December 7 Board meeting wrap-up: Part 3 Board owner communications

Suggestion: timing of first owner comment period

Tim Stibbins suggested that the first owner comment period should be after the President’s report because Rex does not put his remarks in writing in the draft Board book. (I say this suggestion would enhance protection of owners’ rights. Rex frequently self-servingly biases his President’s report to obfuscate that he personally usurps and/or abdicates the authority of the Board, e.g., to create false legitimacy for executive session actions or to conceal them instead of noting such actions properly in minutes.)

Rex unhelpfully suggested that maybe owner comments should be after the GM’s report since hers wasn’t in the draft Board book either. Tim said fine, but that was less important, and then the matter was dropped. (Do you think any action will be taken on this request?)

Board Communications Task Force Report

Rex appointed two Board members (and no owners) to propose solutions to poor Board-owner communications. This is like appointing two members from Anthem Council to propose solutions to communication problems between SCA and Anthem Council. Not involving all stakeholders in the development of shared solutions is a core failing of this Board under Rex.  

Anthem Council  – November 16 meeting

No report.

When they kicked me off the Board, they also kicked me off as SCA’s representative to the Anthem Council even though there is no requirement that SCA’s rep be a Board member. (Jean Capillupo was leaving the at-large seat on Anthem Council in which she served even though she was n longer on the SCA Board).

For whatever reason, my replacement did not file a report to the Board about what happened at the November 16 Anthem Council meeting.

December 7 Board meeting: Part 2 Self-management and the GM

Self-management Status Report

Tom Nissen described the management company’s (FSR) deficiencies that motivated the Board in 2015 to decide to go to self-management. He said the decision was not primarily to save money, it was to “get better information to manage the business more effectively”.

True, FSR dropped the ball on maintenance projects and bungled the reserve study. True, FSR allowed IT, the phone system, and financial reporting to become obsolete. These were all good reasons for converting to self-management everyone agrees on. Tom also gave a detailed report on his personal study of how SCA compares to other highly-rated HOAs. He came to the obvious conclusion that the transition to self-management was the right decision for SCA.

No argument here.

True, FSR had to go and SCA should be self-managed. Good points and totally true, but his praise was like Nancy Pelosi praising Senator John Conyers as an icon of the Senate before she said he had to go amid sexual harassment allegations.  

Tom described the research he did, as an individual Board member, and it was great. What he didn’t mention was that when another Board member tried to review the transition plans, the Board unlawfully held an unnoticed, “emergency executive session” to order her to cease & desist and paid the attorney to block all of her document requests.

However, Tom didn’t mention any of the things that are areas of disagreement, like excessive compensation for the GM and several top managers, or how the GM conceals association records or how the GM has not developed written transition plans or timetables since she got here in 2015, and does not have adequate personnel management systems needed to protect SCA from “employer liability”. 

Below is an excerpt from one of the many “legal letters” Clarkson graced me with (and you paid for) to explain why they would not let a Board member examine any SCA records. This one says SCA doesn’t have to produce the transition plans because SCA doesn’t have any. Then, to fake the Ombudsman out, they submitted 184 pages of powerpoint slides done by Tom Nissen in 2015 before the GM was hired.

It is simply wrong for certain individual Board members to “get better information to manage the business more effectively” and at the same time, tolerate the GM concealing that same management information from other Board members and the unit owners.

GM’s Performance Appraisal
(as reported in President’s report)

Rex stated simply that the GM’s performance appraisal was completed and will be put in her personnel file. The end.

Seriously. Not another word about it.

Unless you uncharitably interpret the self-management status report Tom gave later in the meeting as a surreptitious justification for giving her a raise/bonus without telling owners.

Here’s why I say the Board is not protecting owners if they don’t hold the GM accountable for customer satisfaction as much as for facilities maintenance:

  1. Board refused to put the petitions for vote of no confidence in her file as requested. Petitions signed by 836 owners called for a vote of no confidence in the GM were turned in during this performance rating period. This is more than 10% of ALL owners (and probably more than 50% of the owners who even knew there was a petition or how to sign it) who gave the GM a customer service rating of “F”. That is extraordinary, and yet the Board vehemently refused to honor the simple request to put the petitions in the GM’s personnel file. Board members, notably Bob Burch, expressed outrage and castigated the owners for even signing the petition.
  2. The Board did not respect owners’ right to express their dissatisfaction with the GM’s performance. Instead, a lot of time at meetings is spent with them droning on and on about how much they love her because she answers all the Board’s questions and she is way better at not deferring maintenance than the prior managing agent (that we fired).  It is the Board’s job to treat customer service concerns as legitimate and attempt to address them even if they don’t agree or even if they think that any owner who doesn’t agree with them is a worthless malcontent.
  3.  Rex didn’t say what the Board did about her bonus. Is she getting a bonus when she didn’t meet any objectives (No restaurant or even a recommendation about whether to have one. Poor job dealing with the Foundation. Springing surprise changes on Clubs. Lots of unhappy owners) If not, her pay should drop by $20,000. The 2016 bonus cannot be considered a part of her base compensation. I wish somebody other than me would make an information request to find out if they are letting her keep the $20,000. I can do it, but the GM slow-walks my requests and uses the attorney to write me “legal letters” manufacturing bogus reasons why information legally available to any unit owner should be withheld from me.
  4. Rex didn’t say what the Board going to do to fix the significant problem of the GM’s excessive salary.

No Recommendation on the Restaurant

“The SCA Board earlier this year directed the GM to make a restaurant space recommendation to the Board.”

Actually, when the restaurant was discussed at various Board meetings, Rex reported that in her last year performance evaluation, the Board instructed her to have the recommendation completed by this December. A rejected 6/22/17 information request was fulfilled by the attorney through the Ombudsman on 9/13/17, in which was the actual  wording of the performance expectation about the restaurant:

“2017 GM Criteria for Bonus Consideration
Prepare a recommendation for the use of the restaurant space. The recommendation should result from a detailed analysis of the possible uses of the space. If not used as a restaurant, the analysis will include costs for each option to include those costs associated with the modification of the space.”

I have argued for the past six months that allowing the GM a year to come up with just a recommendation is an extremely low standard, particularly since the CC&Rs require the continuous operation of the restaurant without the written authorization of 75% of the owners to close it. Is it too much to hope that the Board will hold her accountable for not having accomplished ANY “detailed analysis of the possible uses of the space”. After she refused to consider any analysis I submitted or let me see anything she was working on, I certainly don’t want to see her getting a bonus if Tom Nissen or Forrest Quinn whip something up for her.

Most recently the Board asked that I send RFPs to restaurant consultants to produce an opinion on the restaurant option. Some directors were reluctant to proceed without a definitive expert opinion on the viability of another restaurant at our location. And if viable, in what likely format.

Really? When did the Board ask her to get a consultant? I remember objecting to her reporting that she was going to do it because a) there was no money budgeted for that purpose, and b) she is costing homeowners over $300,000/year in salary and benefits, she ought to have the skills to  put together a competent analysis. Also, why is she holding back because “some directors were reluctant to proceed”? Why isn’t she dealing with the Board as a whole and treating all directors equally?

On January 25, the GM will recommend to the Board whether SCAshould have a restaurant or repurpose the space.

“That recommendation only awaits one clarifying legal point connected with repurposing the space.

SCA already has a legal opinion about owners getting an opportunity to vote if they don’t like what the Board wants to change it to, IF 10% petition for it. I’m mystified about why the attorney has to be brought in over and over. I’m also surprised that this important sentence is on the audio, but was left out of the written version of the GM’s report that David Berman posted.

In the interim, I will also prepare an RFP for possible restaurant tenant response. Then the Board will have all the information needed to concur or disagree with whichever recommendation I make.

I don’t know if you noticed, but the recommendation I made six months to have a local commercial broker specializing in restaurants, bars and gaming handle the process was ignored even though the GM’s approach is doomed to be a repeat of past failures. There needs to be an independent expert to develop a lease that is fair to, and protects, both parties, allows a vendor to deliver a product the residents want, and keeps the GM’s and the Board’s fingers out of the pie.

December 7 Board meeting items of interest

The last SCA Board meeting of the year is tomorrow at 1:30 PM. I’d like to point out a few things that you might not notice immediately, but which are important to for owners to know the full story.

Click here for full agenda.          Click here for draft Board Book.

Financial Report for October

Two things mar an otherwise brilliant job of bean counting:

  1. How much are we paying for who to do what?     SCA is now an employer with 80 employees costing $3.5 million -over 40% of operating budget, there should be a clearer accounting of cost of staffing by budget objective. The Board cannot hold the GM properly accountable nor can the owners be protected from such failures as excessive management compensation or featherbedding, if the accounting obfuscates these facts. And, more importantly, the Board is not holding itself properly accountable to the owners by letting the GM hide what SCA employees (particularly managers) are being paid and what they are being paid for.
  2. Since Adam Clarkson became SCA Legal Counsel on May 1, there have been $185,010 expended for legal fees which was 411% 0f the $45,000 budgeted for legal fees over half a year. This is the same attorney
    • who told the Board the GM did not need its authorization to expend SCA funds for unbudgeted purposes.
    • who does SCA’s debt collection function in the least cost-effective and most draconian way available.
    • who, along with the GM, is responsible for additional unnecessary expenses of at least $73,000 for the recall election which were STRONGLY objected to by the proponents of the recall.
    • who is being paid $325/hour to cause or allow the Board to take unlawful actions against political opponents of the GM and certain members of the Board.

 

Election and Voting Manual Revisions

Reviewing policies on voting may be really boring, but it is important to protect homeowner control over who represents us on the Board. There has to be a sound, uniformly administered system in place to prevent ANY election interference from tampering with ballots, abuse of power, or even unfair communications.

The largest HOA board election rigging scandal in Southern Nevada involved primarily attorneys who were supposed to be neutral outsiders who stacked HOA Boards to channel construction defects litigation.  This Election and Voting Manual is intended to ensure that the SCA homeowners actually control who sits on the Board and that those Board members actually work SOLELY for the benefit of the homeowners.

Yet, it doesn’t matter what is in this or any other SCA policy manual if the Board doesn’t follow SCA’s own rules or if it allows the GM and/or the attorney to manipulate the process in favor or against certain owners.

Cherry-picking which laws to follow is a slippery slope

There are several areas where our election process is not in conformity with NRS or the SCA Bylaws. For example, SCA Board does not have a nominating committee as required by SCA bylaws 3.4a below. While there may be good reasons to not want to have such a committee, this is an example of how problematic it is to simply disregard a provision. The bylaws must be uniformly enforced and not simply disregarded. The narrow exception is when the bylaws explicitly conflict with a mandate in a Federal or state law.

Filling Board vacancies after a director is removed.

The final clause of SCA bylaws 3.6. requires a vote by the unit owner to fill a Board vacancy caused by a Board member being removed.

“Upon removal of a director, a successor shall be elected by the Owners entitled to elect the director so removed to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term of such director.”

The proposed change to the Election Manual, below in green, apparently attempts to justify retroactively how Jim Coleman was appointed, but even the new provision doesn’t allow for an appointment to be made without any notice to owners, any candidate nominations, or the required vote of owners.

Note that there is nothing in either the existing nor the proposed versions of the Election Manual that gives the Board legal cover for what they actually did to remove me nor what they did to replace me nor what they might be contemplating to do in the next election (keep me off the ballot).

  • How they removed me from the Board by simply declaring my position vacant is not authorized in NRS 116, NRS 82, SCA governing documents or any existing or proposed Board policy.
  • By extension, that also means that there is no legal means by which the GM, the Board or the attorney could refuse to allow me to be a candidate for, or to serve on, the Board should I choose to run again.
  • Also, note that this manual includes the NRS provisions which the Board President and GM violated by using the Spirit to publish their one-sided argument regarding the recall without permitting equal time and access to the opposition. Complaints of these violations are currently being investigated by NRED.

These proposed changes don’t describe what the Board actually did nor do they conform to the bylaws. The Board is simply pretending they have the authority to act against laws and policies “upon the advice of Counsel”. We’ll see.

Complaints to the Election Committee are not fairly handled

The Election Committee complaint process is to informal and allows for problems at both ends of the spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, informal complaints may be submitted without evidence or substance which could just waste the committee’s time .

On the other end, there is substantial risk of unequal treatment occurring, or even being merely perceived, if there isn’t a good enough procedure defining accountability, investigation, documentation and notice requirements. It’s sloppy management, and it reduces the community’s trust of the election process. It also allows interference in the independence and neutrality of the Election Committee.

In the proposed draft, there is still no standard format for resolving complaints, no required documentation to be maintained in the official SCA record, and no notice of the disposition formally given to the complainant.

I recommend the process defined in the SCA CC&Rs and utilized by the Covenants Committee would be a good model for the Election Committee to employ to fairly investigate and document complaints regarding Board elections.


Board Communications Task Force

In June, I proposed a resolution to improve Board-owner communications , but couldn’t even get a second to the motion. Now, five months later, nothing has been done to increase transparency or meaningful utilization of owner expertise in governance.

Rex appointed a couple of Directors to be a Board Communications “task force” (with no owner involvement)  and here are their recommendations:

Here’s what should be done immediately:
  1.  Either use SCA-TV to video broadcast Board meetings live or use some service like GoToMeeting.com to make the Board meetings accessible online in real time and interactive.
  2. Take the password off the website.
  3. Make the eblast mailing list opt-out instead of opt-in
  4. Follow the lead of Sun City Summerlin’s new GM in attitude.
  5. Stop using Board work groups that withhold information from owners.
  6. Expand the committee structure to utilize expertise of residents and have meaningful owner oversight and influence in governance.

Item 15B “Self-Management” is listed as New Business to be presented by Tom Nissen rather than the GM. The paragraph above the total back-up in the Board book to let owners know what the Self-Management item is about.

This raises a lot of questions about the Board’s failure to protect homeowners by hiring a GM without ANY of the defined terms and conditions of employment required in a management agreement.

  • Why is a Board member making a presentation on the transition?
  • Why doesn’t the GM whose compensation is $100,000 greater than other GMs at comparable Sun Cities like Summerlin make the presentation?
  • Why hasn’t the GM been held accountable for the development of the complete policy framework needed to protect SCA from legitimate risks and potential liability associated with becoming an employer or
  • Why hasn’t the GM held accountable for AT LEAST having written plans and timetables for getting the job done?
  • How will the Board – let alone the owners  – even know if the job is done right and on time?
  • Why did the Board let the GM unlawfully conceal SCA records on the transition to self-management from one Board member in violation of our bylaws 6.4c when this information should have been easily available to any unit owner?

After the Board meeting, I’ll let you know if any of these questions have been answered. Or if there are just new ones.

Defending the GM and her excessive compensation is a slippery slope

I have heard many SCA homeowners talk about the recall election and their main focus of concern seems to be the cost of removing Rex, Aletta, and Tom from office.

However, the real issue of this recall election should be the unnecessary costs these Directors have created, and insist homeowners continue to pay, rather than admit they are wrong. Their visceral hostility to my professional assessment of how to address excessive executive compensation is what got me excluded from meetings and decisions and is the real reason they kicked me off the board.

Refusal to utilize professional compensation standards for GM is unacceptable.

Excessive executive compensation may be justified in the eyes of the board members who approved it when the GM was hired in November, 2015, but they erred significantly in the compensation for the GM going forward which is easily $100,000/year too high.

The problem needs to be corrected by using expertise within our community, but instead, it was exacerbated by Rex appointing Tom Nissen and Bob Burch, a Board work group, and excluding me with threats of legal action regardless of my expertise. There are professional standards and practices governing compensation in the public and/or non-profit sectors that cannot be legitimately dismissed, but have been. Compensation for a job class is based on a number of factors normally determined by a classification and compensation survey of comparable agencies within the geographic job market conducted by trained and independent persons. SCA lacks a needed professional protocol for this.

 As delineated in our Articles of Incorporation, SCA was incorporated in 1998 as “a non-profit corporation organized under Chapter 82, Nevada Revised Statutes”. As such, the Board, contrary to what they believe, must operate under the good governance principles of a non-profit even though we are not a non-profit in the sense of a charity under IRC 501c3.

An easy-to-read article, WHAT IS “REASONABLE” COMPENSATION FOR A NON-PROFIT EXECUTIVE? describes one professional method for addressing GM compensation issues:
“Establish a Good Governance Framework
As a preliminary matter, non-profit Boards must establish good governance processes and procedures.  As suggested by the Treasury Department, good non-profit governance in the area of executive compensation starts with the following basic framework:

  1.  Set and follow established procedures for determining compensation;
  2.  Use responsible effort to determine appropriate or reasonable levels of executive compensation; and
  3.  Maintain appropriate oversight of executive compensation levels.

Owner complaints of GM compensation should not be treated as beneath the Board’s notice.

The hot-button GM compensation issues listed below involve major deviations from standard compensation principles. I wanted the Board to take back policy control and be accountable to the homeowners. The other Board members wanted to pay the GM whatever they decided without having to listen to me ‘bitch’ about it or to my insisting that they explain their rationale to owners.

  1. The GM was hired at $250,000 which was $100,000 more than Sun City Summerlin paid to hire their Executive Director in 2015, and both SCA and SCS recruitments occurred at about the same time.
  2. We also pay for $100,000 for a CAM Lori Martin (recently replaced), so in essence, we are paying two people $400,000 (including increases, bonuses and benefits) for the work that other HOAs pay a single person under $200,000 on contract to accomplish. I have found that other larger and more complex HOAs pay for a top executive to operate the HOA under their own CAM license.
  3. In addition, Rex and the rest of the Board Members, gave the GM a $20,000 bonus, six months after she took over duties from FSR, the management company. However, to date, Rex has not been able to give a good justification for the bonus. The Board has refused to publicly adopt any GM performance standards.
  4. They cannot explain why there was a need for a 10% increase in owner assessments when we were moving to self-management as a more cost-effective form of operations.
  5. They claim that the GM’s big compensation was justified by the saving she accomplished when taking over early from FSR (a savings which was not known or predicted when she was hired in 2015 at such an exorbitant salary.)
  6. Why didn’t the $30,000/month for nine months that was supposedly saved by her early transition show up in the bottom line in the 2016 audit?
  7. The GM hired a CFO at $190,000 + benefits to handle our comparatively small $10 million budget. This compensation is also way out of line with the proper pay for that job class, maybe as much as double what others pay in this market for comparable work.
  8. The same problem of compensation rates based on a total disconnect with the local market rates for comparable jobs occurred again with the Facilities Manager compensation at $154,000, again double what other Sun City HOAs are paying in our region.

The combined compensation of four executives unreasonably takes up about 10% of the operating budget. However, but before I could finish my analysis, they ordered me to cease & desist asking questions. After prohibiting me from researching this subject further, they illegally removed me from my position on the Board on completely unrelated, bogus charges.  This is the Board’s fatal step off the cliff, and SCA is still tumbling down the slippery slope of an unfair, overly-politicized system.

Transparency and accountability to owners is essential, but inadequate at SCA.

As fiduciaries, the Board should be much more transparent and accountable to the homeowners as they fund all employee salaries. Compensation practices in organizations that are funded by taxpayers, donors, or assessment payers are necessarily different than compensation practices permitted in the private for-profit sector. The extreme resistance to this notion of transparency, accountability and homeowner oversight of GM compensation and performance standards has been a major source of contention between me and the other Board members who are overly protective of the GM to the detriment of the effective governance of the association as a whole

Sound personnel and salary administration requires formal policies which should NOT be delegated to the GM without competent owner oversight.

Coming from for-profit and military backgrounds, the current Board members don’t see a problem operating without strict policy control of positions, classification, and compensation. Nor do they see that this oversight can be provided more effectively and consistently by owners with relevant professional skills BETTER than the function can be performed by the Board which may or may not have members with the proper expertise. They don’t see the problem they create by abdicating complete control over position control, performance expectations, and compensation, a third of the budget, to the GM without an adequate system of accountability.

Just as there is a Finance Committee, SCA should be a Personnel Committee which includes owners, and at least one Board member,  as required by NRS 82.206(3) to utilize the expertise of owners with backgrounds in HR, with an emphasis in the public and non-profit sectors, to oversee the development of personnel policies appropriate to a self-managed Sun City. I submitted a proposal for such a committee to the SCA Board at the January 26, 2017 Board meeting, but it was given zero consideration and, despite my request to have my written comments included in the Board Book, it’s as if it never happened.

Once the salary is set for the job classification, performance standards, and measurements must be publicly adopted to determine any bonus. Absent customer-service ratings and other performance measured against publicly-adopted standards, any compensation increase by the board is irresponsible.

Contrary to what I believe is in the best interests of the membership and my literal interpretation of NRS 116.31085, Rex has aggressively blocked the PUBLIC adoption of GM performance standards to a ludicrous level. He claims that the law does not require members to know what factors or measurements control GM compensation. Further, unit owners haven’t been informed how many of your assessment dollars have gone to the attorney to prevent me as a Director from seeing documents showing what performance expectations the Board had adopted in executive session (if any). In my view, this skewed interpretation of the law benefits no one except the GM, attorney, and Rex, the man who would be king.

 

Refusal to use my expertise to address owner concerns about GM compensation was only the beginning. SCA’s system of accountability has been seriously damaged by how the Board mis-handled the GM’s frivolous threats of litigation.

This dispute is the real impetus for my being unfairly kicked me off the Board. Rex has allowed the GM to use the attorney to block ANY audit of the GM’s compensation and performance by me as an individual Director. This politically-motivated act could only be  accomplished by paying the association attorney literally thousands of dollars to conceal SCA documents from me and bless violating SCA Bylaws 6.4c:

Bylaws 6.4 ( c) Inspection by Directors. Every director shall have the absolute right at any reasonable time to inspect all books, records, and documents of the Association and the physical properties owned or controlled by the Association. The right of inspection by a director includes the right to make a copy of relevant documents at the Association’s expense.

Concealing records and unequal treatment of independent Board members are two of SCA’s BIG unacceptable governance practices.

Whether the GM’s salary is correct or too high is not the critical issue. The huge problem is the kind of system that’s created when when the Board tolerates the GM throwing a hissy-fit because I did a salary verification with her former employer, and then claims I am not authorized to identify myself as an SCA Director or ask questions about GM compensation, and then orders SCA’s official records be sealed from my view. I was threatened with litigation, accused of violating my fiduciary duty, and many other humiliations, including shunning, for refusing to just shut-up.

In what world is it justifiable to treat a volunteer Director in such a horrific manner?

In what world is there any possible way I could have used GM compensation information to make a profit in unrelated quiet title litigation as they claimed?

SCA’s system of accountability and responsible governance has been seriously damaged by how the Board mis-handled the GM’s frivolous threats of litigation.

The GM’s actions, to prevent me from interfering with her gravy train, and to shut me up about demanding higher performance and responsiveness to homeowners to qualify for her high level of compensation were acts so egregious that, in my book, she should have been fired for her vindictive and retaliatory acts alone.