LHHIA Member John Pearce Attacking George Edwards
LHHIA Treasurer Jeffrey Heintz
Three Sheriff's Cars Respond to Report of Mob Attack
The La Habra Heights Improvement Association held its Annual General Meeting at the Park Gym on June 17th.
The Annual Meeting is the only publicly noticed and public meeting held by the Association. The Association's Heights Life magazine lists monthly meetings of most organizations in the City, except their own.
The Annual Meetings typically are held to report to members, recruit new members and choose Officers.
2008 Heights Life Notice Invitation sent City-Wide
2009 Heights Life Notice Invites the Public
2010 Heights Life Notice does not exclude the Public
Resident, reporter and news media company Executive Vice President George Edwards set up his television camera on a tripod to videotape the event for later posting on YouTube for other residents to watch. Edwards has previously videotaped other community events, such as AERA Energy hearing in Diamond Bar, the Wildlife Corridor Crossing Grand Opening, Historic Home Tour and the recent ribbon cutting for the Fire Departments new living quarters.
As Edwards panned the room with the camera rolling, he was attacked from behind by Improvement Association member John Pearce, who appeared to be trying to wrestle the reported $44,000 broadcast camera system away from Edwards. Prior to lunging at Edwards a second time, Pearce says. "Don't you put that f....n' thing in my face"
After Pearce released his grip on the camera, Improvement Association Treasurer Jeffrey Heintz, a retired police officer, attempted to direct Edwards to the door, then lunged at him saying, "This is a private meeting, membership only". Heintz grabbed onto the camera and chased Edwards around the room appearing to try to yank the camera away.
Heintz is also a member of the Water District Board.
At no time is Edwards seen taking any offensive action. The attacks resulted in bodily harm to Mr. Edwards, photographed by the Sheriff's Deputy later.
Viewer Warning! - Violence & Obscene Language!
After the Sheriff had been called, the Improvement Association Directors discussed postponing the meeting to another time, when it would not be videotaped, or removing all non-members from the room.
After calling the meeting to order, President Pam McVicar announced board members present, guests, and 2 non-member guests.
The Improvement Association received use of the public Gym for no rental charge or clean-up charge.
The Improvement Association receives thousands of dollars a year in public monies, including $6,000 from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe (source: Los Angeles Times investigation) and in-kind public financial benefit from use of facilities at no rental charge and support functions.
Why did members of the La Habra Heights Improvement Association resort to violence to prevent their meeting from being taped for by the news media?
At last years's General Meeting, which was not videotaped, the Association announced that they had taken away members' right to vote for Directors and had held a secret election prior to the Meeting, even though an Election had been noticed for that meeting. California Corporations Code requires members' consent before their voting rights can be taken away. The Improvement Association did not ask for that consent.
At the same meeting, they refused to release their by-laws for viewing, and a request to see them is still outstanding after a year. California Corporations Code requires them to provide their by-laws upon request.
Resident and then-Improvement Association member George Edwards said at the time that he was so sickened by their behavior and actions that he would not renew his membership as a sign of protest. Others have done the same.
Later investigation revealed that the Improvement Association had been misrepresenting themselves as a 501(c)3 tax-deductible non-profit, when they were not. The Association solicited dues and contributions, falsely stating that those contributions would be tax deductible.
The U.S.Postal Service Postal Inspector said that that type of solicitation qualifies as "Mail Fraud".
June 17, 2010
The Agenda for the evening's meeting listed "Election", though no mention was made that members' voting rights had been restored, and no notice was provided to members that an Election would be held, as required.
(See Notice excerpts above: 2009 Notice announced an Election that wasn't held, 2010 Notice mentioned no Election but one was held)
It appears that the lack of notice of the Election may nullify the outcome of the Election.
Also, Board candidates did not have opportunity to present themselves and make a speech to the members soliciting their votes, nor were floor nominations opened.
The Board announced a change had been made in how officers would be selected, but no By-laws were produced showing what the changes were or how the selection would work, as non-profit public benefit corporation codes suggest.
Of note, the Association held a mail-in Election in May regarding changing the group from a 501(c)4 to a 501(c)3, but the results of the election were not published in the last Heights Life or announced at the General Meeting. It is not known if sufficient ballots were returned.
Treasurer Heintz reported that, through May 31, the Association had $53,000 in income and $61,000 in expenses. The financial report was not released to non-members or news media.
Sheriff's Deputies arrived after the meeting adjourned.
Statements were taken from 2 or 3 people, but no physical arrests were made.
Mr. Edwards asked for his assailant to be arrested, or for both to be arrested.
The scene cleared by about 8:50 p.m.
After being presented with the two independent videos of the attack and an eyewitness statement, the District Attorney's Office said there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case.