Crown Heights

Hiring ‘nightmare’ escalates at Crown Heights community board

“There are too many problems for us to sit here and nitpick.”

June 12, 2019 Lore Croghan
From left, CB9 Executive Committee members Vivia Morgan, Eve-lyn Williams and Chairperson Patricia Baker during a heated moment at a community board meeting on Tuesday night. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

After nearly four years without a district manager, Community Board 9 met Tuesday night to choose one —which did not happen after six of the 24 board members present refused to cast a vote.

The long-running drama of CB9’s search process to fill the job of top neighborhood bureaucrat has included the ouster of two district managers in three years — one of them by a judge’s decision. The board has essentially been left without a replacement since October 2015.

The board went into executive session on Tuesday night to meet the three final candidates for the job — chosen from 61 resumes — and vote. Six board members, however, declined to participate. They believed that “the board needed more time to make a determination on who was the most qualified person,” one of the six told the Eagle.

CB9 Chairperson Patricia Baker, who was among those who participated in the vote, nullified its results because of the abstentions. According to Baker, the City Charter says that if a board member is in the room, they must vote. She told the Eagle that she planned to get a legal opinion about the situation from city lawyers on Wednesday.

Baker, who said she was “highly disappointed” by the results of the meeting, maintained that the board had plenty of time to consider the finalists.

Search Committee Chairperson Rashidah Siddiqui revealed the finalists’ names at a May 28 board meeting that abruptly ended after three board members staged a walkout.

The job candidates were Rose DeStefano, Charles Jackson, Andrew Kunkes and Michelle McClymont. On Tuesday, DeStefano withdrew her name from consideration.

During the executive session, candidates each gave a 15-minute presentation about themselves that was followed by an opportunity for board members to ask questions, Baker said.

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“We didn’t want to hurry anyone,” she explained.

Candidates’ resumes were handed out at the executive session, but board members were free to examine the resumes before the meeting if they wished, Baker said.

Board members got riled up before the executive session started — and there was a good deal of shouting and arguing before the vote. Non-members waiting outside for the executive session to adjourn could hear the din through the walls.

Before the meeting adjourned, one board member rebuked the others for their fractious behavior.

“This is a nightmare,” said Bishop Sylveta Hamilton-Gonzales.

CB9 isn’t getting anything accomplished and needs “mediating leadership,” she said. “There are too many problems for us to sit here and nitpick,” she added.

CB9’s district manager drama began with the 2015 dismissal of Pearl Miles, who had held the job for around 30 years, after she altered the outcome of a key vote on a controversial rezoning issue.

Then, activist Alicia Boyd sued CB9, which covers South Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Wingate and parts of North Flatbush, over its selection process for Miles’ successor, Carmen Martinez. In 2017, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta voided Martinez’s hiring.

District managers play key roles in the community boards that employ them.

They are in charge of providing services to neighborhood residents. They deliver letters to government agencies about whether the community board approves or disapproves of a variety of matters, including proposed rezoning, changes to landmarked properties and liquor license applications.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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