What’s being human got to do with it?

We are all more irrational than we think

I don’t know if anybody clicked on the links to psychological studies in my last blog about the 2/13 Election Committee’s hostile reaction to my appeal of my unfairly being excluded from the 2018 election process. But let’s assume nobody did.

Anyway, here’s the point.  These important psychological studies contributed to our understanding of how people conform to roles or how people tend to obey authority figures even if they hurt innocent people. This research contains valuable lessons that we all need to learn– but these are particularly important lessons for those in SCA power positions — if we are ever going to heal our community divide.

Why am I talking about this?

My goal is to encourage people in our community to re-frame the way we approach conflict resolution. None of us can be trusted to be completely objective and completely rational 100% of the time so we need to have a fair and objective governance system that’s strong enough to make sure those in power don’t abuse it.

Those in power can’t be allowed to run roughshod over anyone more vulnerable for any reason. And the only way to guarantee that is to have a system that won’t let them get away with it.

We are wasting our limited time, money and emotional resources on attorneys who cannot fix what is wrong, and who are, in my view, a big part of the problem.

Study #1: The Milgram Experiment

The Milgram experiment (1961) was designed to test how readily people acquiesce to authority even when it is in conflict with personal conscience. The goal was try to understand why so many “good Germans” just went along with Hitler’s horrific actions.

Conclusion

“Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.  Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up.

People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. “

This Milgram study concluded that people obey authority figures even if it hurts innocent people. This can easily be applied to what happens here in SCA, given that we are all humans.

How could we use this knowledge?

So, to me personally, giving more power or “authority” to a small group of people is not the answer. The answer is having a governance system that will control those who have the power to prevent them from abusing it.

And to have a system that requires the uniform application of the rules to everyone to ensure that ALL owners are protected from any form of abuse, regardless of who is in power.

Study #2: The Stanford Prison Experiment

Stanford Prison experiment (1971) demonstrated how quickly people adapt to their assigned roles. Students randomly assigned to be the guards began acting aggressive and authoritarian and rapidly began feeling justified in being abusive while those randomly assigned to being prisoners took on so much of the fear and agony of prisoners subjected to abuse that the experiments were stopped for ethical considerations.

Today’s Communication workshop and yesterday’s Board meeting yielded some examples of how people conform to their roles, respond to authority, and conform to norms that are placed upon them that I will discuss in a future blog.

Right now, I just want to recommend a book to anyone who would like to explore a little further how we as humans behave irrationally and how we need to have strong social norms and systems in place to protect us from ourselves and the limitations we have from just being human.

The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty
How we lie to everyone – especially ourselves

How could this book help SCA leaders grow into their roles?

I think Dan Ariely’s entertaining and informative writings (and other research I will suggest later) could teach us concepts and skills that we could use to help ourselves and to resolve some of our SCA community’s deepest divides.

I love listening to this guy’s books while I’m hiking. He describes about experiments that test and analyze theories about the many ways:

  • we humans are a lot less rational than we think,
  • how we’ll do something completely irrational and then just make up a reason to justify it,
  • how we all have blind spots,
  • how much our expectations can influence what we see, feel, or can learn.

Polly Anna speaking here:

It might encourage those in power to be more open to handling conflict in a more constructive way that might prevent exacerbating problems until court is the only answer.

The price we all pay

Refusing to openly discuss and fairly resolve owners’ concerns “on the advice of counsel” creates a litigious environment in which only the attorneys profit.

The price ALL owners pay is much larger than just the attorney fees. We pay for it with our most valuable resources: peace of mind and sense of belonging and joie de vivre.

Election Committee was inhospitable, angry even. Nevertheless, I persisted

Today’s SCA Election Committee meeting was an important part of the SCA Board election process because it was the official start of the election process where candidates drew lots for their ballot position.
What could it hurt if I drew a lot until the proper authority rules on my eligibility to serve?

Instead of considering the rejection of my candidacy for the Board as final, why not just treat me like any other neighborhood volunteer  – at least until there was one iota of proof that I really was worthy of such vilification?

What happened went I went looking for justice?

I gave the Board and management notice that I was appealing the 2/9/18 Notice of Ineligibility that the Clarkson Law Group had whipped up on SCA owners’ dime to make sure that someone who had the support of at least 2,000 owners was blocked from even being a candidate.

In the prior notice, I asked for them not to use the attorney or security to threaten or humiliate me. They accommodated me only insofar as owners didn’t  pay for an outside agent to ensure that I was relegated to pariah status. But then, they knew full well, they didn’t need to bring in the heavy-weights, the Election Committee – dutifully, sternly, and totally predictably stepped up to take on the enforcer role.

The Officials act official, or was it officious?

Before the meeting, I went to the EC chair, Carol Steibel, and told her that I was appealing the attorney’s decision to deem me ineligible and that I wanted to draw for a ballot number so I could stay on equal footing in the election process until a determination on my eligibility was made by proper authority (NRED).

When I handed her my 2-page appeal, she tossed it aside testily, and said,

“I’ve already read that.”

“How could you have? I just wrote it this morning.” said I.

“Well, I read something else, then. The attorney said you can’t be a candidate, and we have to listen to the attorney.”

When I sat at the table, two members of the committee told me sternly to get away from the table. Only candidates could sit there.

Carol somberly started the meeting by saying that the meeting would not be recorded and that no one was allowed to record it as it was against the law.

The thing about this edict that totally chaps my hide is a major owner protection to allow recordings so, to be ornery I guess, I said I was going to record it. Their reaction was intense. Forrest Quinn joined in saying that he did not authorize recording him.

Bob Burch said he wanted my assurance that I wasn’t going to record it. I said I wasn’t recording it, and he announced to the crowd,

“We’ve had this trouble before”

further solidifying the ‘Us vs. Them Her’ dynamic permeating the room.

Carol very formally read a notice from the attorney about my situation. She would brook no argument. It was FINAL!

  • The Board deemed Nona Tobin’s Board position vacant by law making her ineligible to be on the Board.
  • Nona herself made the charges public.
  • No circumstances have changed that would make her eligible.
  • Clarkson law office was merely asked to inform Nona since the Board’s decision that  was ineligible has not changed.

My, my, my…what an awful person that Nona is! An existential threat.  Carol’s tone made it totally clear that questioning the veracity or authority of the attorney would be considered treason, the concept of “Innocent until proven guilty” totally shrouded by her blind spot.
P.S. None of the above statements from the attorney that Carol reported are true. I’ll be handing the documents over to NRED to prove it as soon as I can.

Carol was so busy genuflecting before Clarkson’s awesomeness that she might have forgotten for the teensyist second that as the Election Committee Chairperson, her primary job is to protect the integrity of the election process, to ensure the election is free from undue interference and to protect ANY owner from being disenfranchised.

Maybe a little training? I suggest training should come from NRED or any competent, independent professional, but absolutely not conducted by Adam Clarkson.

Gary Lee, Board candidate new to the scene, innocently asked for a better explanation why I was dumped, but Carol was adamant that she had said all that needed to be said on the subject, and that he was holding up the very, very important business of the committee.

Tobin appeal to being disqualified as a candidate

Quick note about # 4 above, it should read that in addition to the NRED form 850, I also submitted the disclosure form as edited by the attorneys even though it was not legally-mandated for me to do so.

Tobin Appeal Page 2

Ask Yourself:
Would my actions make sense if I were on the Board to make a profit?

What does my being on the Board have to do with what the court does about the house? The Board doesn’t have anything to say about it.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say the Board could vote on something related to the outcome of the title fight. If my ulterior motive was to get the Board to vote to quiet title to me instead of the bank, wouldn’t I have tried a different approach?

If I were trying to get a Board vote on litigation I could profit from, wouldn’t I have been smarter to ingratiate myself and “go along to get along”.
  • Wouldn’t I have been foolish to risk the ire of the Board to protect the right of owners to legally sign petitions to call for a vote to remove directors from the Board?
  • Would I have pursued formal complaints to enforcement authorities saying that the attorney and the GM should be fired for causing the Board to act unlawfully?

Ask yourself:
Isn’t it more likely that the same over-compensated GM and attorney, after protecting compliant directors in power from a removal election, just created a convenient ruse to bypass owners’ votes and remove the thorn in their side and block me from coming back?

 

 

Election Committee TOMORROW 9 AM – pick order of names on ballot

Concord Room Anthem Center
9 AM Tuesday, Feb. 13
Election Committee
Board Candidate Orientation
Candidates draw for ballot order

I’ll be there despite Clarkson’s challenge to my eligibility. I have requested that I be treated as a candidate unless a State of Nevada official with proper legal authority rules that I am not eligible to be a candidate.

As you can see in the email below (which I sent to the SCA Board, the GM, the Ombudsman, the NRED investigator and others), I have requested, in respect for my advanced age and frail heart, that I not be treated unfairly or be subjected to a hostile surprise attack, be escorted from the room or face any other bullying or humiliation because I have the temerity to insist on my right to volunteer to serve as a member of the Board.

I encourage you to come if you are interested in ensuring that SCA is not the kind of place where a homeowner in good standing, acting in good faith, can be treated shabbily for simply trying to be of service.

Remember, this is not about me. 

This is about having a system of governance that is fair, open and protects ALL homeowners equally – no matter who is in charge.

Who gets to decide who is eligible to serve on the Board?

Who authorized the Clarkson Law Group to block me from running for the Board?

Not the law. Not NRED. Not the SCA Board. I believe Adam Clarkson and his whole Law Group should be re-trained to better understand who their client is. No Association attorney has legal decision-making authority to control who is eligible to sit on a Board of Directors.

Follow this link for a 2012 article by Barbara Holland, “HOA directors should be held accountable“, in which she noted:

The majority of the people who have been found guilty in the current FBI investigation of the massive Southern Nevada HOA scandal have been on boards of directors.

Holland argued that HOAs needed to be protected from fraud, but note her warning about the potential for abuse

There should also be some discussion as to whether a homeowner should be disqualified from being placed on the ballot when he or she is currently in violation of the community’s governing documents.
Now, this is a touchy subject as this proposed law would be used improperly by HOA boards that could try and block homeowners from sitting on the board.

Why didn’t Clarkson disclose his former employment to SCA when it could be perceived as a potential conflict?

Adam Clarkson’s resume submitted to SCA during the 2017 RFP process did not disclose where he practiced law after he passed the Nevada bar in 2006 until 2014 when he incorporated the Clarkson law Group. Last September, AnthemOpinions reported that Clarkson was had been an associate attorney for the firm of Quon, Bruce, Christiansen early in his career.

Law Partner Nancy Quon was a principal player in the HOA corruption scandal from 2008 until her suicide in 2012. The massive conspiracy involved rigging HOA board elections and taking over HOA boards to steer legal and construction defects contracts to specific firms.

Adam Clarkson was never charged with a crime or even accused of knowing of the conspiracy that purportedly was led by Nancy Quon, a partner in the law firm that employed him. However, given the job Clarkson was applying for, shouldn’t he have disclosed to SCA, that his prior employment “would appear to a reasonable person to result in a potential conflict” ? Shouldn’t he held to as high a standard of disclose as he is imposing on me?

When I went on the Board, Clarkson demanded  that I “voluntarily” relinquish some of my legal rights to “avoid even the slightest appearance of a conflict” by signing an agreement to recuse myself from ALL SCA collection matters . This demand far exceeds the conflict of interest requirements in NRS 116.31084 and NRS 82 and seems pretty self-serving.

In fact, forcing me to recuse myself from current SCA collection matters did not protect SCA or homeowners one iota since my quiet title claim is for unlawful acts by SCA’s former agent, FSR.Stripping my access to information about collections as a Board member, and now trying to prevent my getting back on the Board, appears to a reasonable person to only protected Clarkson’s interests.

Clarkson Law Group is both SCA’s general counsel and debt collector which in my book creates a potential conflict of interest. Oh yeah, one of the ways Clarkson justified deeming my board position vacant was saying  I “put matters before the Board from which (I) stand to make a profit” when I proposed to the Board that some remedies to my complaint of harassment and retaliation would be to:

So who has the greater appearance of a conflict – me or Clarkson?

Clarkson has overstepped his authority

I am not in violation of any governing documents. I am a member in good standing. I have no financial claims against SCA. SCA is still in the quiet title litigation only because they refused at least eight attempts on my part to resolve the issue without litigation and before I got on the Board.

Why have homeowners had to pay the Clarkson Law Group tens of thousands of dollars to:

  • order me to cease and desist asking about the GMs excessive compensation
  • falsely accuse me of making a profit on my Board position,
  • having undisclosed  or “potential” conflicts, c
  • reating “employer liability”?

Did the Board declare me ineligible to run?

Not the Board. There was no Board vote to declare me ineligible to run.
At least there was no agenda or notice of a Board meeting to take such a vote.

There is no provision in law, SCA governing documents or SCA Board policy that creates a mechanism for the Board to take such an action. Compare this Clarkson/Seddon edict that I am ineligible with the FBI Russia investigation:

Even if the FBI investigation produced a finding that Russia manipulated the vote enough to make Trump win the Electoral College, there is still no mechanism in law for the Attorney General to invalidate the election, declare Trump ineligible, or to put Hillary Clinton in Trump’s place.

So, absent action by the Board, who decided I was ineligible and on what legal authority?

The GM, probably just did the same thing she did when she wanted legal cover for interfering in the recall election and cost homeowners $84,866 unbudgeted dollars to hire a CPA to make sure the recall failed.

But, given how Clarkson has buffaloed the Board into thinking that an Association attorney has higher decision-making authority than an Association Board, Clarkson might just as easily taken this action on his own initiative.

But whichever one did it, he or she acted without legal authority. And the Board let him or her or them do it.

Clarkson and the GM have done a fair amount of monetary damage to the Association that they have fought like hell to keep you all from finding out about.

I’m just saying.

Don’t you think it is weird that the same attorney who insists that I am a financial threat to SCA is the same joker who charged SCA $39,635 in 2017 for legal fees just to write me threatening letters and to help the GM threaten to sue SCA if the Board didn’t stop me from asking questions about her pay.

And it didn’t end. Clarkson sent me letter last month demanding that I  stop asking for SCA records that the law says are available to any owner. He sent another one to the KTNV keep Sandy Seddon’s pay confidential to protect her privacy. All SCA owners will have to pay $325/hour for these letters and for Clarkson to handle the NRED complaint. See a pattern?

Why is it a problem for the Board to act only “on the advice of counsel”?

Opportunity Costs – What owners had to give up to pay attorneys

A lot of it is unnecessary. A lot of it is by creating conflict, and common sense remedies are rebuffed. No effort to do best practices is rewarded when attorneys work on the principle of using the legal minimum as legal restraints.

This is the same guy that advised the Board that it was somehow magically exempt from black letter law in NRS 116 on such trivial matters as freedom of information and owner rights to know how their money is being spent.

This is same guy who says the GM can spend money that isn’t budgeted on her own initiative without measuring the opportunity cost to owner services where those funds were supposed to be spent. I personally would have much rather SCA spent some of the money that was wasted on attorney fees on

  • a better sound system for group exercise classrooms or
  • better pay for the fitness instructors or
  • enough funding to not cancel exercise classes.

This is the same guy who had no trouble with SCA’s 2017 expenditure for legal services that was triple the already ample $90,000 budget.

Really, in 2017, this Board expended 300% of what prior Boards needed to govern responsibly. Of course, those other Boards didn’t have a legal counsel who told them it was a violation of their fiduciary duty to make any decision without the approval of the attorney.

This same crackerjack attorney told me it would be considered practicing law without a license if I told people they didn’t need a legal opinion every time someone blew their nose.

My commitment is to owners

Whether I get on the Board or not, I will fight for Board action to

1) prevent the overuse of attorneys,
2) prohibit the GM from using the attorney as her personal counsel against the association or individuals or groups,
3) require the Board policy manual section 4.10 be rigorously followed,
4) prohibit the use of attorneys in debt collection  prior to foreclosure,
5) use foreclosure as a last resort and not ever to benefit the debt collector over the homeowners,
6) to get the NRED or CIC Commission to rule that any fines or monetary damages come out of the attorney’s pocket so that he not be paid for causing the Board to violate owner protection laws and that he not be paid for the unlawful, abusive and threatening letters he sent me both during and after my time on the Board.

What’s the big picture statewide?

This interference in HOA elections is a much bigger issue than what happens to me. It affects every HOA in Nevada. The Clarkson Law Group claims to represent 300+ associations in Nevada, an amazing career trajectory for  firm that incorporated only three years ago. Adam Clarkson is the President-elect of the Nevada Community Associations Institute, a lobbying group geared primarily to serve the interests of the HOA agents – attorneys, managers, debt collectors, construction defect-related agents. CAI is NOT a homeowner advocacy group.

If Clarkson is allowed to get away with influencing the composition of the SCA Board for his or the GM’s profit or to support the political advantage of compliant and docile Directors, he could do it anywhere.

In fact, I bet he already has.

 

.

If you are tired of SCA being ripped off by attorneys, take action!

Apply by 4 PM today, Feb. 9
to be a candidate for the SCA Board

I encourage you to apply to sit on the SCA Board if you believe you can help  the Board fulfill its responsibility to:

  • adopt policies that protect the SCA membership  from losses to our property values, amenities or quality of life.
  • ensure that our governing documents are enforced uniformly and no one, including the Board, the GM or any SCA agent is exempt from the rule of law
  • adopt a fair and open system for meaningful owner involvement in governance and for equitably addressing owner concerns.

To protect our wonderful community, we must get a Board majority that has these values and acts on them. We are not well served by a Board that  hands over our wallets to an attorney and a GM whose decisions profit them more than they serve homeowners or the association that is supposed to exist solely for the benefit of the membership.

Unfortunately, people tell me they are discouraged because the current Board has abdicated, causing, or allowing, the association attorney and GM to run roughshod over homeowners’ rights. But, hopefully, some of you will step forward to help create systems and policies that will prevent the attorney from becoming the boss.

Attorneys fees and loss of our property values

Next blog I’ll go through these outrageous attorney fees we all paid for 2017. I’ll show you exactly how much you are paying for the absolutely useless and unnecessary use of an attorney to promote interests that are directly adverse to ours.

2017 legal fees were more than triple what was budgeted!
  • How much value did we get for spending $294,924 on attorneys?
  • What did we have to give up to pay for attorneys?
  • How much better sound system could we have had for aerobics and fitness rooms in Independence Hall for the price of even one attorney-day?
  • How much value did SCA get out of paying a GM, a CFO and a Facilities Manager almost double what those jobs get paid in the Las Vegas market?
So, if these matters concern you, throw your hat in the ring.

Here’s the application packet from www.sca-hoa.org distributed by the Election Committee. Here is the required candidate disclosure form 850 published on the Ombudsman’s website which doesn’t have all the nonsense SCA’s attorney put in.

I’ve already put in my application  to go back on the Board.

Why don’t you?

 

Rating Rex’s Self-Management Report Card

Demonstrating all the transparency and humility we have come to expect from our supreme leader, Rex Weddle once again used SCA’s official house organ, the Spirit, to stroke the ego of the Board and GM by giving a glowing Self-management Report  Card. Although Rex didn’t give any letter grades, let’s fact-check his assertions of outstanding performance, and I’ll offer the letter grade I think is warranted:

SCA made the right decision to be self managed.

True. The former Boards’ grade should be a B for taking action based on specific plans and goals to correct deficiencies.
The current Board should get an F for failing to follow through on good work done by prior Boards.

SCA’s management company FSR needed to be replaced, but for more reasons than either Board acknowledges. FSR was double dealing by being both the managing agent and the debt collector following the collapse of the real estate market.

Even with a solid management agreement, previous Boards did not keep FSR from grabbing profits from abusive collection practices. Prior Boards were unaware of the negative impact these abuses had on owners’ property values. Their attention was overly focused on deterioration of property values caused by excessive deferred maintenance of the common areas.

The current Board has also over-emphasized catching up on deferred maintenance, and has not held itself or the GM accountable for other critical areas (customer service, owner relations, transparent communications, fair and open culture, strategic planning, protection of individual property values, and maintenance of high quality amenities and other lifestyle options). Ultimately, this Board has a failing grade because their lack of accountability to owners is supported by paying an attorney to say that the rules don’t apply to them.

According to Rex, a Human Resources model was included as part of the transition.

False. This Board scores an unequivocal F.

Adequate human resource systems are not in place needed to protect SCA from “employer liability”. It is a disgrace that since 2015, the GM has not presented ANY plans or timetables for developing these internal controls or for incorporating essential expert owner oversight. The most important feature of transitioning to self-management is that SCA is now an employer. This failure has already resulted in:

  • excessive management compensation (the GM gets $100,000+ more than the market requires and three other managers annually take in more than a quarter million dollars more than SCA should be paying);
  • lack of performance standards (GM bonuses provided without justification despite massive owner dissatisfaction with her performance);
  • lack of contractual service level expectations (they remain undefined and unmeasured);
  • lack of written terms and conditions controlling GM employment (no management agreement makes her an “at-will employee” who is subject to the SCA Personnel Handbook. Unfortunately for SCA owners, SCA’s attorney has fabricated imaginary“rights” for her that she has asserted against SCA in threats of frivolous litigation and that allow her to act like a “super Board member” rather than as staff).

No 2018 assessment increase.

True, but the grade is still D.

Assessments were increased without clear justification in 2017, and those excess funds have been repeatedly used as validation of the quality of self-management. But, many questions remain unanswered:

  • Why were rates increased in 2017 if $300,000 in budgeted transition costs were saved by reducing the 9 of the 12-month budgeted overlap of the GM and FSR?
  • Why was a 12-month overlap of the GM and FSR budgeted anyway?
  • Why was the entire 2017 rate increase transferred to reserves? If the assessment increase was intended to reserve for walls & fences, what happened to the construction defects settlement for the walls if there was no remediation of the defects?
  • Was the 2017 increase intended to bring up the reserves funding level? If so, that has nothing to do with the difference in operating costs between using a management company and being self managed.
  • Was it for the Liberty Center? If so, why was it not a one-time assessment?

Whatever the reason the 2017 assessments were increased by over 10%, it can’t be ignored while the Board congratulates itself and the GM for not having another assessment increase in 2018.

Per Rex, Tom Nissen’s December Board report comparing SCA to other self-managed HOAs, shows the transition is going well.

False. The grade is D.

Tom should be given credit for researching other HOAs, but should be given no credit for answering the wrong question and deserves no credit for  timeliness and no credit for owner participation.

Tom’s report simply reaffirms that going to self-management was the correct thing to do. It might also support the idea that it was good that the Board adopted a policy to increase the reserves by increasing assessments in 2017. Regardless, neither of these have anything to do with whether the Board and the GM are doing a good job in the transition to self-management.

Showing that SCA’s assessments are relatively low says nothing about cost-effectiveness or about any differences between using a management agent and being self managed. Further, comparing assessments with other HOAs is not really informative unless you eliminate all gated communities from the comparison.

“The Board has made it clear that the complete transition would take a minimum of three years. There is still much to do and more culture change to undergo.” -Rex

True, and yet, the grade is still a big, fat F.

If there is another 1 ½ years to complete the transition, what specifically is planned?

  • Why are there no written plans and timetables?
  • Why is there no transparency and no standards for GM accountability?
  • Why is this Board resisting the necessary culture change by treating owners who are even mildly critical of the Board or GM with such disdain?
  • Why has the Board strenuously rejected developing the committee structure needed to provide expert owner oversight over HR, legal services, insurance and other amenities that has been successful in other self-managed HOAs?
  • What steps has the Board or GM taken to change SCA’s culture to be more inclusive, fair and transparent?
  • What steps has the Board taken to ensure that SCA owners won’t be taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents?

The transition to self-management is very successful in handling deferred maintenance.

True. The grade could be an A, but since there is no transparency, no way of measuring cost effectiveness, and no standard for defining priorities, I can’t be that generous. But remember, no matter how well this portion of property management is done, the grade for it should count only as about 25% of an overall grade for a successful transition to self management, not be given the nearly 100% weight the Board has given it. 

What kind of HOA do we want SCA to be?

And what owners can do to make it that way

Taking a cue from Jim Mayfield’s article “Distinctions between Governance and Management” re-published below, here are a few action items.
In italics: how I see things are currently being done around here.

  1. Encourage owners to run for the Board who are willing to contribute to creating more transparent, competent and accountable governance, or volunteer to serve yourself.
    There is a battle for control of the Board between those who want a fair and open system created that’s good for all owners vs. those in power who want to keep centralized control by excluding anyone who has complained about this GM or who signed a recall petition. 
  2. Utilize the expertise of residents on a Personnel Committee to protect SCA against employer liability, to propose GM performance standards using customer ratings and  objective measures to prevent excessive executive compensation.
    These functions currently are done, if at all, by 1-2 Board members who don’t have the requisite skills, and the Board and GM have acted unlawfully to block necessary owner oversight.
  3. Require the GM to utilize an inclusive process and resident expertise to recommend goals and strategic plans to bring SCA back to be #1 Active Adult Community in USA.
    SCA had this #1 rating in 2011, but has slipped, and we currently have no adopted goals or shared vision about how to get SCA back on top.  Instead, the Board abdicates to a GM who has not evidenced any strategic approach to lessening owner dissatisfactions or community divisions.
  4. Demand that governance be completely transparent to owners.
    Right now, the Board pays lip service to improving owner communications, but allows the GM to use the attorney to conceal SCA records for reasons other than serving the best interests of the association. This secrecy allows SCA owners to be put at risk of being bilked by SCA agents, and it inhibits the SCA Board from being held fully accountable for its duty of care to owners.
  5. Get control of the budget out of the hands of the GM. Although the law prohibits the Board from delegating policy decisions about the budget and prohibits the GM from expending funds for unbudgeted purposes, the blurring of the lines of authority regularly occurs, and owners just have to pay the bill.
Former Director thinks SCA Board chose wrong path
Jim Mayfield served six years as an independent voice on the SCA Board. His experience with fractured governance in the last couple of years had some interesting parallels to what I  suffered during my short tenure:
  • President, GM, and attorney exerting excessive self-interested power;
  • Board rejecting any owner oversight and
  • punishing owners or individual Board members who complained.

Jim’s comments in his article, published in the November issue of the Community Association Institute magazine is re-published here with his permission.   – Nona

“Two and a half years ago, the Board was offered a clear choice between two forms of governance.
One form was the legal model embedded in NRS 116 and approved by CAI.  This form is based upon a model in which all elected Board members are considered equals and participate in a transparent, collaborative relationship, and the President (CEO) is directed by the Board and speaks only for the Board.  It also establishes the major responsibility is to protect homeowner rights and to establish processes for oversight of management.  This is the model described in the above article that was published in November.
The second form is a dictatorship that empowers the President (CEO) to exercise dictatorial powers, makes decisions, imposes his/her decisions on the Board (the Board reports to the President).  This model sees its primary responsibility to represent and protect management from the homeowners.  The model also expands the ability of the President, Board, and GM to operate in secret meetings and to empower its attorneys to use legal process to accomplish its objectives and those of the GM.
SCA is now reaping the fruits of this decision.  I hope all persons thinking about running for the Board in 2018 will read the article and commit to the principles outline therein.” -Jim Mayfield (see Page 10 in link below.)

Is SCA Board retaining lawful control of the budget?

Just saying that the Board acted “on the advice of counsel” doesn’t cut it

If the Board learned and followed these simple legal requirements, the GM and the attorney would be prevented from taking control of our budget and spending our money for something other than our benefit:

NRS 116.31151 (1)(a) requires the Board to prepare and distribute to owners a “budget for the daily operations of the association” which per CC&Rs 8.1(d) is deemed ratified “Unless 90% of all Owners reject the budget…”
The budget is distributed as required and is always ratified. No surprise. Hard to imagine 90% of all owners being mobilized to object to any budget the Board puts forward, but at least everybody knows what expenditures the Board has approved. 

NRS 116A.620 (1)(i) requires any management agreement to define spending limits for the GM.
Here’s the start of the slippery slope toward abdicationSCA Board and GM did not execute a management agreement nor have spending limits for the GM been defined. Pretty easy to rob Peter to pay Paul and then blame Peter for the missing money.

Per SCA bylaws 3.20, the SCA Board is prohibited from delegating policy control over the budget or, for that matter, deciding the amount of assessments, or deciding who can open bank accounts or sign checks or enforce the governing documents.
Here’s where SCA is really careening down that slippery slope. SCA is unprotected by not the Board not defining GM spending limits or service-level expectations in the legally-mandated terms of a management agreement.
Of course, without an agreement, the GM is not legally protected either. She is just an “at-will” employee, meaning she can be fired for any reason or no reason, just not a discriminatory reason. Her terms & conditions of employment are defined in the SCA Personnel Handbook and nowhere else.
But, don’t feel sorry for her. Not only does the Board coddle her, the SCA attorney has
 magically , albeit unethically, created “rights” for the GM that do not exist in black letter law and which are in direct conflict to the interests of the membership.

SCA bylaws 4.6 requires two Board members must sign all checks for any amount, and bylaws 3.25 requires that directors act on an informed basis while carrying out this duty, i.e., sign a check only if it is for something that has been approved in the budget.
Two Board members do sign all checks, but they may as well let the GM use a rubber stamp.

SCA Board Policy Manual 4.10 limits authority to request legal opinions to the Board as a whole or, in narrowly defined circumstances, to the President for the purpose of “…assessing the legal risks on actions under consideration…”. This provision specifically limits the GM’s authority to “…contact legal counsel regarding NRS 116 or other compliance issues…” not to act only “on the advice of counsel”. The SCA-Clarkson Law Group legal services agreement ONLY allows the attorney to provide legal opinions in response to specific Board requests. The attorney has NO decision-making authority over SCA policies.
Previous Boards had enough common sense to govern SCA without having to spend four times the budget to get the attorney to bless every action before it’s taken.
But then, Clarkson is a bully who has, using tactics bordering on elder abuse, and in clear violation of his professional standards of conduct, convinced the Board that it is a violation of their fiduciary duty to act without consulting him even in areas outside his firm’s practice specialty.
As a result, the President and the GM blithely use the attorney far in excess of what is legally permissible for self-serving purposes and in defiance of all common sense.

In conclusion…

The GM’s takeover of the SCA budget is happening on a grand scale because the attorney has blessed it (thereby being unjustly enriched), and the Board (who thereby gets to stay in power) self-righteously allows such foolishness as:

  • Spending an unbudgeted $85,000 for a CPA to do the Election Committee’s normal job to mess up the recall election was allowed by the GM solely “upon the advice of counsel”, but absent the inconvenience of legal Board action.
  • Six months spending for legal services was approved in the budget to cap at $45,000, but four times that amount, $185,000, was spent by the GM without any formal Board action to approve it and without conforming to the laws governing civil actions (NRS 116.31088), or sanctions for violations of governing documents (NRS 116.31085, CC&Rs 7.4) or limits on authority of the Board (NRS 116.3103, NRS 116.31036, NRS 116.31084) or owners rights (NRS 116.1104, NRS 116.31083, NRS 116.31175), or good faith  (NRS 116.1113, NRS 116.1112), and prohibition against harassment and retaliation (NRS 116.31183, NRS 116.31184).

I’m as amazed as you are at their gall.

Who benefits from spending SCA homeowners’ money?

Assessments levied against the unit owners’ property can only be used for the sole and exclusive benefit of the membership of the Association, e.g., maintenance of the common areas, actions to protect the property values of all our homes, preserving amenities and high quality lifestyle.

It is not ever acceptable for the Board, the GM or the attorney to put their personal, financial or political interests ahead of the interests of owners AKA “the common good“.

Therefore, allowing SCA management or agents to spend owners’ money for highly controversial and unbudgeted purposes that provide no benefit to SCA membership should not be tolerated.

Board decisions must always be evaluated against the standard of “Who benefits by it?
If the answer is anybody or anything other than “the common good“, don’t do it.

Here are some examples where no benefit accrued to “the common good“, but they did it anyway.

  • The SCA membership lost when the Board vindictively evicted the Foundation Assisting Seniors after the GM failed to mediate a mutually-acceptable solution to CSG’s problems, blamed the Foundation President, and made up a silly story to justify forcing members to pay more after damaging a valued community resource.
  • Paying $85,000 for a CPA to conduct the recall election in a manner designed to keep the current Board majority from being recalled for cause provided no benefit to the association. It was more than a waste of owners’ money to keep those Board members in power. It allowed the attorney and the GM to keep their over-compensated jobs, too.
  • Paying untold thousands of dollars to make repeated threats of frivolous litigation of defamation against a Board member and unlawful orders for her to  cease & desist making inquiries regarding GM compensation clearly wasted owners’ money. It’s easy to see how using the attorney this way was protecting the GM and her fat paycheck. But, it’s impossible to see how such extreme action was protecting the association.
  • There is no benefit to the association for the Board to unlawfully remove an elected Board member on the false charge that she is making a profit from her Board position. It is simply a power trip and a nasty way of showing 2,000 voters that their votes don’t matter.

Is SCA Board protecting owners from scams?

Owner oversight, the bedrock of good HOA governance, has been decimated by this Board

SCA Board has gone a step further than just emasculating owner oversight by committees. It has also developed a self-righteous strategy to delegitimize ALL owner complaints about Board members, the attorney, and the GM (performance, pay, and recall election interference).

Their claim,

“It’s just CAVE (Complainers About Virtually Everything) people”,

has worked well for the Board (kept the majority in power). But, there is a huge downside. Marginalizing a large segment of the community has not been good for SCA as a whole and has divided the community into factions.

SCA Board refuses to listen to both sides of the story and acts according to their own spin

The Board puts the entire SCA community at risk by arrogantly ignoring well-substantiated complaints simply because they don’t agree with the complaint, or don’t like the person who complained. They’re not doing their job if they don’t address these issues fairly:

  • Paying the GM $100,000+ over the market rate for the job without having done any due diligence;
  • Allowing the GM to compensate at least two other managers double the going rate for their jobs;
  • Refusing to allow ANY owner oversight of personnel matters;
  • Having no system for GM accountability – no management agreement, no performance standards, no salary survey or bonus criteria, no spending limits, no insurance requirements, no written terms & conditions of employment;
  • Allowing the GM & attorney to unfairly influence the recall election in their favor;
  • Abdicating control of the budget to highly compensated agents;
  • Blaming the recall proponents for the GM expending $85,000 for an incompetent execution of the petition counting and ballot distribution/collection which benefitted at least one Board member unfairly;
  • Making unbudgeted expenditures of more than $150,000 in six months over the normal budget for Legal Services which is in conflict with NRS and SCA bylaws provisions as well as defies good common sense.

The Board either has refused to respond AT ALL to these issues, or worse, has used SCA official communications (as well as its sympathetic blogger) to viciously attack whoever speaks up about these Board failures to properly govern.

Worse still, the attorney enables the Board’s dysfunctional (lack of) response to owner complaints by wrongly advising that the Board and the GM don’t have to answer.

Good governance = a fair and open system

Good governance depends on a fair and open system that SCA has yet to develop.

Good governance can best (and perhaps only) be guaranteed if there is a transparent system of checks and balances to prevent fraud, errors, and omissions.

Owner oversight is the bedrock of a good governance system in any public agency or in any non-profit corporation like SCA is.  Owners (like taxpayers or donors) are ultimately responsible for footing the bill.

Agents and elected officials are there to serve the owners and not the other way around.

SCA Board, GM and attorney have a lot to learn before they can claim SCA has a system of good governance. They act as if SCA agents and the Board are co-equal branches of the association/government and that the owners are like wards of the court. This is nuts.

What if you contracted with a Realtor to sell your house, and he refused a great offer without telling you? What if he failed to disclose a relationship with a different potential buyer that he was pushing? I imagine you’d fire him and get somebody that would work SOLELY to get you the best deal.

It’s the same with SCA agents. It is their duty work SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY in the best interest of the SCA membership. It is unlawful for them to put their self-interest before the best interests of the owners, but it’s a little harder to see what’s going on if the Board is helping (even if unwittingly) the agents  to act in ways that are not the best for the owners.

It is a major failure of the Board’s duty of care to the membership to abdicate, i.e., just hand over to SCA agents independent authority, power and rights over SCA policy and our wallets that neither you nor I would so cavalierly hand over to agents in our personal lives.

 

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

 

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.  

Transparency and inclusiveness are not Board values. They seem to be primarily motivated by risk aversion. They are afraid of letting go of control because without clutching onto control, SCA will be sued or stormed by barbarians or something really bad. It’s unfortunately  counterproductive strategy and actually brings on the problems they are trying to avoid.

The Board has the same problem over and over because the Board does not trust or utilize the expertise in the community to bring the community together or to provide  necessary oversight over the GM, oddly referred to as the “self-manager”, or the attorney who have been given more power than is healthy for the organization and been put in inappropriate roles.

For example, the Board should never have assigned the GM to “mediate” the dispute with FAS. A mediation can only be successful if it is conducted by a skilled and disinterested neutral mediator. Acting as if that structure had a snowball’s chance in hell of working is like Jered Kushner claiming he could mediate a two-state solution after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Even if Kushner had some skill, the message that about which side the mediator is on overpowers any individual skill or pretense at neutrality.

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?)

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. After all, Jean Capillupo was just leaving the at-large seat on Anthem Council in which she served even though she was n longer on the SCA Board. I guess they thought I could make a profit from sitting on the Anthem Council or i was somehow going to cost the owners money by my service.

Anyway, my replacement did not file a report to the Board about what happened at the November 16 Anthem Council meeting. So, I guess we’ll never know.