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.
- See Smith’s complaints in the attached PDFs and on the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment website.
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.