Updated at 11:45 a.m.
Accused by potential candidates of trying to prevent a major leadership change, the neighborhood coalition that represents Santa Monica residents living between Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue will postpone its annual elections Saturday.
The decision was made "amid chaos," said Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition Chair Valerie Griffin.
The current leadership sees the new slate as an attempted corporate-backed takeover, while potential candidates say the incumbents are deciding who will be on the ballot based on their own rules and criteria.
According to Griffin, Wilmont is unable to validate the signatures on petitions submitted by the 11 residents seeking to qualify as candidates for the governing board and who are running in opposition to plans endorsed by the coalition to . Griffin said Wilmont's membership chair has kept the records on note cards and is currently hospitalized.
"We have not had time to validate the signatures on the petitions. Wilmont is far more important than... a takeover by a corporate interest," she said, claiming the newcomers are backed by the , which is also opposed to the Miramar redo.
But the potential candidates, most of whom are new to Wilmont, say are only representing themselves, and the postponement of the elections is "just another stalling tactic."
"The bylaws are clear, the elections are supposed to commence at the annual meeting, and the annual meeting is Saturday," said potential candidate Reinhard Kargl.
After they submitted their petitions, several candidates were told they had to meet criteria in addition to what is spelled out in the group's bylaws, including having been a voting member for the previous year, attended at least three meetings and added to the functioning of the organization.
None of the applicants would meet each of the criteria, Reinhard said.
Griffin said those are longstanding rules codified in the organization's official minutes, although she is unsure where the records are being stored. "That was before my time [on the board]," she said. "I couldn't run for the board until I met those rules."
Reinhard and the other applicants have retained an attorney and are threatening to litigate if the elections do not take place Saturday.
A copy of the bylaws obtain by Patch and dated July 1, 2011 say the candidates to the Board of Directors have to be nominated by petition filed at least 10 days before the annual meeting and signed by 10 members of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition. They also state the elections must take place at the annual meeting, except in the case of special vacancies.
The city manager's office has intervened to remind Wilmont, which received a $4,000 grant from the city this fiscal year, to "adhere to their bylaws... to follow the rules and to act in good faith," said city spokeswoman Robin Gee.
"My understanding is that the postponement is so that they can achieve this making sure that all procedures are properly followed," Gee said. "Therefore, it seems reasonable and appropriate for them to postpone their election."
Although the elections are no longer on the agenda, the annual meeting will still take place 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the .