Mailander: Irregularities Mar Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Election
Editor's Note: Neighborhood Council elections have been a controversial subject for some time, and the latest round of contests for the advisory panels have been no exception. From Silver Lake to Sherman Oaks to Chatsworth, many Councils are facing issues with notification, location changes, pseudo-slate mailers on the public dime and stakeholder eligibility questions. One of the elections held during Saturday's first round was in Sunland-Tujunga. Joseph Mailander offers this special report
Sunland-Tujunga's record turnout for Saturday's long anticipated Neighborhood Council election suddenly went sour late Saturday night as election results were leaked from the counting room to an operative in advance of being posted by any member of the Neighborhood Council, EmpowerLA, or City Clerk's office.
Nearly 700 residents and stakeholders participated in the election that was celebrated for its enthusiastic turnout but quickly became tarnished by reporting irregularities.
Late in the evening, voters lingering on various social media message boards, concerned about the outcome of the election, were shocked to observe not a Neighborhood Council or EmpowerLA representative but a local political operative first posting results to Facebook, in some cases even while the votes were being counted.
The same operative had previously pushed his own slate of endorsements for the election, and openly derided many challenger candidates.
"[I]f someone was observing from the designated area where those who signed in were to be seated, they could of [sic] texted him that information. The Poll Manager (Terrance), the Election IEA (Alisa) and myself were the only one privy to the overall vote tally until release to everyone. For the record, there was about 10-15 observers in the room," vote counter Scott Johnson said on Facebook.
Commissioner Lydia Grant, who was on hand for the counting, did not return phone calls or email
Voters also encountered some irregularities earlier in the day as business and organizational stakeholders were told they were obliged to present documentation on organizational letterhead that they indeed worked or belong to an organization in Sunland-Tujunga.
No election materials printed in advance of the election specified this. Those who could not provide documentation on the spot were obliged to vote via provisional ballot and submit their documentation within three days time. The provisionals cast may affect the outcome of one race, for a Regional slot on the board, in which two candidates tied for the final seat.
The NC's president-elect, Mark Seigel, barely missed fetching half the total vote, receiving 332 of 676 votes cast.