Former chairman of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Keith Kaplan accused Mayor Sepi Shyne of trying to have him removed from the organization’s Board of Directors in retaliation for a letter to the editor he submitted to WEHOville in December. Kaplan phoned in to City Council’s meeting Monday night during the public comment period to discuss the incident, later calling for her removal from office.
When Genevieve Morrill, President and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber rebuked Shyne, telling the Council member that Kaplan is a resident and property owner in West Hollywood and was speaking on his own. Shyne continued to press for Kaplan’s removal from the Board of Directors at one point exclaiming to Morrill, ‘do you know how much power I have’. Kaplan has kept the conversation private since December but decided to speak out after the latest revelation of Shyne’s retaliation against Keely Field for also sharing her story in WEHOville.
Morrill later spoke during public comment on agenda item pre-facing her comments that ‘she has been trying to work Shyne’ and was disappointed that Kaplan decided to speak out.
“I want staff and the public to know that while the Chamber has had many challenges in the past couple years, Mayor Shyne, as well as Mayor Pro Tem Erickson, have been working to mend our relationships for the betterment of the community. And we hope to work together on important (issues) facing the business community. And I want that on the public record. Thank you.”
A formal complaint of violation of Kaplan’s rights is in the process of being filed with the City Attorney.
Kaplan’s allegations come on the heels of reports that some residents have begun gathering signatures in order to initiate a recall effort against Shyne, who began a campaign for Congress only weeks after taking office as mayor.
Kaplan’s complete comments are reprinted below:
“On Dec. 26, 2022, after you all received my letter about Sepi Shyne’s disrespectful comments to Myra Friedman, a letter that was then published in WEHOville, Genevieve Morrill’s phone rang at home. When she picked up the receiver, per Gen, Sepi Shyne was shouting on the other end asking if she had seen the letter I had written and less-than-mildly suggesting that I must be removed from the Chamber Board of Directors. Gen tried to calmly explain that as a property owner and taxpayer in West Hollywood, I was indeed entitled to my own opinion and was further entitled to voice that opinion in whatever way I felt appropriate…and that opinion was not necessarily representative of the Chamber. Ms. Shyne persisted in pushing for my removal and with no softening on Gen’s part she asked if Gen understood the kind of power she (Ms. Shyne) had, implying that she had the power to do what? This was not the first time Ms. Shyne had a conversation like this about me with one of the leaders in our city.
Given Ms. Shyne’s track record, Gen has every reason to be concerned about acts of retaliation from Ms. Shyne. But I believe there is no better course than to make you, the City Council, the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the voters of West Hollywood fully aware of Ms. Shyne’s pattern of retaliatory behavior now. Putting you all on notice is absolutely what needs to be done to prevent any more of these incidences. And I have confidence that your integrity, your understanding of the law, and your respect for our city and the constituency you represent will lead you to do the right thing here.
The First Amendment prohibits government officials from retaliating against persons for exercising First Amendment freedoms. Legislators, public employees, and other public servants can face severe consequences for violating this public trust, from censure to removal from public office, to prison time and fines. I have confirmed this with my attorneys. Ms. Shyne has violated my First Amendment rights. She has clearly threatened retaliation. She has broken the law. She is in violation of sections 1.5, 5.2, and 6.1 of your own Code of Conduct. And we have seen her do this repeatedly from this very council dais. Alann Strasberg has even filed a formal complaint on a similar matter with no resolution.
It is time for Ms. Shyne to be removed from office.”