Town Council trustees resolve conflict; restructure executive committee during special meeting

The La Jolla Town Council’s new executive committee

Board president:

Cindy Greatrex

First vice-president:

Steve Haskins

Second vice-president:

Peter Wulff

Past president:

Rick Wildman


Sonia Marie Olivas


Yolanda de Riquer

Town Council trustees resolve conflict; restructure executive committee during special meeting

After weeks of finger-pointing and accusations that some feared threatened to derail one of La Jolla’s oldest and most venerated community organizations, the La Jolla Town Council moves forward with a reconfigured executive committee and a few apologies.

By Pat Sherman

Discord among members of the La Jolla Town Council’s (LJTC’s) executive committee — which led to the resignations of board president Cindy Greatrex and three executive committee members — was apparently resolved during a special meeting Sept. 4, called for by council trustees Steven Haskins, Nancy Gardner and Peter Wulff.

The meeting was held to discuss the actions of immediate past-president Rick Wildman during an Aug. 2 executive committee meeting, and the absence of first vice-president Ken King from regularly scheduled executive committee and board meetings. Action items on Tuesday’s meeting agenda included the censure of Wildman and the removal of King from his role as first vice-president.

During the August LJTC meeting, Greatrex abruptly resigned from her position as president, followed by the subsequent resignations of fellow executive committee members John Weinstein (second vice-president), Sonia Marie Olivas (secretary) and David Woo (treasurer).

Though at the time the executive committee members declined to elaborate on the reason for their departures, during Tuesday’s meeting, held at the La Jolla Rec Center, Weinstein said they stepped down “partly in protest” for the way Wildman treated Greatrex during the Aug. 2 executive committee meeting.

Recounting the events that led to his resignation, Weinstein said he received a phone call from Wildman the night prior to the Aug. 2 meeting, “just basically criticizing the current president with things that didn’t really make sense to me, that seemed kind of trivial and manufactured.”

Weinstein said he felt there was “some other agenda” behind the call, noting that Wildman also phoned other trustees that evening.

At the executive committee meeting the following night (at which King was not present), the trustees discussed King’s absences during a three-month period.

Though King said he told Weinstein in advance that the executive committee meetings occurred at the same time as mandatory board meetings of the Rotary Club of La Jolla (for which he serves as treasurer), and that he was taking some vacation time, Weinstein said King “never responded to Cindy or any of the other executive committee members about his absence or made any effort to do other work.

“There was no reason he couldn’t have (taken on) other responsibility, whatever time was convenient for him,” Weinstein said.

Though Wildman said King had been in communication with him during his absence, Weinstein said King should also have been communicating with current council president Greatrex and other executive committee members.

“It just seemed like they were kind of hatching some plan, like they had something going on,” Weinstein said.

After the discussion of King’s absences on Aug. 2, Weinstein said Wildman began “verbally attacking” Greatrex with “trivial things,” such as the fact that his name was not engraved on an office plaque bearing the names of other past presidents.

“Cindy was working on it, she was trying to match up the (font) type … but he (Wildman) was making a big issue of that, which to me seemed trivial or an ego thing — (and had) nothing to do with ongoing town council business.”

Weinstein said Wildman then turned the conversation toward a discussion of “how valuable Ken (King) was in terms of his wealth and his fundraising abilities … (and) that Cindy should have been talking to past trustees (to obtain) donations from executive members or trustees that Cindy didn’t know.

“He didn’t make any constructive criticisms,” Weinstein said. “It was just sort of a relentless, bullying type of attack.”

Newly hired LJTC executive director Julie Duepner, who said she was told to report to first vice-president King for guidance and supervision, said King also didn’t return any of her e-mails.

Greatrex, who is independently employed in the field of telemedicine, said she stepped down after Wildman “made it clear” that he would no longer support her in her role as town council president.

“It put me in an awkward position,” Greatrex said. “If the past president truly feels like he can not support the sitting president, that’s a very difficult position for both (of us).”

Greatrex said the primary reason she stepped down was that Wildman suggested at the Aug. 2 meeting that King, whom Wildman knows through Republican Party circles, would be able to obtain a substantial endowment for the town council — and she didn’t want to prevent that from happening.

“I decided that the gracious thing to do would be to simply and quietly resign,” she said.

Though King previously told the

La Jolla Light

, “I want to be president. I’m looking forward to the challenges,” during the Sept. 4 meeting he said had “no designs on the presidency.”

King said he was approached about being a trustee years ago and agreed because he enjoyed Wildman’s quirky leadership style as president, and thought the LJTC was a “well-run organization.”

When approached about being first vice-president, King said he reiterated his time limitations, due to his Rotary commitment and a restructuring of his pool construction business.

In response to accusations that Wildman wanted to push a partisan agenda on the nonpartisan town council by installing King, his ally in the Republican Party, as president, King said, “I’m a good Republican, but I believe  … this is a whole different animal, this is a civic type thing … very social, so politics in my mind have no place here at all.”

Toward the end of his remarks, King apologized for his lack of communication, voluntarily tending his resignation from the executive committee.

“I’m simply here to clear the air,” he said. “When I hear things about me not living in La Jolla, like I’m part of some subversive group of the Republican Party that’s trying to take over the town council, or that I’m going to bring millions of dollars — or whatever amount — in an endowment, I’ve got to be here and tell my story. But I think this committee needs a clean slate. I think it needs a new beginning.”

Wildman said he was not belittling or bullying Greatrex, but urging her and other executive committee members to “get more involved in the community.”

“You’ve got to get out there,” he said. “This is what I’ve been doing for years and years and years. …  I said, ‘Cindy, you’ve got to talk to the people in the community, you’ve got to talk to the past trustees. …

“The fact is that the La Jolla Town Council is not solvent, and it has only been solvent because unnamed people over the years have thrown their own money in — and that’s what I suggested Cindy do.

“Clearly, I thought Cindy was a person of means,” Wildman added. “When you’re president and there’s a problem, you chip in. If there’s no money, you go out and you talk to (former) trustees, you talk to people that have chipped in before.”

Weinstein said it seemed as if there may have been a “quid pro quo” agreement between Wildman and Greatrex, that when Greatrex became president of the La Jolla Town Council, Wildman would take over leadership of Independent La Jolla (ILJ), the group pushing for La Jolla to secede from San Diego and become its own city, and a group for which Greatrex also serves as president.

In an Aug. 4 e-mail Wildman sent to Weinstein, he outlined his 15-year involvement with ILJ and said he was happy when Greatrex lent her “enthusiasm, knowledge, and (apparently) actual experience in incorporating a city.” (Greatrex has said she formerly helped the village of Sagaponack, New York incorporate as a city.)

Wildman said that during regular lunch meetings with Greatrex, she gave him “glowing reports on the progress of ILJ, the meetings, and what progress was being made at those meetings,” which led the LJTC’s executive committee to put ILJ on the board’s weekly agenda.

When Greatrex became town council treasurer, Wildman said, she offered very few reports.

“Cindy assured me that she would have more time once she no longer had the helm of ILJ, and that she could wanted to devote all of her energies to the Town Council, so that I could focus on ILJ,” Wildman wrote. “I talked to Ken King about this, because Ken had an interest in becoming Town Council president. … Cindy suggested that since I was already the "mayor of La Jolla" … I would be the natural person to take over ILJ and that, based on my community involvement, she would talk to the board about it.”

Wildman said he was upset that ILJ was not holding monthly meetings, that its website was not updated, and that the organization had no money.

“In other words,” Wildman wrote in this e-mail to Weinstein, “all of her reports to the LJTC over the months had been without any basis. I told Cindy that from all I had discovered, ILJ was ‘Oz’ and she was ‘the Wizard of Oz’ — and I did not mince any words with her about how she had let down the entire community with her promotion and glowing reports.”

Toward the conclusion of the Tuesday’s special meeting, LJTC trustees voted that Wildman be censured — a basic statement of disapproval regarding a director’s behavior, which does not remove him from his post on the executive committee.

Asked by trustees if he felt he owed Greatrex an apology, Wildman said, “Yeah, I do. I think that I apologize because perception is everything, and if I created the perception that I was angry or that I was doing anything other than trying to make my position clear that … everyone needed to get more active in the community, then I went about it the wrong way, and I apologize.”

In the end, the board voted to reinstate Greatrex as president and Sonia Marie Olivas as treasurer. Also voted onto the executive committee is  attorney Steve Haskins as first vice-president; Peter Wulff as second vice-president; and Yolanda de Riquer as treasurer.

Town council member Melinda Merryweather said that in her more than 30 years of involvement with the organization, she had “never heard of anything so disturbing as what took place.”

“I’m so proud of you all putting it back in place, because this community, our town council, has always been such a genuine thing,” Merryweather said.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the La Jolla Town Council will be at 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 13 at the La Jolla Rec Center.

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