The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has resolved and offered explanations why three challenges to last month’s Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections are not valid.
The department’s decisions, which were posted on the EmpowerLA website Wednesday, come a day after new ERNC members were sworn in. Almost exactly a month earlier, the first two of the three challenges were posed by a candidate who ran unsuccessfully for the post of director sub-district 5.
The candidate, novelist and UC Riverside professor Mark Haskell Smith, had accused a contestant for the post of ERNC president of repeatedly slandering a competing slate of candidates in campaign flyers as well as in user comments on Eagle Rock Patch.
The presidential candidate, Peter Hilton, was also defeated in the elections. He is a private investigator and lieutenant in the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation who previously headed the ERNC’s important land use committee and was director of sub-district 4.
Smith’s allegations against Hilton did not amount to a valid electoral challenge, and even if they did, they would only merit investigation if he had prevailed in his bid to become ERNC president, according to the online response by Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.
See the attached PDFs for DONE’s response to all three challenges, which can also be found on its website by clicking here.
In his second challenge, Smith accused former ERNC President Michael Larsen of improper electioneering and inappropriate endorsement of candidates. Smith also alleged that Larsen might have turned away eligible voters during the elections because he was one of the volunteers checking voters’ identification at the polling station in Eagle Rock City Hall.
Neighborhood council board members who aren’t candidates in council elections are not prohibited from endorsing candidates or promoting a slate of candidates, DONE said in its response to the first of Smith’s accusations against Larsen.
“As for the question ‘Who knows how many eligible voters he denied?’ it’s a fair question with no answer, failing to rise to the level of a valid Election Challenge,” DONE responded to the second of Smith’s allegations.
The department also refused to make public Smith’s alleged “ethical violations” and to ban Larsen from assuming the post of immediate past-president in the current ERNC.
The ERNC is “in a better position to review the specifics of the Eagle Rock Election process and a ban is a solution more appropriately addressed by the Board of the Neighborhood Council, the department said in its response.
DONE also dismissed the third challenge—that a slate of candidates whose names appeared on a campaign flyer promising $40 worth of free medical marijuana products be disqualified—by saying that it’s not a violation of common election protocol to offer rewards for voting.
The practice, said DONE, “is true in local Neighborhood Council elections and also in national elections, as evidenced by the Starbucks offer of free Indivisible bracelets to those with an ‘I Voted’ sticker.”
In the case of the ERNC elections, the issue of offering free medical marijuana to voters is “beyond the scope of enforcement of EmpowerLA’s Elections Division,” the department said in response to the third challenge, posed by Eagle Rock resident Shauna Smith.
'Michael Larsen Says the Darndest Things!'
Meanwhile, a flyer containing comments that ERNC Immediate Past-President Larsen had made on various occasions on Eagle Rock Patch as well as on the local Boulevard Sentinel monthly newspaper, was circulated during Tuesday night’s debut meeting of the newly constituted ERNC.
Although Eagle Rock Patch is not named as the source of Larsen’s comments, they can be found in the thread of comments at the end of various articles related to the medical marijuana issue in the neighborhood.
The Boulevard Sentinel is, however, identified on the flyer, and Larsen’s comments in the newspaper can be viewed by clicking a recent article in it titled “Michael Larsen the Charmer—Outgoing ERNC President Shows His True Character.”
Titled “Michael Larsen Says the Darndest Things!” the flyer handed out at Tuesday’s ERNC meeting ends with the following capitalized words: “A SERVICE BROUGHT TO YOU BY YOUR EAGLE ROCK PAL, DUFF STRONG.”
Duff Strong is the user name of a frequent commentator on Eagle Rock Patch.
Curiously, a Craigslist ad posted this past Sunday offered $25 to anyone willing to distribute 100 of the “Michael Larsen Says the Darndest Things!” flyers during Tuesday’s ERNC meeting. (See the attached screen shot for an image of the Craigslist ad.)
The ad starts out by stating: “Some flyers need to be dished out at a public forum in Eagle Rock on Tuesday night. But since I'm an anonymous character, I need them to be distributed by someone other than me.”
The aim behind circulating the flyers, “is only to get a rise out of those attending,” according to the ad. “It is NOT to harm anyone or do anything even remotely illegal.”