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Westwood Homeowners Vote President Out

Board leader is ousted after a controversial pact with the developer of a high-rise project.

May 20, 2003|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

In a stunning upset, members of the influential Westwood Homeowners Assn. have voted narrowly to oust the organization's president from its board of directors, apparently because of his handling of a controversial settlement with a condo developer.

With 195 ballots cast, Richard Agay, an attorney who has headed the nonprofit organization for five years, came in 14th in the vote for 13 board members. Arnold Anisgarten, the current board treasurer, said Agay fell short of reelection by two or three votes. The results were made public Monday. Residents elected some board members who had been loyal to Agay and others from an opposition slate.

Agay had recently come under fire because of a $550,000-plus agreement he had reached on behalf of himself and the association with Richard Weintraub, the developer of a condominium project on Wilshire Boulevard at Malcolm Avenue.

As part of the agreement, Agay and the homeowners group dropped a lawsuit against the proposed 290-foot-high building and agreed not to challenge it in the future. In exchange, Weintraub created a $275,000 legal fund that Agay said he planned to use to battle future Westwood developments that he deemed to be illegal.

Weintraub put that money into Agay's attorney trust account (an account attorneys use to hold money for clients). The deal gave Agay and two other board members veto power over how the funds would be spent. It also called for Weintraub to pay $275,000 for a patrol service for the neighborhood over the next five years.

Attempts to reach Agay were unsuccessful Monday.

Many residents criticized Agay for keeping details of the agreement under wraps and for giving himself and two board colleagues -- Ivan Finkle and Charles Edelsohn -- veto power.

"Agay was seen as being the divisive one," said Renee Korn, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who was elected to the new board.

Councilman Jack Weiss, who had clashed with Agay over the agreement, praised the vote.

"I think it's a new day in Westwood," Weiss said. "I very much look forward to working with the new board to make sure their neighborhood receives the city services it deserves and needs."

Weiss said he had offered to establish a trust fund to hold the Weintraub funds. He said he would appoint members of the board to oversee the spending of funds for street and sidewalk repairs, tree trimmings, street lights and other traffic improvements. "Now that these results are in, it's my hope that the money that some had wanted to use on lawsuits will instead be used for community betterment purposes," Weiss said.

Agay's ouster raised questions about what might become of the Weintraub settlement. Several board members said they expected legal action. Weintraub was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

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