STUDIO CITY—The decision to disqualify Patrice Berlin and Eric Preven, the two candidates with the most votes for the Employees/Independent Contractors category, has been reversed in a panel decision on Monday, May 9, according to the Los Angeles Times.
It has taken over a month since the April 7 elections for a final decision to be made on who gets the two seats on the Neighborhood Council. The delay began when Stuart Miller filed a grievance claiming that Berlin and Preven had been electioneering at the polling location.
A meeting had been held in April to discuss the grievances that were filed. Lisa Sarkin, Studio City Neighborhood Council Vice President, Miller, and other witnesses attended the meeting, and Berlin and Preven did not attend. The panel voted to disqualify Berlin and Preven for electioneering and the two candidates with the next highest number of votes would take their seats.
Those two candidates were Sarkin and Keith Schwalenberg. Berlin voiced concerns through emails to the Neighbohood Council and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, that Miller and the witnesses at the April meeting were friends of Sarkin, and that the accusations were inaccurate.
Berlin received support from LAPD Officer Mike Lewis who Miller had named as a witness to the electioneering of Berlin and Preven. Lewis replied to Berlin’s email saying that he did not know he had been named as a witness and had not witnessed Berlin electioneering.
The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment decided to rehear the challenges after Berlin and Preven raised concerns that they were not expressly told they could be disqualified, according to the Los Angeles Times. Berlin who attended the May 9 meeting, denied the accusations made against her, and stated that Miller should not have been able to file a grievance after the deadline.
“I was elected by the stakeholders of Studio City. I’ve done nothing of the things I’ve been falsely accused of — not one,” Berlin said.
Although Preven did not attend the May 9 meeting, he also denied the accusation and stated that Miller should not have been able to file the grievance. Miller repeated his allegations, insisted he had filed his grievances on time, and said that this new hearing was unsupported by city rules. He said that it is the candidates’ responsibility to know the city rules and to know that there was the possibility of disqualification.
“This is about a group who had been in power for a very long time who were voted out — and they grasped for any vestige of hope,” Preven said.
Studio City residents, stakeholders and others spoke at the meeting giving conflicting accounts of what had happened at the polling location. In the end, both Berlin and Preven were awarded their seats on the Neighborhood Council. All accusations against Berlin were dropped. Preven was found to be electioneering, but he will regain his seat and receive a letter of reprimand.
“Obviously, we are pleased that the trumped up charges didn’t stick at all, but the fact that the panel insisted on making a finding that is 100% false and plans to send a letter of reprimand to me, is noted with a great deal of displeasure,” Preven told Canyon News in an email. “I look forward to reading it and then slamming it on the desk of the Council President, CM Krekorian and the Mayor.”
Sarkin and Miller both said that the Studio City election should be completely redone because of the irregularities. Jay Handal, citywide elections administrator for neighborhood council races, said that he saw no way for a new election to be held and other challenges involving the elections have been dismissed.
By holding the new hearing, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment “changed the rules,” Sarkin said. “Either they have rules or they don’t have rules.”
Canyon News reached out to Patrice Berlin and Lisa Sarkin, but was unable to receive comment from them.