KEN EDWARDS CENTER ¬ó Self-proclaimed members of an embattled neighborhood group met Monday evening in spite of a cease and desist letter that threatened legal action against them for doing so.

The group fielded questions from members present about the schism that has left the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition board scattered since a disputed election that took place on June 9 in which 11 candidates tried to put themselves on the board.

Last week, the original board members met in secret and voted to remove an unknown number of individuals from the organization, including the purported new board members and people who supported them.

Letters were sent to those who “demonstrated that they hadn’t agreed with the purposes of Wilmont,” said Valerie Griffin, chair of Wilmont.

The seated board also approved a cease and desist letter, drafted by attorney Becki Kammerling, to warn the presumptive board members off of using the Wilmont name in any of their dealings.

The Monday night meeting could put the presumptive board in a bad position, Kammerling said.

“They’ve pushed themselves into a position where none of their actions are in compliance with law or membership rules,” Kammerling said. “Under the bylaws, the board needed to terminate those memberships to get the organization back to a place where they can have regularly noticed meetings.”

The board then plans to have an election in an environment where they can have an “open discussion without concern of heads being bitten off or an insurgent group taking over the meeting,” Kammerling said.

While the new board is assuredly aware of the cease and desist letter, and a provision that promises they will be removed by security if they try to attend another board meeting, they aren’t looking to back down.

There was talk of showing up to future City Council and Planning Commission meetings to comment on items as members of the board to cement their position in the eyes of the public.

Jeanne Dodson, a former chair of Wilmont and now one of the “insurgents,” warned those present that doing so came with risks.

“If we do this, we could be sued,” Dodson said.

Although the controversy between the two group rages on, the situation has given Wilmont an opportunity to clean house and update their policies, which have been out of whack for some time.

The organization still qualifies with the California Franchise Tax Board for its tax-exempt status, but has fallen out of compliance with the Internal Revenue Service, which issued a notice of revocation on July 9.

The group had not turned in a tax form called a 990 in three years, according to the IRS website. It was a problem that plagued many smaller nonprofit groups after the IRS changed its rules to require a new kind of reporting for smaller organizations.

Although a notice of the annual meeting at which the election was meant to be held was sent out on May 17, the e-mail did not include the names of the incumbent board members who were running for re-election or any other prospective candidates.

Those board members also did not turn in nominating papers, a process mentioned in the 2011 Wilmont bylaws, but without the notice with candidate names, the election couldn’t have worked anyway, Kammerling said.

In that way, the brouhaha in June was almost a blessing in disguise.

“Now they have the opportunity to have a properly-noticed meeting, know who the candidates are, submit the petitions, get approved and verified,” Kammerling said.

In the meantime, City Hall still shows no sign of getting involved in the situation, despite the conditions placed on the organization when it accepted a $4,000 grant.

Those include holding regular, open meetings. Although a private meeting was held last week, the board has canceled the previous two regular meetings, and says that it has not yet held an annual meeting.

City Hall will investigate complaints, wrote Kate Vernez, deputy city manager for special projects, in an e-mail.

Groups that are proven to be out of compliance with their bylaws as they relate to the criteria for the City Hall-funded grants will not be considered for future matching grants until they get their houses in order.

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