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.

Missing in Action

Stuff that should be on the Board agenda, but is not…

GM performance and compensation is not on the open agenda but it is on the Dec. 7 @ 9 AM executive session agenda

Here is what I predict will happen tomorrow. The Board will:

  1.  continue to overpay the GM, including possibly another unjustifiable $20,000 bonus, without transparency or accountability to the owners
  2. fall prey to the Halo effect to give excessively high ratings by giving her a pass on failing to adequately perform significant aspects of her job.
  3. refuse to consider that customer service ratings might diverge greatly from their assessment of the job she is doing.
  4. continue to ignore that there have been multiple incidents of actions on her part which would be just cause for her termination as a violation of her duty to the membership and violations of the standards of practice of her license.
  5. fail to hold themselves accountable for paying her over $100,000 over the value of that job and allowing her to  pay other SCA managers at excessive rates.
  6. continue to refuse to allow appropriate owner oversight over the personnel system in favor of less qualified “Board work groups” controlling policy or abdicating too much authority to the GM.
  7. continue to dismiss and trivialize the concerns of the 836 residents who gave the GM  an “F” for owner relations and signed a petition of no confidence against the GM. The Board did not seriously evaluate one single criticism by owners to attempt to improve the division in the community. Instead, the petitioners were insulted and marginalized as if they were not  members of the community of equal value. The Board treated them like just a bunch of whiners and malcontents and discarded the petition was if it was just unwarranted “negativity from small vocal elements“.

I hope I’m wrong.

Not even a recommendation regarding the restaurant space

SCA CC&Rs 7.2(b) requires that the restaurant (or any other amenity) shall not be discontinued without the written authorization of 75% of the owners. CC&Rs 7.9 define the process by which the Board can change the use of the space. Neither of these provisions have been followed.

The Board locked up the restaurant right about the time the GM was hired. Ignoring the owner vote needed per 7.2(b) to lawfully discontinue operation of the restaurant and giving the GM over a year to just come up with a recommendation for the space was bad enough. Then, Rex made it worse by paying the attorney to opine in yet another no-good-for-owners violation of Board Policy Manual 4.10 that a temporary use of the space would require a vote of the owners. Then, the Board made it worse by letting her hire an unbudgeted consultant for an unknown amount of money to do the one job, by the one deadline the Board actually gave her.

So, what are we waiting for? How many excuses do we have to listen to? And how many people are we going to pay to not get the job done?

October 26 SCA Board meeting wrap-up

Here are a few highlights from the October 26 SCA Board meeting that will give you a perspective that the Board tries to suppress.

GM Compensation is a really big concern
Rex made the almost off-hand comment during the President’s report that the BOD discussed “GM performance” in executive session, but gave no further details. My next post will be about GM compensation since my trying to get the board to handle GM compensation correctly is one of the main reasons they kicked me off the Board.  The issue of GM compensation is really important because seeing how the Board mis-handled it will show you that the real threat to SCA owners is the GM and the attorney duping the Board into handing over our wallets – not that my service on the Board was going to change the outcome of quiet title litigation.

Foundation Assisting Seniors
Rex noted the Foundation Assisting Seniors was being ordered evicted as the court agreed that no SCA Board in the past would have had the authority to transfer that space to FAS in perpetuity. (I thought it had been transferred to FAS by Del Webb before the entire property was taken over by the Association, but I could be wrong.) Rex said that Sandy would make a recommendation about the use of the space.

Restaurant Consultant RFP is Out
Sandy will be hiring a consultant according to some unknown RFP for some unknown amount of unbudgeted money to give us the answer to the question “Just what’s it gonna take to have a successful restaurant”. You already know how I feel about her spending unbudgeted funds to pay a consultant to answer the wrong question after she’s left a major amenity out of service the entire time she’s been on the job.

Opinions about the recall proponents destroying our property values
Rex broke his silence about the recall in the paternalistic tone I find so grating, reprimanding the small cadre of negative proponents of the recall who have defined SCA’s character over the years with their history of unwarranted vitriolic attacks. These “people” will force a death knell to volunteerism, and these malcontents are responsible for SCA’s negative reputation and the destruction of our property values. The attorney says their rhetoric is actionable defamation even if the most horrible attacks have been “scrubbed” from their online posts.

In my view, Rex should be more introspective. Rex seems blind to his own personal contribution to the community schism and to sustaining the unhealthy divide. But then, there were more comments on the subject at different points on the agenda.

Apparently some helpful soul decided that it would be good for the community cohesiveness to incite Art with 54 pages of diatribe from some unnamed blog. Art was predictably upset by it, stunned by the negativity and unfairness of it. Art has developed a total respect for the other board members who he sees as competent and blameless. (He didn’t mention me because I have become invisible. It’s as if they feel so utterly justified in taking the law into their own hands to erase me and 2000 owners’ votes, it’s as if I never happened.) Art blamed instead that unknown blogger’s disinformation, errors and false charges to be the prime contributor to a major loss of our reputation and property values.

I am irritated with the “helpful” individual who baited Art. If it was who I think it was, he’s been helpful like that in the past, and I believe he too should be more self-aware in terms of the impact he has on perpetuating a toxic culture and on enabling the Board’s unlawful actions against me.

It’s hard to say whether our property values have actually taken a hit by virtue of SCA’s negative reputation (which all seem to agree exists now as well as in the past), and if they have gone down, who is to blame. In the Financial Report, revenue of $103,000 over budget from asset enhancement fees was described as being caused by an unexpectedly high number of home sales. Although no information about home price was given, the fact that the number of sales is up which would lead one to the opposite conclusion about the impact of our reputation on prospective purchasers.

Three more spoke in this echo chamber, not surprisingly all representing the same point of view.
I didn’t catch the name of the man who demanded that the owners be given the names of the originators of the petition and that the names of those who signed the petition should be posted on the association’s website. Sandy helpfully said that anyone could have the names of those who signed the petitions by filling out the proper form.

Yes, this is the same Sandy who authorized expenditure of thousands of your assessment dollars for the attorney to conceal SCA records from me, a sitting board member. She threatened SCA and me personally with litigation saying “employer liability”would be created if I could see SCA records related to her compensation and the transition to self-management.

Is it fair for the GM to gleefully release information that could be used to harass and intimidate petitioners who oppose her management style at the same time she spends large chunks of unbudgeted SCA funds to prevent my review of her compensation with the ludicrous claim that I was violating her privacy rights?

It is my prediction that SCA will have no peace as long as the Board forces the community into two camps. The definitions of the camps may have been different in the past, but now, they seem to be camps of Sandy’s friends vs. Sandy’s foes.  I imagine you can see why I have a little bit of trouble being silent watching the two faces of our leading lady as she inconsistently enforces the rules, bestowing blessings on the one camp and curses on the other.

Next speaker to chastise the petitioners was Jean Capilupo who stated that she had made a commitment to come to each board meeting to say something positive to help the unfairly maligned directors buck up under the strain. Clearly, she identifies completely with the directors in a “there but for” sense and so her sentiments are myopic, but understandable.

Where I get off the train is having to listen every month to the criticism of the people who don’t come to the Board meetings. I am amazed at the current and former directors’ self-righteous disdain for a large chunk of the community and their utter lack of comprehension about why those people would find the constant self-congratulation vs denigration, us vs. them, patter to be quite alienating.

The grand finale was brought home by none other than David Berman who claimed he only decided to speak after being inspired by Jean’s profound remarks. He expressed confidence that the recall will fail (no surprise, recalls usually fail at the petition stage even without overt interference), and foretold ominously, “When this is over, the originators will find they have awoken a sleeping tiger!”  Catchy turn of phrase, but I’m not sure what it meant.

 

Get involved: Questions To Ask

I’ve been asked how a homeowner can get involved and be heard…

Here are some questions to ask at the next HOA meeting, or, if you can’t make it, login to the SCA HOA website and use the management request form.

  1. Ask why they made it so hard for people to find anything out about the removal election of four directors who are ga-ga over the GM.
  2. Ask why didn’t they post the petitions so people could know what the complaints against the four directors were.
  3. Ask why there was no official response to the petitioners’ concerns was ever given to 825+ owners signed petitions for removing Rex, Aletta, Tom and Bob.
  4. Ask why no attempts to correct any of the listed problems were ever made.
  5. Ask why no provision for notifying voters who might have their mail on hold the entire voting period how to get their ballot.
  6. Ask why, when the petitions came in, management only notified David Berman.
  7. Ask why only six of the seven members of the Board were notified.
  8. Ask why the GM did not notify me, the seventh elected member of the Board, that four petitions with 825+ signers were submitted on August 11 citing a long list of complaints justifying a call for a removal election of four members of the seven-member board.
  9. Ask why no petition of 10% of the owners or removal election was required when I kicked off the board on August 24 without just cause.