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‘Change’ falls flat around here

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At the end of the day, an effort to revamp the direction of one East Flatbush community organization sputtered, with members re−electing the incumbent chairperson to serve a fourth term.

At Community Board 17’s June meeting, Chairperson Lloyd Mills easily won re−election to what, under the board’s bylaws, will be his final term at the board’s helm. Also elected to head up the board were the other members selected by the Nominating Committee to fill the offices on the executive board: Morgan Gabriel as first vice chairperson, Terrence LaPierre as second vice chairperson, Renae Smith as secretary and Herminia Brown as treasurer.

The slate defeated the self−named “Change Team,” headed up by Barrington Barrett, the board’s former first vice chair, who ran for chairperson against Mills. The other members of the “Change Team” were Celestine Greene, who ran for first vice chair; Lenny Hoffman, who ran for second vice chair; Mechelle Brunson, who ran for secretary; and Mark DeSouza, who ran for treasurer.

In addition, two other candidates were nominated from the floor. Mary Bell−Downes nominated herself for first vice chair, and Bernice Diaz nominated herself for secretary.

But, the opposition effort was in vain.

When all the votes were counted, Mills had garnered 27 votes to Barrett’s 12.

Other members of the slate proposed by the Nominating Committee were similarly victorious. Gabriel got 21 votes for first vice chairperson, with Greene receiving 11 and Bell−Downes, 7. LaPierre snagged 28 votes for second vice chair, with Hoffman receiving eight. Smith received 23 votes for secretary, with Brunson receiving 16 and Diaz, one. Finally, Brown received 24 votes for the position of treasurer, while DeSouza got 16.

Brief speeches prior to the voting −− a kitchen timer ringing shrilly to mark the minute each candidate was allowed for speaking −− set out the parameters of the election.

“Your votes should not be for the members but for the community as a whole,” Mills advised his fellow board members. “So, I urge you to look closely at the candidates and make your choice wisely.”

Barrett, for his part, stressed that, “The board plays an important role in the community and, with the right leadership, can make a big difference in the community.”

To avert any possible concern about the way the election was run, Douglas Allen, the Nominating Committee chair, invited up “a neutral person from the community who is not a board member to observe.”

The election itself “adhere(d) to the charter of the city of New York and the bylaws of CB 17,” stressed Allen, before inviting board members to deposit their color−coded ballots in the boxes at the front of the room.

“This was a fair and square election, regardless of who the winners are,” Allen added.

Mills became chair in 2006, when he was nominated from the floor to run against then−Chairperson Michael Russell, who had been embroiled in controversy. That confrontation, however, never took place, because Russell withdrew his candidacy prior to the election, leaving Mills running unopposed.

Barrett previously said he had decided to run because he felt he was “being disrespected as first vice chair,” being kept out of the loop regarding various decisions, such as the appointment of a board member as a committee chair after the prior committee chair had stepped down. He also said after he announced his candidacy that there was concern among board members and residents that decisions being made were “not in the best interests” of the community.

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