• Kim Cooper’s Opening Statement, Grievance Hearing 3/17/10

25Mar10

MAIN PETITION LINK – http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/stepdownrussbrown

Opening statement of Kim Cooper to the DLANC Grievance Committee investigating charges of ethical violations by DLANC President Russell Brown. For the Grievance Committee’s decision, see this press release.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Grievance Committee, I thank you for your service and your time. No, I REALLY thank you for your time. You’ll understand why when you see how many documents I’ve brought you.

But my grievance can be the last one to EVER be this involved, if you act decisively to show the community that DLANC will not tolerate bullying, dishonesty, self-dealing or abuse.

Everyone in this room is here because they care about downtown. You’re going to hear some disturbing things about DLANC’s President this evening, and while you listen, please ask yourself:

Is this how you wish to be represented?
Is his Downtown the one you wish to serve?

(Integrity): Why have we spoken out about what happened to us? My husband’s and my previously unsullied reputations as ethical, socially active community members were on the line. We are decent, hard-working people who were subjected to months of abuse by someone who represented himself as speaking for this body and this community.

I’m not going to bore you with our entire resume, but Richard and I give a lot back to Los Angeles, and we didn’t deserve this.  Nobody does.

(Service): There are all kinds of community service. This isn’t what we signed up for, but we’ve come to feel that this is what we were put here to do.

We’re different from most of the people who have been harassed by Russell Brown in that we don’t rent a shop or apartment he has any influence over, and we are not financially beholden to him or any of his cronies. We understand why other people in the community are afraid to speak up, because some of those people have told us privately what they’ve endured. We would like this culture of intimidation and misogyny to go away.

In preparing my grievance, I discovered that there are several very serious grievances against DLANC and Russell Brown that have vanished from the record: DONE does not have them and they have been removed from the DLANC website.

One of these grievances, Julie Rico’s from 2005, demonstrates that DLANC’s arts-related committees have for at least five years been suffering from a problem with institutionalized misogyny, obfuscation and intimidation. I would like to share with you something from that 2005 grievance:

No, I don’t have a copy of the missing grievance, but after the DLANC hearing in which nothing was done to help Ms. Rico, her partner Sid Carter spoke out about the problem to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners on 3/15/05. Here is what he said:

“On March 1, 2005 a special Grievance Panel was convened by DLANC to address Julie Rico’s complaint.  Nothing of substance was initiated as a result of the Grievance Panel meeting, as I reported to Mark Lewis and Melvin Canas on or about March 3, 2005.  A written statement of Lesley Taplin, a former member of the AACE Committee (now known as the Arts Committee) was presented at the Grievance Panel meeting in  Ms. Taplin’s absence.”

Lesley Taplin: “Unhealthy belligerence has continued to dog the AACE Committee, for both men and women in it. The AACE Committee’s publicly posted agendas never noticed the public that it was going to discuss the extraordinary action of asking a voting member to resign from the AACE Committee or face being removed from the Committee against her will. Members of AACE have been particularly abusive to members of the opposite sex that they are fighting with. Meaning, when a man and woman are fighting, they treat each other with more disrespect than would happen if a woman were fighting with a woman or a man with a man.  I have not personally experienced this in other committees on the DLANC board, only in this [AACE] committee.  I don’t know why this is happening, but the group needs to be aware that this is ABERRANT behavior in DLANC, so the members can become more conscious about not doing that in the future.”

Part of the reason I am speaking out so actively now, and hosting documentation about my grievance on my own website, is because I don’t want someone else to have to go through what Julie Rico did in 2005, and Richard and I did in 2009. Forewarned is forearmed!

(Professional damage): I run a one-woman publicity agency called Explosive PR, and I’m very good at what I do. Over five months, I produced six comprehensive press releases for the Art Walk and distributed them to thousands of journalists, at no charge. (Examples: 1, 2, 3.) Art Walk never received more high quality media attention than it did on my watch. Among Russell Brown’s false claims against us was that we didn’t send press releases, which is a smear to my professional reputation.

(Intimidation): Our public response to the issues surrounding Art Walk began in response to Russell Brown smearing us in the Downtown News in November. I began using my skills as a writer and publicist to defend our reputations, and since then I have had my First Amendment rights repeatedly attacked through threats of physical violence and threats of lawsuits, simply because I have spoken out about the actions of a “public official.”

(Damage to community): As you will learn when you consult the documentation, our enormously successful volunteer work for the Art Walk and the downtown community was sabotaged through a complex conspiracy involving numerous community members led by Russell Brown.

Participating Art Walk galleries were denied the benefits of our PR and organizational expertise because Russell Brown and Bert Green called a meeting where they told gallery owners we were idiots and not to work with us; several of these galleries have since closed.

There is a sense in downtown that the air has been sucked out of the community. Cultural and economic growth has been stifled. Good people have seen what happened to us, and walked away from the Art Walk because they no longer wish to be associated with it.

A backlash against the Art Walk has emerged in the months since we stepped down, and attempts have been made to blame us for it. But if Art Walk isn’t as much fun as it was when we ran it, that’s hardly our fault.

(Out of control): When Russell was sent my grievance by DONE, he could have laughed at it, knowing that DLANC’s toothless grievance policy allowed him to investigate himself. Instead, he sat down at his computer at 3:40am and sent an email threatening bring civil and criminal charges agaist me and my husband through the City Attorney’s office.

So here we are.

I have asked my husband Richard Schave to present my case during the next section. Thank you for your time.



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