Crown Heights

Crown Heights board leader quits amid ‘dysfunction’

June 27, 2019 Lore Croghan
Community Board 9 Chairperson Patricia Baker announces she’s dropping out of her re-election race. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
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Citing dysfunction and chaos, the head of Crown Heights’ Community Board 9 abruptly quit her post moments before a vote on her reelection — adding more drama and confusion as the group also scrambles to fill a four-year vacancy for district manager.

At CB9’s general meeting on Wednesday night, Chairperson Patricia Baker took the mic to make what was supposed to be a brief candidate’s speech — and instead announced she was withdrawing from the race. The chairperson’s role is to lead the all-volunteer board in local planning and decision-making. The chairperson is the head of the board, while the district manager is a city employee who leads a paid staff in enacting the board’s will.

Baker said it was impossible for her to be in charge of CB9 because she was surrounded by people who “don’t walk the walk” and “do everything they can to undermine” her.

She said CB9 was known for being “dysfunctional” and completely chaotic.

After the meeting, Baker told the Brooklyn Eagle she had been thinking about quitting the chairperson’s post, which she had held for one year. She has been a CB9 board member since 2013.

“I was so conflicted,” she said. “I wanted the meeting to end on a good note.”

When asked what’s wrong with CB9, Baker told the Eagle, “Everybody wants to be the boss. Nobody wants to follow the rules.” She said she would continue to serve as a member of the board.

Baker’s abrupt decision to quit the race meant the other candidate for chairperson, Fred Baptiste, won the position without any need for balloting.

In a brief speech, Baptiste told fellow board members, “It’s going to be a busy summer.”

A special meeting to finish executive officer elections

Community boards normally recess during July and August. But Community Board 9, whose district includes South Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Wingate and parts of North Flatbush, has unfinished business.

As it turns out, one major piece of business it must take care of this summer is completing its executive officer elections.

After Baptiste spoke, a police officer appeared and told the board it was time to vacate the room. (The meeting was held in the sweltering auditorium of Middle School 61.)

CB9 members fill out Executive Officer ballots. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
CB9 members fill out executive officer ballots. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Nominations Committee members frantically passed out paper ballots. Members began filling them in. In the hubbub, board members objected to being rushed.

Baker then said a special meeting will be held to continue the election process and the meeting was adjourned.

Community boards are required to hold annual elections for chairperson, first and second vice chairpersons, secretary, treasurer and two members at large.

Back to square one on district manager vacancy

During the meeting, the board voted to table until September a discussion about whether the Search Committee that worked all spring to select district manager candidates should start the process all over again, or if a new Search Committee should be created.

At a June 11 special meeting, the board voted on three candidates for the job. But Baker nullified the results of the vote because several people in the room declined to participate.

On Wednesday night, Search Committee Chairperson Rashidah Siddiqui told the board that the city’s Corporation Counsel later advised the board it could tabulate the June 11 vote.

Job candidate Michelle McClymont received eight votes, candidate Charles Jackson got five votes and candidate Andrew Kunkes received no votes, Siddiqui said.

In order for there to be a winner, one of the candidates needed to receive 13 votes, Siddiqui said. (There were 24 board members present during the voting 13 votes would have been a majority.)

Siddiqui said she was “highly disappointed” that CB9 was once again left without a district manager.    

CB9’s long-running efforts to fill the job of top neighborhood bureaucrat have been marked by scandal and litigation. Two district managers were ousted in three years.

Pearl Miles, who held the job of district manager for three decades, was dismissed in 2015 after she altered the outcome of a key vote on a controversial rezoning issue.

In 2017, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta voided the hiring of Carmen Martinez, who would have been Miles’ replacement. The judge’s ruling was the outcome of a lawsuit filed by activist Alicia Boyd.

The salary for CB9’s district manager position is between $75,000 and $90,000 per year, a job vacancy posting says.

District managers run a community board’s offices, provide services for residents of the community district and carry out their board’s wishes. They send out the board’s letters of support or disapproval for a range of issues including rezoning proposals, alterations to landmarked properties and liquor-license applications

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter. 

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