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?

GM Dumped $73,000+ Removal Election Costs on SCA Owners

The GM is to blame for the big bill – not the SCA owners who must pay it

This huge expense is still climbing, but it was totally unnecessary, not legally authorized by the Board, and did not serve the best interests of SCA.

Both the GM and the attorney should be fired for spending our money to interfere with the integrity of the removal election.

This unauthorized expenditure is sufficiently egregious to warrant the termination of both the GM and attorney, but that won’t happen because the beneficiaries of the election interference by SCA’s agents included a majority of the Board which was apparently important enough to them to stand by and let SCA owners foot the huge and unnecessary bill.

While I was on the Board I aggressively attempted to protect the independence of the Election Committee,  but alone and constrained by ethical boundaries, I was no match for the abuse of power by the Board President and SCA’s agents who were not so constrained.

A well-documented contributing factor to my unlawful removal from the Board was that I informed the Ombudsman on July 24 of my concerns about the need to protect the independence of the Election Committee (and also to protect owners lawfully collecting petition signatures) from the significant GM/CAM/attorney/Board interference I observed.

Berman’s constant improper placement of blame

David Berman continues to perpetuate the myth that these unnecessary and unauthorized costs were caused by the petitioners who (legally) called for the removal election.

This targeting of unit owners is obviously wrong. Owners don’t have enough power to be culpable.

Think about it.

  • If 1,200 unit owners had wanted  the Election Committee to conduct the removal election, but the GM did not want it, would they have been able to make their wishes happen over her objections?
  • If any of the petitioners had come to the Board meeting and begged to have SCA fork out over $73,000 to pay an unknown CPA and the attorney to do the Election Committee’s job, would SCA have spent one dime?

Both the GM and the Board President had to want SCA money to be spent on agents of their choosing  to run the removal election (incompetently or, more likely, unethically), or OUR money  would still be safely in the bank.

The Spin Doctor at work

Yet, despite all evidence to the contrary, David Berman persists in promulgating this almost laughable propaganda that unit owners could make the GM do something that doesn’t serve her interests. Smug in this delusion, today he blogged with a melodramatic and an almost audible sigh that this big $73,000 number would still be bigger when the attorney and CPA bills all come in:

Sad. SCA deserves so much better.
But, wait, hope may be on the horizon:

CIC Commission recently held a GM accountable despite HOA attorney advice that action was OK under NRS.

If Rex and Sandy having Clarkson on speed dial is no longer as good an excuse as “the dog ate my homework”, then maybe…

AnthemOpinions blogspot reported about a case that was heard at the recent CIC Commission meeting which seemed to demonstrate the Commission’s repudiation of the “the attorney said I could” defense.

 

The Zeitgeist
Perhaps, we are reaching a tipping point.

In the whole country, the public conversation has shifted seismically around sexual harassment. Suddenly, society-at-large is not just standing silently by while men in power abuse vulnerable people with impunity.

Maybe the tide is turning here at SCA too.

Now, owners no longer seem so resigned and no longer seem willing to tolerate inexcusable behavior or poor leadership. A critical mass is forming, and this is a necessary step to creating a healthier balance of power in our community.

As formerly discouraged and disenfranchised owners are more willing to speak up and stand up to bullies, SCA’s bullies will predictably face a Come to Jesus reckoning. A tectonic power shift will occur that, in retrospect, we will be surprised at how long it took us to take our power back.

 

 

11 Reasons Why We Need To Recall The Board Members

  1. Tale of two faces – The Board members subject to recall should be removed because they refuse to tolerate any criticism (from the homeowners) of Sandy Seddon, the General Manager (GM) and berate those who dare to speak in less than glowing terms about her performance. The board is thrilled with Sandy Seddon. Their experience with her is that she quickly handled the deferred maintenance issue, quickly transitioned away from the prior management company, responds fully to their requests, and is just an all-around great gal. However, the Sandy Seddon that the Board members see and experience is quite the opposite of what many homeowners experience and which was described to the Board in a petition signed by 836 homeowners and residents. The Board has refused to hold her accountable to address the problems identified in the petition against her or to take any action to improve homeowner relations and customer satisfaction. During the September Board meeting, Bob Burch yelled out, “Enough is enough!” and two pages of his diatribe about why no one should criticize the GM is in the Board Book. They should be removed as directors because they are protecting the Sandy Seddon more than they are protecting the homeowners paying the assessments.
  2. Not fair to owners. The Board takes actions without hearing both sides, does not uniformly enforce the CC&Rs and By-Laws if it is outside issues like the color a house can be painted or how many trees must be planted. They fail to prevent problems and resist solving them, so the homeowners end up paying for the pound of cure. Look at all the bureaucratic hassles the Board has created for the clubs by requiring bizarre business license requirements and vendor insurance. They allow the GM to create bureaucratic hassles for owners and clubs and to set paid staff up as competitors to the clubs for booking dates.
  3. Usurp authority of the owners to initiate lawsuits. Owners voted against SCA filing litigation on Liberty Center construction defects, but the Board ignored that and filed a lawsuit anyway. NRS 16.31088 requires an owner majority vote before SCA can initiate a lawsuit, but they did not ask owners to vote before they acted to evict the Foundation Assisting Seniors or to sue the Foundation for $40,000.
  4. Transition to self-management is flawed. No adequate policy framework is in place to protect SCA, particularly as a first-time employer, and there are no written plans or timetables to complete the transition. Despite my areas of expertise in HR and municipal management, the Board unfairly excluded me from participation in any personnel policy discussions and claimed I was “not authorized” to see records relating to prior decisions of the Board or to examine such questions as:
    1. Why is the GM paid  $100,000+ over the appropriate salary for that job?
    2. Why does the compensation for four managers eat up about 10% of the 2017 operating budget?
    3. Why don’t we have performance standards and customer service ratings linked to GM compensation?
  5. Board does not act lawfully. They have tolerated the restaurant being closed for nearly two years in violation of CC&Rs 7.2(b).They have issued several unlawful cease & desist letters against me to stop me from inspecting ANY association records, but there are numerous other examples included in the documents filed with the state enforcement officials.
  6. Lack of method for requiring GM accountability. These board members should be removed because they have abdicated too much authority to the GM with no system for accountability. It is unlawful to hire a GM without a management agreement, but no agreement is currently in place. Without a management agreement, the GM is an at-will employee covered only by the personnel handbook. Poor business judgment to employ her without the specification of the required provision of NRS 116A.620. These directors should be removed, not just because they have failed to hold the GM accountable in areas beyond facilities maintenance, but because they have allowed her to threaten frivolous litigation against SCA and to falsely accuse me as a Director of defamation because I criticized her performance. She has also falsely accused me of violating her privacy rights and creating “employer liability” for asking about her compensation with her former employer.
  7. Abuse by attorney. Why do we even need a Board if the attorney calls all the shots? The HOA attorney (Clarkson) makes quite a profit by getting the Board to believe that the budget does not have to be amended to spend, spend, spend. The Board refused to have board training conducted by the Ombudsman, and Clarkson conducted the training in a closed workshop, deemed it attorney-client privilege, was abusive to me and gave biased instructions, e.g., that the Board MUST get attorney approval before making any major decision, and it is an unauthorized practice of law (for me) to tell them they don’t need to go to an attorney for so much but to use their common sense.
  8. Loss of control over the budget. The Board should be removed because they are allowing the attorney to represent the GM and not the association membership as a whole. For example, this attorney advised the Board (in violation of NRS 116.3106 and By-Laws 3.18 a and 3.20), that the GM can expend SCA funds for purposes other than what they were budgeted for without board approval. Clarkson’s legal fees for the first four months have amounted to $103,000, and much of that was expended for legal actions that never should have been taken. This does not account for how much the Board has spent to have him take over the Removal Election Process and strip the SCA Election Committee of their duties defined in the adopted Election & Voting Manual.
  9. Lack of transparency. The Board allows the GM to refuse to give access to information in an easy, user-friendly way. They take the attitude that they are only required to provide the legal minimum, and you have to jump through hoops to get that if you are not considered an ally or if you are being punished because they think you MIGHT misuse the information.
  10. Owner involvement in governance is diminished. The Board refused to adopt the proposed owner-oversight committees for Legal Services, Personnel, Insurance, or Investments even though these are areas where the expertise of community members is greatly needed and could be cost-effectively employed. They abolished the Fitness Committee, the Property & Grounds Committee, and the Golf Course Liaison Committee. Meanwhile, the Communication Committee is in limbo. There is a plan (only discussed in private so far) to have Pinnacle, Villas, and the service groups report to the GM instead of having a Board liaison. No attempt is being made to promote customer satisfaction or to institute “best practices” to improve residents’ quality of life or build a sense of belonging in the community. These Board members do not respect owners and abdicate to the GM.
  11. Abuse of privilege. NRS 116.31085 (3) and SCA By-Laws 3.15A define the only permissible topics that an HOA Board can discuss in executive session. These directors should be removed because they circumvent this by making decisions in closed “workshops,” by using email for deliberations (despite having been issued a letter of instruction prohibiting it), and, at times, by unlawfully excluding a director from the deliberation and action (myself and Jim Mayfield before me). Rex and Sandy make excessive claims for confidentiality on ALL their SCA business emails even when the discussion is just about leaking pipes.