Being accountable for being good neighbors

Is a criminal-to-excellence measuring scale hard to understand?

It seems to be hard for the people currently in power here to grasp.

But, the association (meaning the membership) faces a very high risk if the Board, GM, and attorney are not held accountable for being ethical and fair.

With so much a secret, who can be held to account?

I invite you to look again at my  blog, The Cautionary Tale of the City of Bell.

Although SCA is a non-profit corporation that privately delivers municipal services rather than a city per se, SCA has hallmarks that mirror the City of Bell’s textbook case of municipal corruption:

  • laws are bent to serve executive’s private interests
  • those in power act in concert for self-interest
  • excessive executive compensation
  • disenfranchising of unsophisticated and inattentive voters
  • election interference
  • lack of transparency

Mmm…how can I make this clearer?

I know. Let’s discuss a fun fact about bestiality.

Did you know that until AB 391 passed last year, and became effective October 1, 2017, it wasn’t against the law in Nevada to have sex with a dog?

It’s pretty weird that it wasn’t illegal until a few months ago, but, I think we can all agree that,

just because you could have, doesn’t mean you should have.

Let’s take this tale a step further.
What if…

…before Nevada’s anti-bestiality law passed, a neighbor was disturbed by the noise of a dog whining. When the neighbor realized what was happening, he complained around the neighborhood that such conduct should not be allowed.

The neighbor complained strenuously that it was cruel and abusive to the animal, and offensive to community values.

Instead of apologizing or showing any shame or remorse, the “dog lover” was rude and insulting to the neighbor, flaunting his “rights” and saying in an arrogant and condescending tone:

“Shut up. I can do to my dog whatever I want. I do not have to change my ways just because some whiner complains about having to witness how much I really love my dog. My attorney says the law is on my side. You have invaded my privacy and defamed me. I’ll tell everybody you are a horrible busybody, and they’ll hate you. I’m going to sue you, and you will have to pay all my attorney fees.”

Your Ethics 101 Exam Questions
  1. How would you rate the dog lover‘s behavior on a criminal-to-excellent-neighbor scale?
  2. How would you rate the neighbor’s behavior?
  3. Should the neighbor have to pay the attorney fees?
  4. How could this situation have been handled better?

Even if the selfish dog lover had not technically broken any Nevada law, I think we can all agree that he was wrong to abuse the dog, and that he made everything about the situation worse by unfairly stomping on the aghast neighbor.

The moral of this tale

What the Board, the GM, and the attorney did felt to me as exactly comparable to how the dog lover retaliated against his neighbor for complaining. They bullied me, shunned me, threatened me with litigation and liability for attorney fees for speaking up when I saw things that were just plain wrong – just like the dog lover treated his neighbor.

SCA leaders must be held to a higher standard.

You can help. Vote. Raise our standards.
Bob Burch and Aletta Waterhouse should not be re-elected just because they have not had sex with their dogs.

Criminal corruption – best practices continuum

The Issue

Sun City Anthem will only get to be #1 again if we have a Board and GM that are committed to – and capable of – being excellent, and who are not focused on evading detection and accountability for their sins.

The Board brought in an overpaid, autocratic GM who has created or exacerbated problems that are very upsetting to owners.

And the Board did not require that the excessively-compensated GM fix the problems. Instead, the Board brought in a thuggish bully for an attorney who serves as the GM’s hired gun. The GM has ONLY worked well with Board members and owners who support her, and made life miserable for those who don’t.

Bob Burch and Aletta Waterhouse not only allowed this unacceptable conduct to continue, and they are the explicit beneficiaries of it. They allowed the GM and attorney to interfere with the recall election process in order to unfairly prevent voters from booting them out of office.

Bob and Aletta must be removed from the Board because they have been major contributors to the failings of the transition to self-management. The GM is simply not as good as she should be for the money we are paying.

Here’s the bottom line

I am critical of the Board and the GM when they are willfully negligent and so resistant to instituting best practices that they veer, no, they careen, to the lower end of the spectrum into being bullies and thugs.

What are voters really deciding?

How have incumbents Bob Burch and Aletta Waterhouse contributed to making Sun City Anthem the best it can be?
  1. Should Bob Burch be voted back in after he publicly berated 800+ petitioners for complaining that this GM is not good enough for SCA?
  2. Should Bob and Aletta be voted back even though they unlawfully allowed the GM to spend over $84,000 for a CPA and $16,000 for the attorney to interfere with the recall election to protect them from owners voting them out?
  3. Should Aletta Waterhouse be voted back in after she voted to evict the Foundation Assisting Seniors, voted in secret to kick me off the Board based on false charges without a trial because I questioned the GM’s value, and has allowed the GM to raise dues  to pay bloated salaries and then punished owners who ask questions — just because Aletta insists these acts were not illegal?

Why should they be re-elected?

My point is Bob Burch and Aletta Waterhouse should not be re-elected simply because not everything they did during their first term was illegal.

They should be voted out because they refused to address owners’ complaints about the GM and have no system for keeping her vindictiveness in check.

They should be voted out because instead of fixing problems, they made them worse by letting the GM and the attorney make life miserable for anyone who stood up for the owners.

Not everything that’s wrong is also illegal

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

This election is about raising our standards and about getting the bullies out.

The decision to be self-managed is not being questioned.
Everyone agrees SCA should have employees instead or contracting with a management company.

The decision to replace SCA’s former managing agent, FSR, is not the issue.
Everyone agrees that FSR needed to be replaced.

The decision to hire this GM at this rate of pay was the trigger.
Not everyone agrees that decision was right or done according to Hoyle.

It’s about the decision to let the GM rule SCA backed by a hired gun.
Close to no one agrees that is good.

 

SCA deserves better. Lord knows we’re paying for it

Self-management is right.
Implementation is wrong.

Mr. Fox, Esq., has been hired to watch the chickens.
The family dog has been left alone with the owners’ cake.

The problems with the implementation of self-management will continue unless the system is changed. Changing Board members won’t make the difference.

The system has to be changed to include owner oversight, checks and balances, and guarantees that owner protections are firmly in place.

Tom Nissen frequently describes the implementation of self-management as “setting up a whole new company”.  In my view, that misunderstanding of SCA as an entity is a crucial part of the problem.

The things that are missing or are being done wrong (anything which is not done 100% for the benefit of the SCA homeowners is WRONG) are being done because the Board members erroneously think SCA should be set up like a company.

SCA is not a company.

  • It is a non-profit corporation incorporated under NRS chapter 82.
  • It is now an employer by virtue of becoming “self-managed”.
  • It is a mutual-benefit corporation that exists solely for the benefit of the owners.
  • It is fully funded by the owners.
  • It is a monopoly and membership is a requirement of ownership.

Why these distinctions are important to owners

Owners who own specified parcels of land (listed in SCA’s CC&Rs) must be in SCA. No owner can withdraw or pick a different competitor HOA. Every lot has the responsibility of paying an equal share of the cost of maintaining the common elements. When a lot is purchased, it carries with it deed restrictions which cannot be escaped. In exchange for agreeing to relinquish certain individual freedoms of choice as to how  owners can use their lots and the common areas, the CC&Rs and state law guarantee certain protections for owners and prospective purchasers to prevent their being sanctioned unfairly, lied to, or treated differently from other owners.

It is the Board’s job to make sure ALL owners comply with the deed restrictions and that ALL owners are protected from unfair enforcement actions.

The Board creates problems when:

  • it doesn’t provide ALL owners equal protection from its actions or the actions of its agents;
  • when it sanctions an individual owner without providing guaranteed due process protections;
  • when it tries to enforce policies or restrictions against a unit owner that don’t exist or are not applied equally to other owners;
  • when it usurps the enforcement authority of the Nevada Commission for Common-Interest Communities by sanctioning a unit owner for an alleged violation of NRS 116.

What is the Board’s enforcement job?

It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that ALL owners comply with the deed restrictions as listed in SCA governing documents, i.e., CC&Rs, bylaws, and any rules and regulations formally adopted by the Board. The Board can only perform this enforcement function if it does so by giving an accused owner the due process protections guaranteed by law, i.e., notice, a hearing, a chance to correct, etc.

Limits on the power of the Board to sanction an Owner

Here are the governing provisions of the law and SCA governing documents that are intended to ensure that the Board protects owners and does not ever allow an owner to be sanctioned without these guaranteed protections having been provided.

  • Click here for NRS 116.31031:Power of executive board to impose fines and other sanctions for violations of governing documents; limitations; procedural requirements
  • Click here for NRS 116.31085.limitations on power of executive board to meet in executive session; procedure governing hearings on alleged violations; requirements concerning minutes of certain meetings.
  • Click here for SCA CC&Rs 7.4, Compliance and Enforcement on page 35.
  • Click here for SCA bylaws 3.26, Enforcement Procedures on page 20.
  • Click here for SCA bylaws 5.2, Deed Restriction Enforcement Committee on page 23.
  • Click here for SCA Board Resolution Establishing the Governing Documents Enforcement Policy and Process
There are more laws to protect owners, but you get the idea.

At SCA, the Board is supposed to serve as the appellate level when there is a charge that an owner has violated the governing documents. The Board is not supposed to initiate actions against owners directly.

First, the issue is handled by the Covenants (aka Deed Restrictions Enforcement) Committee that formally provides the first steps of the due process guaranteed to owners to protect them from being unfairly sanctioned for an alleged failure to comply with the CC&Rs.

If an owner is going to be sanctioned or fined for not following some rule after the Covenants Committee has investigated and heard the case, the owner can still appeal to the Board and can have an open hearing if requested. This system works great except when the Board of the GM decides to bypass it.

SCA governance must be the best fit to protect the owners’ interests, and under self-management, it is not.

SCA CC&Rs and bylaws are not optional.  The Board can’t legally cherry-pick which rules to enforce or make up rules that apply only to certain people. Yet, “on the advice of counsel”, it does.

If the Board claims that taking away an owner’s rights  was justified because it  was done “on the advice of counsel”, it is wrong.

A wrong opinion by the association attorney does not excuse the Board of culpability. It just shows that the Board  used owners’ money to pay a hired gun to mow an owner down.

Owner Oversight is essential, but lacking now

Rex Weddle’s chronic use of Board work groups is ill advised. It guarantees that the Board will not be as well-informed as it could be prior to making decisions affecting all SCA owners’ pocketbooks and lives.

It actually builds conflicts of interest into the system because it differentiates between individual directors access to information and authority. It does not use the best expertise that is freely available. It gives inappropriate power to the President to silence and punish political opponents. It sets does not permit the Board to be fully informed before making decisions. This causes unnecessary liability and risk to SCA and excessive cost to owners because appropriate executive controls are deficient or absent.

A committee structure is needed (NOT Board work groups) that utilizes resident expertise to prevent fraud, mistake and errors by management.

a.     Employment, organizational performance and compensation
b.     Communications and owner relations
c.     Records management and access to governance information
d.     Insurance, safety and risk management
e.     Legal Services
f.      Collections

Why didn’t SCA Board charter owner committees when self-managed Sun City Summerlin offers a successful model?

Apparently because the majority of the board thinks they know what’s best for owners without involving them. Rex Weddle thinks that as President he is the “decider” of who is “authorized” to work on a problem by appointing “Board work groups” and that directors with a different perspective can be excluded just on his say so.

I think differently.
Owners must speak for themselves.

I stand for owners’ rights.
That’s what got me kicked off the Board.
Not the load of crap they are shoveling about me making a profit.

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.