Infighting may be rearing its ugly head once again on Community Board 17.
When the board votes, later this month, for new officers, the election is likely to pit the current Chair, Lloyd Mills −− who has served three terms and can serve one more, according to board bylaws −− against the First Vice Chair, Barrington Barrett, who has begun campaigning with the slogan, “Change we need, change we can believe in.”
Running with Barrett are long−time board member Celeste Greene for first vice chair, Leonard Hoffman for second vice chair, Mark DeSouza for treasurer and Mechelle Brunson for secretary. Hoffman has been on the board since 2007, and DeSouza and Brunson joined the board in 2008.
The board’s Nominating Committee has not yet made its recommendations, but it is expected that the committee −− whose members were appointed by Mills −− will nominate Mills, as well as Treasurer Louis Kilkenny, for re−election.
Who will be nominated for the other positions is still unknown. Since Barrett is running for chair, he cannot run for first vice chair. In addition, the current Secretary, Mary Bell Downes, cannot run again, according to the board’s bylaws, and Second Vice Chairperson Phil Lieberman is leaving the board.
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. Also nominated from the floor was Kilkenny, who ran against Russell ally Leithland “Rickie” Tulloch. But, both Russell and Tulloch withdrew their candidacies prior to the election, leaving Mills and Kilkenny running unopposed.
Now, it’s Mills’ turn to be opposed. Barrett said 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 that there was concern among board members and residents that decisions being made were “not in the best interests” of the community.
For example, Barrett cited the decision of The Bridge to establish a controversial shelter for mentally ill individuals on Tilden Avenue. While the board had voted in opposition, the vote was advisory only, and the organization is going ahead with the facility.
“Mr. Mills was giving us a double message, so I decided to break away,” noted Barrett, who said he was running on a platform of “democracy, inclusiveness, sensitivity and concern about community needs” that, he contended, “are not being addressed at this time.
“I know they are angry, but I don’t care,” Barrett added.
Mills, asked about the challenge from Barrett, replied, “I suppose this is part of the democratic process. It’s somewhat not the best of circumstances for the first vice chair to challenge the chair.” As for the theme of change, he remarked, “One wonders who is part of the old administration and who would be part of the new one, so I don’t know what is going to change.”
Mills said he had, from the beginning, “emphasized teamwork. This is not about Lloyd Mills. It’s about the community board.” However, he noted, the board chair is not required to consult with anyone before appointing committee chairs. “Check the bylaws.”
With respect to The Bridge, Mills said, “The board did what was required of it.” But, he went on, “The law states certain things and we have to abide by the law. Most people seem to have no regard for laws −− ‘I’m going by my feelings. Too bad for laws.’”