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About a dozen people gathered outside CB 4's headquarters on Corona Avenue Tuesday to call for a special meeting on Feb. 22 and to denounce what they said was a lack of transparency in the process designed to fill the post held by Renda Rothschild for 18 years. The group praised Renda Rothschild's commitment to the community but said the vacuum created by her death should represent an opportunity to spark more active participation from newer board members - many of whom they indicated felt excluded. "We are asking for a process that will be inclusive, open and just for all community members concerned," said board member Gerald Rosero, who along with nine other members signed a letter outlining their concerns to board Chairman Richard Italiano, who is seeking the position, and Borough President Helen Marshall. "This has been a dictatorship for years." During what participants described as a heated meeting Feb. 1, the board voted 19-16 to allow the current executive committee - which protesters complained had not been subject to re-election in more than five years - to serve as the search committee charged with selecting candidates for the district manager position, Rosero said. But Marshall said candidates for the district manager position must still be approved by the board as a whole. Marshall - who appointed half of the 46-member board and approved the other half recommended by City Council members Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) and Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona) -- said she was upset by the tension but added she was confident the board was handling the difficult transition in accordance with the body's by-laws. "There's a way to do things when people work things out in a reasonable fashion," said Marshall, who indicated she would be willing to mediate if her assistance became necessary. "We can settle problems when we're level-headed." But Monserrate said he was troubled by reports of insults and fighting during the Feb. 1 meeting at which some members said they were told to "shut up." "Clearly there is discontent in the board for what some board members term a lack of process," Monserrate said. "I have some concerns about the way the last meeting was conducted." As board chairman, Italiano recused himself from the selection process and stepped down from his position after announcing his own candidacy for the district manager post - the only paid position on the board, Marshall said. Italiano did not return phone calls requesting comment. So far Italiano is the only clear candidate to emerge for the opening, which must be advertised in the City Record. Monserrate, who said the area covered by the board is more than 50 percent Latino, said he would not be unhappy to see the post filled by a Hispanic community member. "You need to have representatives that are representative of the community," said Monserrate, who indicated that there were no Hispanic district managers in Queens. Protesters outside CB 4's headquarters complained they had been muscled out of the process by a cadre of longtime board members who were reluctant to relinquish control after years at the helm of the board's executive committee. CB 4 covers Elmhurst and Corona. Rosero said the board had not held elections for executive committee members in more than five years despite what he said were requirements to hold annual elections. In 1998, the board voted to override three-year term limits for executive committee members, Marshall said. Others described what they called a dysfunctional board with little involvement in committees and poor communication. B. Ramamoorthy, a 15-year-veteran, said members were often reluctant to contradict or confront Renda Rothschild, who guided most of the board's activities. He was careful, however, to say that at least some of the blame lay with himself and other veteran members who did not voice their concerns earlier. "This is a time of transition," Ramamoorthy said. "People who were running the show are no longer there. (Renda Rothschild) was a wonderful community leader and she knew the community inside and out ... but we're going to have a new district manager, and a new executive board." Louis Walker, who as acting chairman must approve the group's request for a special meeting, said he would consider it after reviewing their letter. "It is a request that is legitimate. Some people are not happy (and) we probably need to meet again," said Walker, who added that the meeting might need to take place later than the group requested because of difficulty associated with getting a quorum on short notice. "No matter what, whoever goes in this position has big shoes to fill," he said. Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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