SB 1489 Flops Before Even Reaching the Theatre

SB 1489 is dead. It’s hard to say which was a bigger flop: SB 1489 or its 2008 special session look-alike, SB 6016. Both of these bills were nearly identical. The 2008 version stayed alive for only 4 days but did get through the Senate before it failed. The 2009 version, SB 1489, was introduced on January 22nd and stricken from the docket of pending bills by Vogel herself on February 4th – before it ever even came to a vote in a committee.

We’ve previously outlined why SB 1489 (like its predecessor SB 6016) was a bad bill. Had it become law, it would have allowed the deed to an owner’s property to be changed in unforeseen and undesirable ways without that owner’s consent. The amendment provisions in the deed itself would be ignored. The prospect that “in whole or in part, any provision of a declaration” could be changed would have manufactured uncertainty for tens of thousands of property owners in associations in every corner of the state. That uncertainty would have destroyed property values across Virginia, all in an effort to meddle in a lawsuit involving Lake Holiday, the Bemis Case. That case is now before the Virginia Supreme Court.

That SB 1489, like SB 6016, was nothing more than an attempt to tip the outcome of an active court case is beyond dispute. Shortly after SB 6016 died in the Virginia Housing Commission on 6/26/08, Bob Diamond and Todd Sinkins went back to work to try to change the law to tip an active court case in favor of their clients. Diamond represents Miller & Smith in the Bemis Case, and Sinkins’ firm, Rees Broome, was Lake Holiday’s initial counsel in the case before withdrawing.

The changes Diamond and Sinkins came up with are outlined in a July 1, 2008 memo to “Interested Parties.” This memo proposes even more far-reaching code changes than Vogel included in SB 1489. This proposal and Vogel’s bills share a central theme: to permit re-writing property deeds without the consent of owners Diamond’s description of honoring the terms outlined in a deed to amend it: “impractical.” We can apply Diamond’s reasoning thusly: If a small property owner has rights granted in a deed and Miller & Smith, one of the largest developers in the state, doesn’t like that, well, that’s simply “impractical” and the law needs to be changed. In his testimony to the Virginia Housing Commission, Sinkins characterized re-writing owners’ deeds over their objection as a “minor” change.

Diamond and Sinkins offer up this contradictory message acknowledging the impact of their proposal:

Although these changes may have an impact on the Lake Holiday project, we do not think that they can affect the outcome of the current litigation.

Perhaps they claim to believe that their proposed changes can’t affect the outcome because they know that an attempt to retroactively change vested property rights is unconstitutional and won’t pass careful scrutiny. It’s about time that Diamond and Sinkins learned the Code of Virginia is not their personal rule book to deliver the whims of their clients.

In late December, 2008 the Lake Holiday board met to consider the changes Vogel would later introduce in the Virginia Senate. Despite a dissent from 1 board member, the Lake Holiday board approved pushing the legislation to solve their “problem.”

Any claim that Vogel’s effort is anything but an effort to tip the outcome of an active court case doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Now that SB 1489 is dead, it’s important to reflect on the future. That future rests squarely with the Virginia Supreme Court. Backed by hundreds of years of Virginia property law and countless decisions from the state’s highest court (including 3 on point cases, the most recent of which was decided in January 2008), the Bemis plaintiffs take the position that their property rights and obligations are to be found – and can only be found – in a properly recorded deed in the chain of title to their individual properties. The Bemis plaintiffs are fully prepared to honor those deed obligations.

Lake Holiday has a history of collecting fees and dues far above those authorized by the applicable deeds. Its officers and lawyers have known about the unauthorized collection for some time. That creates a sticky and serious legal problem. To solve that problem, Lake Holiday would like to unilaterally change those deed obligations. That’s why Vogel, following the direction of Diamond and Lake Holiday, tried to change Virginia law to permit re-writing property deeds.

Fortunately, they failed a second time.

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The Denial Game

We previously wrote about the near-scuffles at the February 23rd Round Table. There’s a discussion of these shouting matches on Bill Master’s website, The Summit Advisor. One of the multiple posters in that thread uses the anonymous ID Guest47.

Guest47’s posts aren’t accurate on the basic facts of what took place at the Round Table. Fraser was not “countering Master’s allegation that the board and committees engage in secret meetings” on the clip, as the poster contended. Fraser’s first outburst occurred after Steve Locke attempted to ask audience-member Masters a few questions in what looked like a scripted event. Fraser’s second outburst occurred after the meeting had concluded. Both of these facts are clear on the video. At one point, Masters did ask a question – not make an allegation – about his concerns that the board was having private discussions, but this question and the response concluded without incident – almost 1 hour after Fraser’s first outburst. Since Guest47 can’t even get basic facts straight, we’re not going to devote a lot of energy to unscrambling his post.

Bill Adams confessed to us that he regularly posted on Master’s website under this exact same anonymous ID, Guest47. The combination of these posts and Adams’ position in the community (he’s Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and serves on the Activities Committee) prompted us to reflect on Adams’ conduct and prior writings.

There is a larger point in scrutinizing the opinions of these individuals, and it’s a point with which the Lake Holiday community desperately needs to come to grips. Lake Holiday has a widespread problem, and it is so damaging the community that if it’s not fixed, it will destroy it. What is it? A lot of people are playing a game of denial.

In his posts, Guest47 complained that Masters is a “constant nuisance” and has a website that serves “the lowest level of intellect whose purpose is to provoke others….” – and then he proceeded to praise Fraser’s conduct. Every reasonable person who watches the Keep It Over Here Punk video (also on our Videos page) will say that the behavior of Locke and Fraser was designed to provoke. But Guest47 denies this reality.

For a period of time Bill Masters allowed Bill Adams to serve as the editor of The Summit Advisor, and as Adams himself stated in October 2005, he wrote “most of the Advisors’ articles.” In that capacity Bill Adams often was highly critical of the conduct of LHCC’s board. Here are a few highlights.

In July 2006 Adams wrote:

Leadership at Lake Holiday has a history of bad decisions.

He went on to list a dozen bad decisions to support his point “in hopes of awaking some determination for improvement.” We calculate that the cost of these bad decisions exceeds millions of dollars.

Just a short time later, we distributed a petition for a special meeting to remove the majority of LHCC’s board, and Bill Adams signed this petition calling for the removal of then President Chris Allison. He added the notation on our form: “Regretably [sic], this action is necessary.” Regarding our petition Bill Adams wrote:

The petition itself does not seek to grant water & sewer expansion to Oqunquit lots at community expense as has been suggested. … The sentiment of the Board and its defendants is that the Ogunquit proposed replacements are pro-expansion and willing to commit community funds ($M’s) to that cause. We do not believe that to be an accurate assessment. While we cannot speak for the individuals (nor should the board) we believe their interest is more toward fixing some inherent problems with the board itself.

Adams supported fixing “inherent problems with board itself.” He saw residents facing a “disproportionate share” of expenses. He continued:

In any new development the Developer would incur the total costs of such amenities (along with roads and infrastructure) and would recover the expense via the sale of lots. Amenities are normally employed to attract buyers to the development. Instead, we the residents are contributing a disproportionate share to these capital improvements such as the clubhouse, gatehouse and bus stop. Ever get the feeling that…(never mind).

The unfinished thought from a person who otherwise has no problem expressing himself is denial taking over. Adams also took up the issue of the Utility sale. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of LHEUC’s assets was in the form of a contingent note stretching out 15 years. Of this contingent stream of payments from Aqua Virginia, Adams wrote:

…the 15 yearly payments of $78k are contingent on an aggressive new connection quota! In a declining housing market, we can probably kiss that $1.17M goodbye. We understand that interim hookup fees are also deducted from the $800k. At $8686* each, if 92 lots are connected, the utility company is a give-away. Free! Some deal!

Both we and Bill Masters have been critical of the collectibility of the contingent payment stream from Aqua and that LHEUC was sold too cheaply. As far back as August 2006, Adams expressed the same criticism – describing it sarcastically as “some deal!” Adams largely stopped his public efforts to foster change; we and Masters have not stopped such efforts because the governance problems that underlie these events remain unfixed. The fix for those unable to face reality: deny the validity of Masters’ points and label him a “constant nuisance.”

In October 2005, after the Court granted our petition to block LHCC from voting its own lots in elections, Adams wrote:

As hopes of passing the documents erodes, the board may be scrambling for ways to keep it alive. One hope may have been the 223 lot votes denied by the court. Was the board intending to use them to pass the documents? We may never know. Another hope might have been that a fair portion of the population would vote for the new documents. Receipt of mail-in votes may have dashed that hope as well. Nobody who I talked to is supporting the documents. With imminent failure at hand, the cancellation of the vote may have been to [sic] only alternative to a major embarrassment.

Adams’ statement that “we may never know” if the Board was intending to vote LHCC-owned lots is more of the denial game. LHCC’s board passed Resolution 2004-8 expressing its intentions in writing. We were not in Court on this issue based on speculation but rather on published statements. Hiding behind vague and inaccurate words is denial. Facing “imminent failure” LHCC canceled the September 2005 vote on new governing documents. Adams continued his criticism of these proposed documents, which he felt were:

…verbose and convoluted rules intended to keep lawyers employed. We could actually go out and enjoy the lake and amenities without worry that we would lose our rights. God forbid we ever need legal interpretation of existing rules like “no clotheslines”. Instead the misery lives on – Postponed until another angle can be contrived.

By May 2006 when substantially the same governing documents re-surfaced for a vote that June, Adams forgot about the “misery” and gave the documents back-handed praise, claiming they were:

more readable than earlier versions, with a nice cover page, uniform margins and paragraph numbering. … Many comparative reviews are possible, e.g.; with the existing documents, with the 40 “Recommended Changes”, and between versions on the revised documents. The feasibility and value of such comparisons is questionable, given the complexity and time frames.

Translation of Adams’ gibberish: The documents look pretty, they’re hard to understand, time is short, but I just can’t bring myself to tell you to approve them. When you have to resort to praising the deed to your property – perhaps your most valuable investment – because it has a nice cover page and uniform margins, you are in denial. Fortunately, thanks in large part to Bill Masters’ efforts to inform the community, approval of these new governing documents failed by a wide margin. To those denial gamers who claim that we are an unpopular lone wolf, pause and reflect: nearly 2 out of every 3 voters who voted against these documents joined with us and voted “No” by our proxy.

At the same time in a post entitled A Development Diary, Adams offered sharp criticism for recent board actions:

Adopting Goldberg’s rules, any unchallenged presidential motion automatically becomes a unanimous board resolution. Totalitarian Democracy is invented. Fearing litigation, the Board refunds all builder conformance fines imposed by the Architectural Committee. A revised Enforcement Guideline is created detailing every conceivable construction infraction and remedy. An ex-board president (who signed the Development Agreement) and a favored Builder are installed by the Board on the Architectural Committee without customary apprenticeship. The third Construction Supervisor and ArchComm liaison in a year quits along with a long standing ArchComm member.

“Totalitarian Democracy.” Those are very strong words to describe a community association. Despite those strong feelings, Adams could not muster the courage to explain that he was the “long standing ArchComm member” who quit over the problems he described. When you distance yourself from your own first-hand experiences, you are in denial.

Like Adams, we’ve been critical of the adoption of Goldberg’s Rules of order. But our website is labeled a “hate site.” People that play the denial game often lash out at those who challenge them to face reality.

Unfortunately, these examples of denial are not limited to Adams. In August 2006 Miller & Smith sent a letter to all property owners, stating in part, “Yes, we have special privileges….” (Our own reply has been posted here for everyone to see since that same time. For another twist on the denial game, review our comments on free water & sewer. As recently as the Saturday 2/23 Round Table, Wayne Poyer was still repeating the free water & sewer lie.) At around the same time former LHCC President Lou Einstman was allowed to post his own answer to Miller & Smith on the front page of The Summit Advisor:

When I left the Board in 2004, there was almost two million dollars in the bank. Today, the treasurer is predicting that we will be broke by September if we can’t get a loan or a line of credit. Where did all that money go? Maybe the changes that Heisey and Allison made in the way business is conducted weren’t so good for the community after all.

Einstman regularly attends board meetings, so he’s in a position to observe board conduct first-hand. On the responsibility of being a board member, Einstman wrote:

This isn’t a social position! Some of the present Board members seem to think that all they have to do is show up for the meetings. They don’t do their homework. They don’t understand the issues nor do they know how they want to vote on them. This irresponsible attitude is very discouraging.

Others have been similarly critical of board conduct. Former LHCC employee LeeAnn Stevens revealed that board members came to her asking for explanations of what went on in the boardroom or complaining that actions were taken without discussion. Both Einstman’s and Stevens’ sharp words parallel the criticism that both we and Masters have leveled at the board.

Our Silent Sitter award is certainly more colorful, but it is a legitimate attempt to draw attention to the very same problem that caught Einstman’s attention over 1 year earlier – but remains unaddressed. To those put off by our Silent Sitter award, take note: Einstman’s modest caution failed to correct the problem. In the spring of 2007, months before introducing the Silent Sitter award, we called Lou Einstman and asked to meet to discuss solutions to these and other problems. He declined our request. Instead of acknowledging our shared observation, Einstman’s response is to tell the critics to stop complaining and “get out.”

We’ve documented that Einstman supported the election of Rick Bleck, who did not meet the 1 year ownership requirement for nomination set forth in LHCC’s bylaws and was invisible on the campaign trail but was elected anyway. Bleck said very little while he was on the board, and what little he did say qualifies as T-shirt quote material. Promoting the election of people who “don’t understand the issues” when you’ve criticized that behavior as “irresponsible” is just part of the effort to conceal and deny legitimate problems.

Einstman was critical of the Heisey and Allison years but has supported Wayne Poyer’s leadership. Is it because Einstman was on the outside looking in during Allison’s tenure, and Poyer gives him special treatment? Watch the video below of audience member Einstman walking up to board member Robin Pedlar and carrying on a conversation while the board is conducting business. Watch the heads of most board members turn down to ignore Einstman’s inappropriate behavior, and Martel completely disregard what is taking place right next to him. Ask yourself if Wayne Poyer would have been that slow to react if Bill Masters had engaged in that conduct, or if Poyer would have responded in such a polite and restrained manner. Einstman plays the denial game for a simple reason: he’s now getting the insider perk of favorable treatment not afforded others.

Over and over again, it’s the same thing. At the January 26th board meeting, Treasurer John Martel was skeptical of spending $4650 for an automated device to measure the level of the lake. Our video Lake Level Pt 1 (also on our Videos page) makes this clear. At the February 23rd Round Table, a question from Bill Masters which expressed similar skepticism and proposed an alternative solution, was met with mocking giggles incited by Wayne Poyer and a sarcastic comment from Martel. We’re not aware of any proof to support Wayne Poyer’s claim that an automatic lake level monitoring system is required by the state for dam certification, and we doubt any board member had such proof before voting to approve this expenditure. We challenge them to produce such proof. Mocking Masters and others is the denial gamers trying to turn the tables on critics so they can continue playing their game.

In August 2006, “guest #47″ offered these comments on The Summit Advisor:

In defense of Bill Masters; Bill is a persistent advocate of frugal spending and accountability. As many know, he is not afraid to publicly challenge those in authority if they are not perceived to be acting in the community interest. Admittedly, Bill can become cantankerous when his questions and comments are evaded or dismissed. What he lacks in tact he makes up for with determination. To directors and proselyte with provincial follow-the-leader mentality he is a nuisance to be discredited and avoided. For those unaware, the brief utility board tenure involved his criticism of the unnecessary and expensive planned replacement of manholes, and the awarding of contracts to a friend of the utility board president’s without a bidding process. He was disparaged and removed from the utility board. After he left, many of his alternative ideas were adopted with no credit given.

Note the use of the word “nuisance.” Masters is a good kind of nuisance in August 2006, but in February 2008 he’s the bad variety. In the October 2006 election, Masters sought a board seat, seeking to try to remedy the same problems the he and Adams had been describing for years. He lost the election, not because of a failure to capture votes from residents, but because Miller & Smith was allowed to vote about 100 lots in Section 10 that residents had been told could not be voted. In fact, Adams himself wrote about the deed changes Miller & Smith made in July 2006, at about the very same time they were made. Presumably, he knew about the Miller & Smith ballot box deluge that would catch the community by such surprise about 3 months later. Instead of flashing warning signs, he discussed the deed changes in relatively unremarkable terms.

By November 2006, Masters had had enough of Bill Adams’ playing the denial game. Despite being allowed to edit the front page of Masters’ popular website, Adams turned on his neighbor by posting that the 2006 election outcome (which included Masters’ loss) was a vote for the “continued positive agenda” and that following the Annual Meeting, “everyone left happy.” He called the outcome “truly resident driven.” Shortly thereafter, recognizing his role was about to be eliminated, Adams resigned, perhaps hiding out as Guest47 ever since.

The clubhouse renovation was underway by the spring of 2007, and Adams played an important role in reviewing the security system for that project. To his neighbor Masters, Adams privately criticized the handling of the clubhouse security contract but confided that he was unwilling to publicly address his complaints because he did not want to jeopardize his insider involvement. Putting the past behind him and praising Adams’ contributions, Masters tried to coax a public discussion of these issues on The Summit Advisor, but Adams in a rare post under his own name responded that the topic was “not open to public debate.”

Adams, like Einstman and others, could not be weaned from the insider perks, so the denial game continues. The biggest insider perk: playing a role in spending over $2 million of your neighbor’s money every year. Plain and simple, it’s a power trip. It’s empowering to have the power to make expenditures and meet with professionals (e. g., high-priced lawyers and accountants) one otherwise would not be able to make or meet on one’s own, and especially so for those without the every-day responsibility of a job (Adams, for example, is a retiree). Loss of involvement is one price to pay for speaking up, and that’s a big force driving the denial game. In our Maint Bldg Pt 1-3 videos (you guessed it, they’re also on our Videos page), director Pat Shields said he would consult with Adams and Bob Fraser, one of the stars of Keep It Over Here Punk video, on this project. He didn’t say a word about consulting with Bill Masters.

Dr. Sanity, an MD and popular blogger who applies psychiatry to broader social observations, has written about people that are in denial:

When confronted, they become angry and usually contend that it is their confronter who has the REAL problem, not them.

Attacking us and Masters for making the exact same criticism that they have made is just the denial gamers attacking their confronter. We’ll anticipate one criticism to this post from the denial gamers, that it’s a personal attack. It’s not. All of our comments are focused on the political opinions and conduct of people engaged in governing their community or who are openly discussing their community’s governance. That makes their conduct and their opinions legitimate topics for public discussion and debate.

Guest47 criticized those who “anonymously attack and vilify people such as Poyer, Allison and Fraser.” Yet Guest47 hides behind an anonymous ID and attacks us and Masters. We make every post here, and make no secret of who we are and that the opinions expressed in these posts are ours. The absurdity of Guest47 criticizing anonymous attacks while he launches his own is self-evident. Guest47’s hypocrisy takes on a pathetic quality.

Dr. Sanity has also discussed denial as a “defense mechanism” that is “almost always pathological….” and set forth the factors that define a pathological defense:

  • the defense is used in a rigid, inflexible, and exclusive manner
  • the motivation for using the defense comes more from past needs than present or future reality
  • the defense severely distorts the present situation
  • use of the defense leads to significant problems in relationships, functioning, and enjoyment of life
  • use of the defense impedes or distorts emotions and feelings, instead of rechanneling them effectively

Judge for yourself how accurately the attack-the-confronter response and the characteristics of a pathological defense apply to Lake Holiday politics.

The denial game costs the Lake Holiday community dearly. Thousands of lives have been affected. Tens of millions of dollars of Membership Lot property values have been destroyed. People have been obstructed from enjoying their property for over 30 years. The obstruction has lasted so long that victims have died without ever getting a remedy. That these serious problems have been unaddressed for so long is a mark of shame for Frederick County and the state of Virginia. The governance problems that Adams and Einstman complained about are still unresolved. They’re the exact same problems that Masters has complained about and the exact same problems that we’ve complained about.

Instead of fixing these problems, the denial gamers say our blog is a “hate site” and Masters “cannot accept any ideas which are not his own.” The denial game continues, the problems thrive. As do the websites that seek to address the problems that have plagued Lake Holiday for decades.

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A Proxy Policy To Battle Dissidents

LHCC’s proxy policy was one of the most important topics discussed at the December 27th meeting. The board uses the proxy policy to unfairly restrict the opportunities that LHCC members have to express their opinions in elections. This policy is one of the board’s principal weapons to attack what it calls “the dissidents.” Using characteristic put-downs, the board describes those who vote by proxy as “less sophisticated.”

The most visible sign of LHCC’s efforts to block the use of proxies is right on the ballot envelope itself. In 2005 the ballot envelope didn’t contain any mention of proxies. In 2007, “proxy revocation” is front and center. Compare the 2005 ballot envelope to the 2007 version:

As used by LHCC, the proxy policy is nothing more than an election manipulation tool. Let’s review the 3 most recent LHCC board elections to understand what has changed and why. In each of these elections, the final outcome of who sits on the board would change based on the resolution of these challenges.

In the October 2005 election we solicited proxies almost exclusively from Membership Lot owners. Our success in capturing votes surprised LHCC’s leaders. Several facts from the 2005 election stand out:

2005 Election Facts
# Fact
#1 M & S builders voted lots they no longer owned and LHCC counted these votes
#2 LHCC counted more in person ballots than there were eligible voters who attended the meeting
#3 LHCC refused to count a proxy, claiming the owner voted in person – despite the person swearing under oath that she did not attend the meeting

The election results were very close, too close from the perspective of LHCC’s entrenched board. Our votes were almost all in the form of proxies. So LHCC apparently concluded it was time to develop a way to disqualify proxies before the next election. If LHCC’s directors could disqualify proxies, they could reduce our votes.

Before the October 2006 election ever took place, LHCC knew we would show up with over 400 proxies. We presented these proxies in the governing documents vote in June of 2006, so LHCC knew exactly what to expect that October. LHCC’s directors had to act, or they might have been voted out of office. Before the October 2006 election, LHCC adopted the policy that submitting any absentee ballot revoked a proxy, even if the proxy were executed after the absentee ballot was presented. This was the beginning of the proxy policy as a political tool.

The 2007 election attracted few candidates. There were 7 announced candidates running for 6 seats. One of the announced candidates was Rick Bleck, who did not meet the 1 year ownership requirement for nomination set forth in LHCC’s Bylaws and was invisible on the campaign trail but was elected anyway. Before the election took place, candidate Bill Masters challenged Bleck’s nomination, based on this simple statement in LHCC’s Bylaws:

All nominees must have been Members of the Association for at least one (1) year.

Bleck closed on his Lake Holiday home on October 12, 2006. The cutoff for nominations was September 5, 2007. Bleck obviously didn’t meet the 1 year requirement spelled out in the Bylaws. This presented a serious problem to LHCC’s entrenched board because it will go to just about any length to block Masters from winning a board seat. If Bleck’s nomination were found to be improper and therefore withdrawn, that would leave only 6 candidates – one of which would be Masters – running for 6 seats, virtually guaranteeing Masters a board seat.

The solution to this problem: pay LHCC counsel Rees Broome to produce a 3 page letter to try to explain that that 1 sentence in the Bylaws means something other than what it says. Reader beware: have a big bottle of aspirin handy before reading Rees Broome’s explanation because trying to follow their logic will cause your head to rotate more than once on your shoulders. Rees Broome has been the recipient of checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, signed by LHCC’s entrenched board.

In the October 2007 we supported Bill Masters, who solicited proxies from Lake Holiday property owners. Masters added a new wrinkle to the proxy debate. Because of the cost of soliciting proxies, Masters solicited proxies good for 5 years. And that apparently scares LHCC’s directors.

So how did LHCC respond? By using association funds and resources to conduct a poorly disguised political attack on Masters. Mailed in an official LHCC envelope with a hard-to-miss yellow sticker claiming to hold “Important Information”, LHCC directors spent Association money to send out in early October what was nothing more than a blatant political campaign letter.

LHCC’s mailer attacked proxies generally and the Masters proxy in particular. The mailer also attacked Masters’ campaign positions. Amusingly, the letter misquoted one of Masters’ own campaign letters and falsely claimed that Masters’ calculation of the expected dam repair cost was wrong. Masters used actual numbers from the board meeting on the dam repair and did nothing more complicated than dividing the estimated total cost of the dam repair by the number of property owners actually paying dues. After misquoting the number in Masters’ letter, LHCC’s response was that “No arithmetic we know of gets to this number.” More simply: LHCC’s directors acknowledged they don’t know how to do basic arithmetic.

Three candidates, who also happened to be incumbent officers or directors – President Wayne Poyer, Treasurer John Martel, and Pat Shields – used association resources to mail out their own political response to candidate Masters, who used private resources to pay for his campaign. Wayne Poyer, John Martel, and Pat Shields failed to separate their roles as officers and directors of the association from their personal interests as candidates for re-election. At the bare minimum, they should repay the full cost of this political mailer. We challenge them to do so.

That’s the background for December 27th’s proxy policy discussion, which we present in 4 video clips:

At the meeting, all directors except VP Dave Buermeyer favored allowing proxies. Buermeyer continued to be against allowing proxies even though LHCC has a legal opinion from Steve Moriarty, former LHCC counsel, that proxies must be allowed. Pat Shields cautioned Buermeyer that “we need to follow our lawyer’s advice.”

The proxy policy that LHCC’s directors want to adopt is inherently unfair. Directors want an absentee ballot to revoke a proxy, even if the proxy is executed after the absentee ballot. The only way to revoke an absentee ballot is to show up in person at the election site. This is an easy task for a homeowner. But how about for the Membership Lot owner living in California? His only way to revoke an absentee ballot is to show up in person. The burden is very different for a homeowner who could just walk across the street compared to a Membership Lot owner who has to travel across country. Once LHCC directors capture an absentee ballot vote from a Membership Lot owner, they don’t want to let it go. So they make it very difficult and expensive to revoke.

Revoking an absentee ballot also shows a sloppy inconsistency in LHCC’s voting procedures. In September of 2005, LHCC was planning to hold a vote on new governing documents. At that time, we challenged in court LHCC’s refusal to let members change their absentee votes. LHCC subsequently canceled that scheduled vote and revised its procedures for revoking an absentee ballot. Those changes are reflected in the minutes of the 9/27/05 board meeting. The revised policy states that:

Eligible Members exercising their right to vote an absentee ballot retain the option of changing that absentee vote up to the deadline for all voting. Once an absentee ballot has been witnessed, mailed to and logged in by the office or registered agent, to change that vote the Member must attend the Membership meeting called for the purpose of that vote and, providing proper identification, request that the ballot be recovered for the purpose of recasting the vote.

That policy was adopted in the 2005 election. By 2007 it was abandoned. Compare the note at the bottom of the 2005 ballot to 2007’s version. 2005’s ballot says: “If you desire to change your absentee ballot you must do so in person at the annual meeting on October 22nd, 2005.” 2007’s ballot says: “Once submitted, this Absentee Ballot may not be retracted or changed.” The message from LHCC’s directors to members: Once we have your vote, we’re not giving it up.

The proxy policy also is an attempt to modify LHCC’s Bylaws by board resolution. LHCC’s directors would like to require directed proxies, where the proxy spells out how the proxy holder will vote. Requiring directed proxies blocks unannounced floor nominations. If a candidate to be nominated on the floor is announced in advance, LHCC can discourage that candidate from accepting the nomination. But there’s no requirement that proxies be directed in either LHCC’s Bylaws or in Virginia’s Non-Stock Corporation Act. Wayne Poyer clearly understands that the Non-Stock Corporation Act places few restrictions on proxy use. He described the flexibility that the law puts on proxies to his fellow board members: “the back of an envelope is quite fine.” So what’s an entrenched board to do? Amend LHCC’s Bylaws without the required member vote and circumvent the act by passing a board resolution.

Above all else, LHCC uses false claims about proxies. At the December 27th meeting, Wayne Poyer said some voters gave up their vote for 5 years. That’s absolute non-sense. The proxy that Bill Masters solicited from property owners was revocable at any time by the person that granted the proxy. Revocation could be accomplished by something as simple as sending an email to the proxy holder.

The other false claim is that a proxy granter has somehow given up his vote. That view is expressed in the title of the board’s political attack on Masters: “Its Your Vote – Keep It.” Voting is expressing an opinion, and proxy granters have made a decision to express their opinion by executing a proxy. They have elected to work together to improve their chances of winning an election. There are legitimate reasons for voters to work together and vote by proxy. Voting by proxy gives someone other than LHCC’s board the ability to verify the accuracy of a vote. If 400 voters vote individually, the task of confirming that their votes were counted correctly is insurmountable. If 400 voters vote by proxy, that task becomes simple. LHCC’s directors apparently would rather members act in an isolated manner, have no chance of winning an election, and have no chance to independently verify their votes were counted properly. To keep power, try to divide the opposition.

It’s time for LHCC to clean up its elections.

Election Recommendations
# Election Recommendations
#1 Give every voter a fair opportunity to change his mind and have his most recent vote counted. That means if a proxy is executed after an absentee ballot, count the proxy. If an absentee ballot is executed after a proxy, throw away the proxy and count the absentee ballot.
#2 Don’t make it any harder for a Membership Lot owner to change his vote than it is for a homeowner that lives next door to the polling place. Treat all owners fairly. Let owners undo an absentee ballot easily. A proxy executed after the absentee ballot is one way to do this.
#3 Stop focusing attention on how people vote, be it in person, by absentee ballot, or by proxy. Stop criticizing others who opt to express their vote in any particular manner. A vote by proxy is just as much a vote as that made in person. Someone who votes by proxy is every bit as smart and sophisticated as someone who shows up to vote in person.
#4 Stop all political mailings from the office, period. If candidates want to spend their own money to campaign, let them.
#5 Acknowledge that the October 2007 attack on Masters was a political one, and make the politicians who benefited from it – Poyer, Martel, and Shields – pay for it.
#6 Take the office – controlled by the entrenched board – out of politics altogether. Have the absentee ballots mailed to an independent vote counter. Stop accepting ballots hand-delivered to the office.
#7 Stop hiring armed guards to defend a homeowners’ election. Third-world dictators have armed guards at elections. Responsible community association leaders do not. Its an unbecoming mix of menacing and pathetic, and it only exposes how far some LHCC directors will go to keep power.

Until LHCC’s directors implement these changes to election rules, the community’s elections will continue to take place under a cloud of suspicion and mistrust.

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Defendant Steve Locke Will Stop At Nothing…

At the June 25th board meeting, LHCC directors debated defending against the Masters lawsuit. Directors evaluated whether they should use Rees Broome, a Vienna-based law firm that LHCC Treasurer John Martel compared to an “ambulance chaser” with “extravagant” rates or the lower-priced Segan Mason & Mason. (For more on John Martel’s evaluation of Rees Broome, watch Use Rees Broome Pts 1 & 2 on our Videos page.) The board also considered whether LHCC should defend the 5 directors individually named in the Masters suit: Dave Buermeyer, Suzy Marcus, Ken Murphy, Noel O’Brien, and Steve Locke.

On this last point, defendant Dave Buermeyer suggested that the individual defendants recuse themselves or abstain from voting on whether LHCC should defend the 5 directors. After all, it would be very self-serving for these 5 directors to vote in favor of a motion to get LHCC to pay for their defense. But that created a little problem. Earlier in the meeting, with everyone – including Steve Locke – in the room, LHCC President Wayne Poyer announced that director Chris Allison was “called away unexpectedly.” At no time during the 3 hour meeting did Chris Allison appear and, in light of Wayne Poyer’s comment, there was no reason to believe that Chris Allison was nearby.

LHCC has 11 directors. With 1 absent, that left 10 directors. If the 5 director defendants recused themselves from voting on that motion, that would leave only 5 directors able to vote. However, 6 directors are required for a quorum, or the minimum number that can transact business. The 5 non-defendant directors actually present at the meeting would not be able to approve a motion to pay for the defense of the 5 defendants.

To get what he wants – a motion passed for LHCC to pay for his legal representation, director Steve Locke suggests:

I can go outside and in 30 seconds get Chris Allison’s signature on a piece of paper. I’ve been trained. I’ve watched and observed how to do that. Yeah.

Since Chris Allison was “called away unexpectedly,” he is not in the immediate vicinity. Obtaining his legitimate signature in 30 seconds is an absolute impossibility, particularly if Chris Allison were allowed any time to review what he is asked to sign. It’s pretty clear what Steve Locke is suggesting to the board. Steve Locke will do whatever it takes, even if it means coming up with the signature of a director who is not even present, to pass a board resolution authorizing LHCC to pay for his legal counsel.

Instead of a negative reaction to Steve Locke’s repugnant suggestion, he gets a warm reaction. Pat Shields can be heard on the video interjecting in a complimentary way: “You had training.” When Steve Locke says that he has “watched and observed how to do that,” one senses that this is business as usual. This conduct reminds us of defendant Noel O’Brien’s suggestion that LHCC fabricate costs for non-existent employees as a response to Masters’ information requests. Fabricating things must be, as Pat Shields and Steve Locke remark, part of the Lake Holiday training. Ray Sohl, the current GM, sat through this entire episode and said nothing. We can imagine that former GM Dave Ingegneri witnessed equally troubling episodes, yet said nothing.

When Bill Masters heads to court on Thursday against Steve Locke and the other defendants, these are the kind of people he will be up against: soul-less people who will stop at nothing to get their way.

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Off To Court They Go…

In late May, Lake Holiday resident Bill Masters filed a lawsuit in the Frederick County Circuit Court, seeking a judicial review of the October 2006 board of directors election.

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Who Shares Chris Allison’s Guilt?

In previous posts, we’ve documented the fact that Chris Allison allowed Miller & Smith and its builders to vote non-member Trust lots in the October 2006 election of directors. Apparently, he made this decision without Board approval because he boasts in an email to a fellow director that this “was and is not a Board issue.”

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Rumbling In the Community

There’s an active discussion on the topic we raised about Chris Allison illegitimately allowing Miller & Smith and its builders to vote certain lots taking place on Bill Master’s website.

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