MAIN LIBRARY — In a surprise twist, the membership of the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition voted Saturday to amend the group’s bylaws, allowing eight excommunicated members to return to the fold, this time as official board members.
The amendment put forward by Jay Zimmerman and allowed by Kim Goldsworthy, an impartial parliamentarian hired especially for the day to chair the meeting, called for the immediate reinstatement of nearly 20 individuals who were kicked out of the group in July for allegedly breaking the rules and being uncivil.
The membership then voted to elect eight of them to the board along with newcomers Ivan Perkins and Laurence Eubank over the protests of Chair Valerie Griffin, filling the usually eight-member body to the full 15 allowed under the bylaws.
“It was a democratic choice,” said Jim Pickerell, one of the new board members. “We had a vote and the people got what they wanted.”
The vote may spell the end to four months of highly-publicized acrimony within the Wilmont organization, which made headlines in June when a group of 11 members tried to put themselves up for election in protest of the board’s decision to support the Fairmont Miramar hotel expansion.
That attempt turned sour quickly, with the incumbent board members declaring the vote invalid and then choosing to kick out the self-proclaimed “Wilmont Rebels” and many of their supporters in a secret meeting.
The rebels held a public counting of the June 9 ballots, declared themselves board members and proceeded to represent themselves as members of the Wilmont board in public meetings, despite a cease and desist letter they received from Becki Kammerling, an attorney hired by the original board.
The series of actions taken Saturday was meant to end that internal strife and allow the organization to start fresh with a new board.
“I hope this sticks better than last time,” said Lenore Morrell, another of the eight new board members.
It’s unclear how long the new peace will last.
Griffin holds that the move to reinstate and then elect the rebel leaders to the official board of Wilmont was not properly noticed, potentially invalidating the vote. Although the meeting called for a huge expansion of the bylaws — nearly tripling the size of the 20-year-old document — the Zimmerman amendment had not been announced.
She told the membership Saturday that the organization could hold a special meeting to discuss the idea of allowing those members back into the organization, at which point she would make available video of the June 9 meeting as evidence of the rebels’ bad behavior.
Goldsworthy stayed out of the details, instead choosing to rise above the fray and allowing the “will of the people” to be aired. He was quick to point out that the votes may or may not be valid given the noticing issue, something that the membership will figure out at its next meeting.
That will be held Monday night.
“I’m glad I’m chairing this meeting and not the next one,” Goldsworthy told the crowd.
How that plays out is still very much up in the air, Griffin said.
“I cannot say what decision will be made,” she said.
For the time being, the new board members have chosen to push ahead, already setting their sights on other issues in the Wilmont neighborhood they feel the group should address.
The matter of the Miramar is, for the time being, off the table — City Councilmember and Wilmont resident Kevin McKeown saw to that by drafting a resolution adopted by the membership rescinding their support for the project if it stays at its current 550,000-square-foot size.
“When the dust settles, I hope we will find a way to work together,” Pickerell said.