last Saturday's election, alleging he and other candidates were slandered by a former member of the council, and that outgoing President Michael Larsen violated election rules by endorsing a slate of candidates he privately backed.

Mark Haskell Smith, a candidate for director of Sub-District 5, filed formal complaints Monday with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment against Larsen and Peter Hilton. A private investigator and lieutenant in the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation, Hilton unsuccessfully ran for the position of president in the neighborhood council, where he was previously Sub-District 4 director.

In one of the complaints, Smith accused Hilton of repeatedly slandering “a competing slate of candidates” in campaign flyers (see PDF) and in user comments on Eagle Rock Patch. (Smith and Hilton were defeated in the election, according to preliminary results.)

Smith identified the competing slates of candidates as the Progress & Collaboration slate and the Green Slate. The latter was a group dedicated partly to protecting the existence of medical marijuana storefronts. It was launched by members of Progress & Collaboration, who abandoned it last month.

The switch to another slate was aimed at avoiding what one of its key members, presidential candidate Nelson Grande II, described in an interview with Eagle Rock Patch as “rifts and divisions in the Eagle Rock community,” which has long been at odds over the issue of cannabis clinics in the neighborhood.

Hilton called the competing slates a “criminal syndicate, and he said he had proof of this,” Smith wrote in his complaint, adding: “None of his claims are based on facts. These outrageous claims were then parroted by the Patch and opposition candidates as facts.”

Asked where on Patch he had seen Hilton’s claims “parroted,” Smith replied in an e-mail: “I believe that there was persistent bias against the ‘Progress & Collaboration’ slate on the pages of the Patch.” Beyond saying that certain sentences in Patch articles about the ERNC elections gave the impression that “there was some sort of nefariousness afoot,” Smith did not provide any direct evidence that Patch had “parroted” Hilton.

As for Hilton’s “posts on Patch”—part of the formal complaint challenging the ERNC election—Smith pointed to a comment by Hilton in response to an article on the eve of the Oct. 13 ERNC election. (Titled “Labor Union Exhorts ‘Factual-Basis’ Stakeholders to Vote in Neighborhood Council Elections,” the article focused on efforts by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to get people who don’t live or work or own a business in Eagle Rock to vote in the ERNC elections.)

In the comment, which can be seen in one of the attached photos, Hilton refers to the Progress & Collaboration slate as “A WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING waiting to infect your community with Illegal Drugs and Criminal behaviour.”

Smith’s second complaint centers on two alleged improprieties regarding outgoing ERNC President Michael Larsen.

According to the complaint, Larsen “vocally and in print endorsed a slate of candidates … in violation of election rules.” Larsen, Smith alleges, was also “seen at the ERNC booth during the Eagle Rock Music Festival handing out flyers for the [Eagle Rock Neighbors] slate he endorsed.”

Smith’s second allegation against Larsen is that the former ERNC president was one of the volunteers who checked voters’ eligibility during the Oct. 13 election. “He was the person approving ‘factual based stakeholder’ status” of voters, Smith wrote in the complaint, adding: “Who knows how many eligible voters he denied?”

Smith has asked the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to make Larsen’s alleged ethical violations public and to bar him from holding the post of ERNC’s Immediate Past President, which outgoing presidents are automatically entitled to.

Department of Neighborhood Empowerment Project Coordinator Stephen Box, who supervised the Oct. 13 vote, told Eagle Rock Patch that he would make a public announcement about Smith’s complaints shortly—but that it could take up to 14 days to do so, according to election procedures.

Maria Nazario October 18, 2012 at 06:29 PM
As election co-chair, I worked at the ER poll from 10:00 am - 8:00 pm. No one that was eligible to vote was turned away. In fact, more residents than factual basis voters were told that we needed proof of residence and had to go back home to get it. Additionally, so that we exercised equality for all voters and in order to eliminate any challenges to he outcome election, we were diligent in explaining to factual basis voters what proof was needed, such as receipts with an address on it. So while it may have apppeared that we turned people away, it was temporarily until they returned with proper proof. The counting of votes took much longer than I thought because of the cross-checking that is done to validate the votes. I'm confident that our process for voting and for counting were ethical, uniform and valid.
Ajay Singh (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 06:43 PM
For the record, Jay Handal, one of the supervisors of the elections on Saturday, told me that at one point in the voting he started asking the volunteers who were screening voters to mark the receipts that factual-basis stakeholders produced to prevent the receipts being used again by another voter. He did that, Handal said, because one factual-basis stakeholder who had a receipt from Pasadena was turned away—and Handal said he saw the voter returning with an Eagle Rock-issued receipt that he got from someone else.
EagleRockMom October 19, 2012 at 01:32 AM
@Nelson This is not a 'fight.' I am speaking up against your attempts at taking pot shots at those who aren't into dispenseries. Throwing out a phony percentage in this thread is not the first time you've self-created data in order to support your cause. I recall a recent parking space blog you authored where you wrote that parking spaces in Eagle Rock would increase by 40% if reverse angled parking were adopted on Colorado. When pressed for actual factual info, you admitted you made it up. And then you publicly solicit votes from outsiders so that you could cheat your way to victory in the ERNC election, to which you have still failed to address.
EagleRockMom October 19, 2012 at 01:34 AM
@Nelson If anyone is guilty of disenfranchising genuine Eagle Stakeholders it is you.
AFG October 19, 2012 at 01:48 AM
@Nelson: Just because those non residents shop here that does not give them a right to dictate our community where we live and pay taxes. You'd have to take into consideration that they may not care about our neighborhood as long as their shopping need was met. Also, why should our neighborhood be the only neighborhood made to comply for their benefit when their own neighborhoods should also be made to comply? It is not to say that I have no compassion for their medical needs, but changing only ER is not essential to meet their medical need, because other neighborhoods could likewise be changed for that reason. If it was their own then it would be even more convenient for those sick shoppers.
peter hilton October 19, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Ajay, this election was not about what one person wanted, it was about the community, and if you, would stop being a "Pot Stirrer" to sell clicks on your web site, and cared about the community more, you would not make your snide personal remarks all the time. As I told you at the election, you need to start being a journalist who has some ethics, and not firing up people just to create drama, you are like one of the old witches from Macbeth! The journey was what I liked and the fact the community woke up, and by the way, I liked my qoute you used "sleeping giant", that's what Eagle Rock is, and we don't intend for it to go back to sleep, "hang on to your cauldron" Ajay, the second installment coming, and l think you are going to like it?
bbkong October 19, 2012 at 02:13 AM
So sayeth our cowardly anonymous harpy, so it must be true. I wonder how long this dog will chew this bone?
Michael Larsen October 19, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Thanks for posting this Peter. Anybody who ACTUALLY wants to know what is going on with the pot stores in LA should read this. Joe Mougin, AKA "bbkong", there are a lot of illegal activities that could bring LA tax revenue: prostitution, cocaine sales, heroin sales, Vegas-style gambling to name just a few. The question is whether the average Angeleno or Eagle Rocker thinks it's worth the trade. I think Saturday's ERNC election spoke loud and clear on this issue as far as Eagle Rock goes.
EagleRockMom October 19, 2012 at 02:44 AM
@bbkong I have opted to delete my comment because it will accomplish nothing.
bbkong October 19, 2012 at 06:00 AM
If you're going to use my name on line at least do me the honor of spelling it correctly.
Michael Larsen October 19, 2012 at 06:04 AM
My apologies "bbkong". What is the correct spelling of your name?
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 07:01 AM
http://www.aocweb.org/AOC/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=JbxNb8MKZWU%3D&tabid=323 Page 8. Paragraph 6: Angle parking on one side increased parking by 40% (48 to 67) and the travel lane was reduced from 7.7 meters (25.24 feet) to 4.8 meters (15.74 meters). I've addressed the stakeholders. You may just want to research it a bit. I'm not trying to force anyone to do anything. I'm spreading an idea that working together can actually work. Rather than disenfranchise, collaborate and find a coexisting solution. I really don't understand the difficulty of that concept. But we can go on for ever here, ERM. If you're not willing to find collaborative solutions with me, we've reached an impass. Feel free to drop me a line personally so we can be respectfully productive. When your desires are not more important than mine and mine are not more important than yours. :) Take care.
EagleRockMom October 19, 2012 at 01:32 PM
@Nelson The link isn't working so I will ask for you to directly apply this theoretical 40% increase in parking spaces to Eagle Rock. How many spaces are currently available? How many are on the Boulevard, and how many are residential? Will the increase in parking spaces be limited to the Boulevard?
Michael Larsen October 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM
The results are official! Congrats again to all the candidates, and welcome to the new Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Board! http://empowerla.org/ernc/eagle-rock-nc-elections/
bbkong October 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Peter, Ajay lives here too so I think he's entitled to comment as he sees fit. Also, this tiny little corner of the internet universe isn't driven by page hits. Some parts of the internet just don't work that way. Rule 34 of the internet.
MissGuinness October 19, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Congratulations to the winners (Mnus the Mikeys). I have no doubt they'll do great. And don't fret, Mikey1! It's not the end of it. We are watching you two. http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9l8tymFON1qfymz8o1_500.gif
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
If other towns don't want them, Fine. We'll take them. But it's not about 'complying'. It's about reaping the benefits. Let's consider this, there is a commonly understood concept of Supply and Demand. There is a demand for MMJ at this point. And Eagle Rock has a Supply. Why not treat it just like any other demand? There's no shortage of Coffee or Alcohol on the Boulevard. There's a demand for those things to which we provide a supply. But, let's do it right. Ms. Atkinson said it best. If you have a cupcake store with blacked out windows and no signage, you're going to worry about what the hell goes on in there, even though it's just cupcakes. We can embrace the demand of MMJ, but let's take them out of the shadows. I've said it before, shadowy places breed shadowy activity. Why not encourage them to have 'standard' storefronts, just like any other clinic you see out there? That'll help in two ways. It'll make it a less scary place for those who are unsure about MMJ and it'll deter the shadowy folks. But this push to keep them all underground is horribly detrimental to everyone. It's creates an unnecessary divide in the Community. Sadly though, I can't see the ERNC changing under Nogueira. He's already said he wants them all out. Waiting for him, we'd be missing out on a golden opportunity.
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
That's why I'm working on a couple of solutions that don't involve the ERNC and can provide tangible solutions to this. Regardless of the election results, folks know that I'm here to help and that's what I'm going to do. If you want to join me in creating practical grassroots solutions, please email me. Things always work out better when we work with one another. ER doesn't have to be the only place to go get MMJ. But while it is, let's consider using it to our advantage. Better than just bickering about it, no? NelsonBig@NEGeeks.net
bbkong October 19, 2012 at 07:06 PM
The link works fine for me and it does make sense. My only concern is the effect of unintended consequences which I predict would be heavier traffic on Yosemite and Hill Drive. Just as an aside here, I lost your ph# Nelson. I wanted to invite you and Erykah to my bday party on Saturday.
bbkong October 19, 2012 at 07:29 PM
@Rob I know what you mean but I'm compelled to award points for literacy anyway.
Michael Larsen October 19, 2012 at 08:19 PM
No worries, I found it on your post from Wednesday, Joe Moguin Sorry again about the misspelling.
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Sweet! Email me your number to NelsonBig@NEGeeks.net ERM, why don't you email me to? I'm serious. Let's have a roundtable discussion on what you would and wouldn't accept. We can go over actual numbers as well. Honestly, let's work together. I'm sure you have some great ideas and concerns that can help bring about a rational, yet practical solution.
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Many folks voted the way they did because they believed that there was going to be a pot shop takeover. You and I know very well that was never the case. But I do applaud your effectiveness at scaring the shit out of the people. Advertising and manipulation go hand in hand. Sadly, I wasn't prepared to go against someone as skilled at it as you. But I digress... I think the People really are ready for a practical solution. It's not as scary as you make it out to be. The thing you seem to not like about it is that it is in the shady form it is now. Here's a suggestion: find a solution that takes it out of the shadows and makes something good of it. We will have booming business here in ER and, in turn, your property value will go up. Win-win. We have tons of restaurants too. They bring lots of business to ER. Let's bring up the MMDs out of the shadows and reap the benefits. Use them. Use them to your benefit. You can also see my reply to AFG below for a bit more detail on what I'm stating here. I'm trying to help, Mike.
Jason October 19, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Nelson, can you point to any survey, anywhere, that shows that property values rise when there are successful, "out-of-the-shadows" dispensaries nearby? That seems like wild conjecture, but I'd love to see the data if you can back it up.
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Hey Jason, My assertion was not meant to specifically state that the MMDs, themselves, would increase the property value. It was meant to state that, generally, a more robust business economy would do that. Taking advantage of the demand and working with the situation, as opposed to against it, would lead to better solutions overall. If ER is a battleground, no one will want to shop here and property value goes down. If ER is a collaborative environment that takes the initiative of tapping into today's goldmine, property value will rise because of the economic innovation. Mike calls it a trade off. I just don't see it that way. He sees the equivalent of a ton of Liquor stores opening after prohibition. I see a ton of nice restaurants that serve fine wine. I'm saying let's work to build those 'restaurants'. We have an opportunity to grab the proverbial bull by the horns and use it to our advantage. If we don't do it, business will go elsewhere and, when MJ is legalized, we'll be struggling to keep up. Cannabis has been around as long as man. And man has used it medicinally/recreationally for thousands of years. Man is not going to stop using it because some guys in suits said not to. Let's not kid ourselves. Embrace change. Be at the forefront. Let's dare to try something new. That's how winners are made. Let's help ER be the shining example of what happens when people stop fighting and start figuring things out. Email me. Let's talk about this.
Jason October 19, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Nelson, I don't really feel the need to e-mail you. As I've stated on here before, I'm fine with full legalization and regulation. I don't have a problem with dispensaries. I just don't see why this has to be THE big issue that people talk about ad nauseum, and I think people on both sides of the debate make wild accusations and broad generalizations. It gets old.
Nelson R Grande II October 19, 2012 at 11:04 PM
That's cool. You have it available if you ever do change your mind. :)
EagleRockMom October 20, 2012 at 01:39 PM
@Nelson You authored a Patch blot making a case for angled parking a month or two ago. To me, if your making a stance you should be fully informed about it before you ask others to side with you. The questions I ask are essential to the topic and yet you didn't answer them several weeks ago when I originally posed them, and you are dodging them again. Come on, guy!
EagleRockMom October 20, 2012 at 01:47 PM
@Erykah You are a sore loser to the nth degree. Geez, I thought pot smokin was supposed to mellow you out.
Nelson R Grande II October 20, 2012 at 04:23 PM
http://eaglerock.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-a-case-for-angled-parking-in-eagle-rock From that post on Angled Parking: "This is one idea and it may be incomplete. I ask the residents and local business owners of Colorado Boulevard to chime in." I'd love it if you could help out. I've reached out to the Community on more than one occasion and I'll continue to do so. If you have and answer to that question, please share it so that we can all move forward. It's within your right to heckle me all you want. I just think it'd be more productive if we worked together. :) If you can help out with those numbers, I think the Community would be grateful.


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