How Bill Masters Saved Lake Holiday $120,000

At the April board meeting, LHCC directors discussed a serious problem: they pledged the clubhouse (LHCC common area) as collateral for a loan from Wachovia without first obtaining owner consent. Several board members referred to this as a breach of their fiduciary duty, since common area can’t be mortgaged without first obtaining more than two-thirds consent of Lake Holiday’s owners and that consent was never obtained. GM Ray Sohl introduced the solution to this problem: “the board of directors has expressed an interest in re-collateralizing the existing clubhouse loan.”

The board’s solution: ask owners to retroactively approve mortgaging common area, and if approval were not obtained, to refinance the Wachovia loan at a great expense. Doing so would require paying about $18,000 in refinancing costs, paying approximately $20,000 more in annual debt service over 5 years, pledging 91 LHCC-owned lots, and allowing Wachovia to put a bank hold on $150,000 to $200,000 of LHCC’s cash. Add that up and you get a cash savings of $120,000.

That initial discussion of the problem was lengthy. Our nine video clips cover over an hour and ten minutes in Clubhouse Loan Pts 1-9:

By July, preparations were underway to put the re-financing to an owner vote. LHCC announced the upcoming vote on July 21st. At the July 28th board meeting VP Dave Buermeyer, guided by Wayne Poyer, proposed the specific language to describe the issue to owners. Right away he met with resistance from 2 board members, John Martel and Jo-anne Barnard. Martel claimed that the language gave the refinancing proposal an “air of legitimacy that it probably never really achieved.” Then, Martel did an abrupt about-face and retreated from that position when Poyer seemed to be bothered by his remark. Jo-anne Barnard called the referendum “meaningless” because despite the high cost, the board had already decided to do the refinancing even if owners didn’t approve it. Nevertheless, every other director was satisfied with the decision to proceed with the refinancing. Many felt no further discussion was necessary.

Barnard and Martel felt the significant cost of the refinancing did merit further discussion. Barnard corrected the cost estimate served up by Poyer and Buermeyer. She observed:

It doesn’t cost $20,000. It costs $20,000 and $18,000 in the near term every year at the same time that we have to do the dam.

Here’s the July discussion in clips Oct 08 Referenda Pts 1-5:

So what’s the biggest problem in refinancing the clubhouse balloon note to fix pledging the clubhouse without first obtaining owner approval? The clubhouse isn’t even pledged as collateral on that note. Either Poyer and Buermeyer weren’t being candid about their reasons for proposing the refinancing or they never even bothered to check the documents. If they had taken just a moment to read the collateral exhibit, they would have seen that it clearly contains a description of real estate that is not the clubhouse.

A cautionary word to the non-lawyers that try to comprehend an important legal document like the loan collateral exhibit: it’s a whopping 2 pages, and the description of the property used as collateral involves potentially hard-to-understand legal terms, such as “231 Redland Road.” Proceed carefully!

After watching the video of the July meeting, property owner Bill Masters did bother to check the documents, and the exhibit showing the collateral for the loan very clearly listed the collateral as 231 Redland Road, the location of Lake Holiday’s management office. Masters contacted GM Ray Sohl, and directors Barnard and Martel to understand how they missed this.

Sohl initially disputed Masters’ assessment and insisted the clubhouse was used as loan collateral. Masters had to show Sohl that the loan for which the clubhouse had been used as collateral was paid off and closed months ago. Keep in mind that Masters was making his argument to Sohl and several board members using documents he originally obtained from the Lake Holiday office in the first place.

Barnard and Martel were surprised by his claim but promised to investigate. To further support his contention, Masters supplied loan documents to Barnard and Martel and Frederick County tax maps, one of which appears nearby. In a few days, Sohl, Barnard, and Martel came to the same conclusion that Masters had: the clubhouse wasn’t pledged on the loan in the first place, so there’s no reason to spend all that money on the expensive refinancing supported by Poyer and Buermeyer.

The cash savings, as Barnard herself pointed out at the board meeting, is about $120,000 over 5 years. When Masters discussed with Barnard the significant cash savings, Barnard disputed her own number. Evidently, dollars that Masters saves don’t count as much as dollars that the board very nearly wasted. Beyond the cash savings, Lake Holiday retains clear title to its 91 lots and has unrestricted use of the $200,000 that it would have had to pledge to do the refinancing. Masters managed to accomplish all of this while holding down a full time job and not serving on the board.

Barnard’s attempt to discount the savings is just evidence of the board’s spin machine revving up. More evidence of that is Sohl’s email to Masters, thanking him for catching the “error,” but pointing the finger at Wachovia for not securing the loan with the right collateral. Maybe Wachovia’s Mike Wilkerson has a different opinion of who owns the “error.”

Much can be learned from this episode to improve Lake Holiday. LHCC directors voted to spend over $120,000 of the organization’s cash based on the erroneous belief that the clubhouse was pledged as collateral, a belief that reading the loan documents would have quickly corrected. While Barnard and Martel were against spending money on refinancing, at a minimum they and every other director are guilty of approving a significant expenditure without bothering to read the underlying documents. That’s wrong. If any director did read the collateral documents and recommended the refinancing based on a claim that he knew to be false, that would be far more troubling.

When Masters first called Ray Sohl, he encountered far too much resistance. Sohl spent too much time defending the position that the clubhouse was pledged as collateral, perhaps because the board had already invested so much time to approve the refinancing. If the clubhouse were not pledged, it would make all the resources devoted to the refinancing an embarrassing waste. Fortunately, Masters took the time to make the phone calls and send the emails to overcome Sohl’s resistance. Masters was in an exceptional position because he had previously requested the relevant documents and closely followed the board videos, two things for which he is often unjustly criticized. But it shouldn’t be that hard for owners to get the management office to reach an obvious conclusion. While this went from start to finish in about 3 days, that was too long because the loan collateral exhibit was so clear and unambiguous. The initial response involved too much defensive posturing. If Masters had not persisted after receiving Sohl’s initial response, the savings may have been lost.

Fortunately, Masters saved $120,000 of Lake Holiday’s cash. What the community learns from this affair may be even more valuable.

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This Has To Stop

Whatever one may think of John Martel, he consistently manages to come up with great one-liners. Mind you, they’re not going to be heard on the big movie screen anytime soon. They’re just pithy observations on the problems at Lake Holiday. We took the title of this post from his remarks on the issue of ordering tote bags for new owners for the Welcoming Committee.

Too many bags were ordered at a price double what they should have cost because the wrong person ordered the bags.

Wayne Poyer described the mix-up:

A batch of bags was ordered which, based on the rate of people coming into the community, it’s going to last about 40 years.

As Martel said: “this has to stop, this has to stop.” We’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Welcoming Committee only welcomes new homeowners and not new membership lot owners with one of the too many totes ordered at an exorbitant cost.

The budget review was made a little more difficult when it was discovered that one of Mike Kilmer’s staff incorrectly coded an expense item as an income item. Robin Pedlar thought Kilmer’s firm was “overpaid.” According to Martel, the distribution of work between the LHCC office and Kilmer’s firm has created problems. His view:

It’s hard to sort out who’s doing what to whom.

Kilmer’s firm is paid $4250 per month (an annual rate of over $50,000), and the board was reviewing other cutbacks to balance the budget at the May 15th budget meeting. Despite that, Pat Shields didn’t think that meeting was the appropriate time to address the value of Kilmer’s services.

In the video of overpaying for too many tote bags, Robin Pedlar worried:

If this is indicative of how phony all the numbers could be, it scares me.

She was not alone in her concern about sloppy accounting. Wayne Poyer asked somewhat rhetorically:

How bad is our accounting?

Let’s look at one area, the relationship between delinquencies and receivables. In our videos 2008 1Q Delinquencies and How Bad Is Our Accounting, Treasurer John Martel gave the numbers on delinquencies: 114 homes (including trash assessments), 70 water/sewer lots, and 242 membership lots. Based on LHCC’s published assessment rates, this is a monthly delinquency of $30,748.08. Yet the difference between LHCC’s reported accounts receivable in March and April of 2008 is only $9,299.73. If the delinquency rate is actually that high, why didn’t accounts receivable go up by a larger amount? If it’s not that high, why is the board over-stating the delinquency rate and budgeting based on this over-statement? As Poyer himself remarked, the delinquency report “just doesn’t pass the nonsense test.”

Budget-related videos from this meeting also include a discussion of getting foreclosing banks to pay their dues and a brief review of Kilmer’s role (which includes a little spat between a frustrated Martel and Suzy Marcus). A few unrelated topics were addressed after the budget review: creating the nominating committee; handling road violations, in which directors acknowledged that the roving patrol is not authorized to stop alleged violators; and relisting lots for sale with Oakcrest.

If you find it odd that in all this budget talk, the name of Steve Locke doesn’t come up much, we do as well. Steve’s resume says he’s a certified financial planner and a former member of the Financial Management Task Force. He had little to say about changes to the budget, a topic that is very relevant to his background and experience. What is the point of serving on the board if you don’t have much to say on the topic most directly related to your background or work experience? Congratulations, Steve. You’re our Silent Sitter for the May budget meeting.

With all of the excitement about accounting and budgets (a subject that caused Robin Pedlar to comment a little past the half-way point of the budget meeting that “we’ve got to move faster or I’m going home”), we realized that we neglected to announce our Silent Sitter winner for the April 28th meeting. The most important topic covered at the April 28th meeting was a proposal to refinance the clubhouse balloon note. In a meeting where directors openly acknowledged they breached their fiduciary responsibility, Suzy Marcus sat in almost total silence. She neither objected to the characterization expressed by several board members that the board (of which she was a member) had in fact breached its fiduciary responsibility or raised any concern about the cost to fix that mistake. Important issues require the input of all board members. Congratulations, Suzy. You’re our Silent Sitter for the April meeting.

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Quick Takes on the April 28th Board Meeting

The April 28th was long – over 3 1/2 hours, not counting an executive session. We’ve included all but about 15 minutes of that meeting, spread over 26 video clips.

Review of a new front gate contract took about 5 1/2 minutes, but review of a $1500 reimbursement for additional lifeguard open water rescue training took over 30 minutes. The latter issue apparently stemmed from roving patrol/lifeguard supervisor Zeb Brevard, rather than the board, authorizing an expenditure made by the parent of one of the lifeguards.

Just because review of the front gate contract took 5 1/2 minutes doesn’t mean there was serious review. The board rubber-stamped GM Ray Sohl’s recommendation of keeping the contract with Haines at a cost of $15 per hour rather than accept a much lower cost proposal from Spartan at a cost of $13.33 per hour. The potential savings from Spartan’s proposal? About $15,000. The board couldn’t spend a lot of time on this $130,000 contract because it had to have enough time to discuss a contract with the lifeguards requiring them to reimburse the $100 training cost if they failed to work the entire season. At one point, presumably just to shorten a ridiculously long (or was it just ridiculous?) discussion, an audience member volunteered that he would reimburse the $100 training cost if that event occurred.

For the monthly staples, Martel gave the Treasurer’s Report and GM Ray Sohl gave the Management Report. Martel also put forward a motion to fully expense rather than capitalize all of LHCC’s depreciable assets. No director asked whether that was GAAP-compliant. For that matter, no director asked what GAAP is.

Dave Buermeyer gathered up some projections from Miller & Smith and some boxes of old documents. He rolled them into his Vision 10, a plan for the next 10 years at Lake Holiday. It drew applause from the board, which is the only group that will pay any attention whatsoever. Buermeyer also brought back more modifications to a policy to fill board vacancies. Secretary Ken Murphy secured approval for a new Rules Tracking System. At least they’ll look pretty. Early topic of the video: picking the right font. We’ll state the obvious: when a simple community association has to have a rules tracking system, it has too many rules. The board also approved a motion to hire a new collection agency, Debt Recovery Bureau, to try to collect old LHEUC debts on a contingency basis. According to Ray Sohl, these debts are outside the 3 year statute of limitations, and 1 firm has already tried a similar approach and given up after about 2 months.

On a positive note, director Steve Locke brought up negative communications relating to architectural compliance during the Committee & Task Force Reports. He was critical of his own experience and said the board needed to find a “much more neighborly way of going about things.” He thought “a little conversation would have gone a long way.” Perhaps his wife Deborah is working with him to try to develop a “kindler, gentler” side rather than the pseudo-tough guy tactics he displayed in our Keep It Over Here Punk video. Imagine: one LHCC director thinks “a little conversation” with an adversary could go “a long way.” Believable? Enduring? Let’s wait and see.

In earlier meetings, the board concluded that LHCC lacked the money to install guard rails, a safety issue, but evidently the money is there for the GM to solicit proposals to improve the acoustics at the clubhouse. Safety, no. Better acoustics for board members to hear themselves talk, yes.

The biggest topic of the night: re-financing the clubhouse loan. GM Ray Sohl started the discussion by stating that the “Board of directors has expressed an interest in re-collateralizing the existing clubhouse loan.” Oddly, there’s no expression of such interest during open meetings. Since the board voted on a motion to direct the GM to get bids on changes to the clubhouse acoustics, why is there no approved motion to direct the GM to investigate refinancing the clubhouse? This is just more evidence of the backroom discussions that Wayne Poyer denied the existence of when questioned by Bill Masters at the February Round Table.

In a sometimes heated debate, the board decided what to do about the fact that it pledged common assets without first obtaining 67% approval of the membership. To those who say the board never violates LHCC’s governing documents, this is just 1 example. The board acknowledged it didn’t follow LHCC’s governing documents on one of the largest transactions in Lake Holiday’s history. Jo-anne Barnard expressed the view that had she been given a chance to vote to incur a big mortgage to remodel the clubhouse, she would have chosen not to do so.

According to some board members, to fix things would require:

  • pledging over 90 LHCC-owned lots
  • paying $18,000 in closing costs
  • paying an extra $1400 per month for 5 years
  • putting a bank hold on $150,000-$200,000 of LHCC deposits for 5 years

The hold would prevent LHCC from using the money. The board’s fix relies on an artificial distinction between “common area” and “common property.” Mortgaging the clubhouse without member approval was wrong because the clubhouse is “common area,” but mortgaging 91 lots without member approval is acceptable because these lots, according to the board, are something entirely different – “common property.” The extended debate is covered in a total of 9 parts, the first 8 of which include the discussion and the last of which includes the final vote.

Several directors expressed the view that the fix was expensive at a time when money is tight and the damage from violating LHCC’s governing documents can’t be undone. The decision: put the issue to retroactively approve pledging common assets to a member vote (which will almost certainly fail, as Poyer himself acknowledged), and if it fails, to enter into the refinancing, probably in early 2009. Martel asked that the record reflect that this decision to refinance is a breach of directors’ fiduciary responsibility, and when Poyer objected to the minutes reflecting Martel’s comments, he withdrew them. Not to worry, John Martel. The record of your inability or unwillingness to stick to your position is amply reflected on YouTube.

We extend our continued thanks to Bill Masters for his unflinching efforts to let property owners monitor the conduct of LHCC’s board. Despite the board’s talk of openness, they blocked Masters’ videographer from the boardroom on the grounds that he wasn’t an LHCC member. Property owners should be deeply troubled by a board that blocks openness and at the same time denies it is doing such blocking.

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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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We Probably Will Not Meet That

Back in April of 2007, we wrote about the contingent payments that LHCC might receive from Aqua Virginia. These payments made it on to LHCC’s 2006 financial statements, audited by Kositzka Wicks & Co of Alexandria. They made it on in a big way – in the amount of $794,213. In our April post, Dear Mike Kilmer, we criticized allowing contingent gains that might never be received to be recorded on financial statements. We expressed the view that recording contingent gains was inconsistent with the accounting principle of conservatism and inconsistent with FAS No. 5. Despite this criticism, the only response we received was from Mike Kilmer, which was really no response at all. Through LHCC’s 11/30/07 Balance Sheet, the most recent one we have available as of this writing, the contingent gain remains on the books.

We quote from Kositzka Wicks’ 2006 audit letter:

…we conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made the Association…

2007 is now in the history books, and we don’t think any check is coming from Aqua Virginia for 2007′s contingent payment. Let’s forget what actually took place and consider only the reasonableness of the estimates provided by LHCC.

In our earlier post, we provided a variety of readily available data to show that no reasonable estimate would predict the contingent payments would be received for the next several years. In fact, Aqua Virginia’s publicly available SCC filings from February 2007 show that their accounting entries do not record these contingent payments on their financial statements. If Aqua Virginia’s auditors believed there was a reasonable expectation that these contingent payments would be made, wouldn’t they be recorded on Aqua Virginia’s books?

Did LHCC give its auditors complete and accurate information?

In February, Wayne Poyer told the auditors in his management representation letter:

There are no estimates that may be subject to a material change in the near term that have not been properly disclosed in the financial statements. We understand that near term means the period within one year of the date of the financial statements.

Then, in July Lake Holiday homeowner Bill Masters raised the issue of collecting the contingent payments at a public meeting. Wayne Poyer openly told members:

Mr. Masters criticizes the $76,000 which Aqua America will return to the association, assuming we meet a certain number of hookups. And he’s right about that, that’s part of the contract. He’s also right that during this terrible market downturn we’ve got, we probably won’t meet that.

Here’s an actual audio recording of Wayne Poyer’s remarks:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

We. Probably. Won’t. Meet. That.

Evidently, Wayne Poyer convinced the auditors on February 26th that the Aqua Virginia contingent payments would be received. Then he flip-flopped when speaking to members – a little more than 4 months after his representation to the auditors. That seems to fall within the near term time frame, and not getting the money seems to be material.

Maybe not collecting the early year payments that make up the $794,213 is not a “material change” to Wayne Poyer.

Unfortunately, LHCC’s representations to its auditors also raise other questions. Wayne Poyer informed the auditors that “…as of February 26, 2007…there are no liens or encumbrances on such assets nor has any asset been pledged.” Really? Does the $750,000 Wachovia note executed on February 2, 2007 count? Does the deed of trust pledging LHCC real estate count? Those documents are part of the balloon note that Wayne Poyer and John Martel signed to refurbish the clubhouse. Both the loan documents pledging assets and the letter to auditors claiming there were no assets pledged were signed by the same person – Wayne Poyer.

These are simple and straightforward representations to LHCC’s own auditors. Why aren’t they accurate?

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2007 Year In Review

Update: In response to feedback, we’ve adjusted the audio track and added a break of a few seconds about halfway through the video.

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A Culture of Conformity

LHCC’s board of directors suffers from a culture of conformity. This culture uses irrational pressure to produce what some board members incorrectly call a “consensus,” which is its way of describing unanimity, possibly achieved by surrender on matters of principle.

The discussion of a proposal for the dam inspection at the November 26th meeting demonstrates all of this and more. On November 12th, LHCC approved its 2008 budget. In an ironic twist, former board member Lou Einstman persuaded Wayne Poyer that the approval on 11/12 would be subject to challenge on the grounds that that day was a legal holiday. As a result, just 20 minutes before the dam inspection discussion, the board re-approved the 2008 budget.

LHCC’s directors budgeted $3,000 for the 2008 dam inspection. This was a drop from the $5,000 budgeted in 2007, and the $5,100 budgeted in 2006. LHCC actually spent over $4,823 in 2006 for the dam inspection (see account 6339 on page 2) and over $1,439 through 9/30/2007. Therefore, when we consider that LHCC’s own Treasurer, John Martel, asks other board members what LHCC spent on this item in previous years, we have to wonder how carefully the 2008 budget was prepared. The proposal considered by the board on November 26th was for approximately $5800, nearly two times the amount budgeted just a few weeks earlier. It took just a couple of minutes to gather the actual expenses from financial reports that have been available on our website for months, something we’re sure regular site visitor John Martel would know.

Our present focus is not what the budgeted amount for the 2008 dam inspection should be or what is a reasonable amount to spend. Rather, we want to highlight the intense pressure put on some LHCC board members to conform, to support a decision that appears to have already been made. In less than 15 seconds after this tab was announced, a vote to approve this expense was underway. This speed is not the result of any editing trick. When you watch the video, you will hear John Martel repeat several times “I want to discuss it” after a vote on the issue has already been called. Several directors responded by giggling like schoolchildren. The speed with which this vote was called and the initial response to Martel suggests that board members anticipated Martel’s desire to discuss the issue and attempted to quash that discussion by rushing the vote.

Martel said that the $5800 proposal before the board “seems to me to be high….” He pointed out that the company slated to perform the dam inspection is expected to do significant other dam-related work in 2008, and wondered if LHCC could negotiate a package deal. Martel reminded the board that the budget they approved contained only $3000 for this expense. Dave Buermeyer supported Martel’s concerns and expressed the view that several line items in the proposal seem redundant in light of work that LHCC has already done or is expected to do in the near future.

For John Martel, the sticking point was the fact that this proposal’s cost is a significant deviation from the budget, particularly when the budget was so recently approved. Martel expressed his voting intent:

Again, the work has to be done. They’re the right people to do it. But since the budget for next year only has $3000 in it, I cannot in good faith vote for it.

We must remember that in the effort to rush this matter to a vote, every other director except Martel supported approving this $5800 expense. Martel himself pointed this out, recognizing that he alone would oppose this. He continued:

I just can’t vote for it. That’s all. It doesn’t have to be unanimous. … To me it’s a matter of principle. It’s a question of voting for something that isn’t in the budget. I cannot do it.

A matter of principle. And that’s when Martel is attacked by Lake Holiday’s vicious culture of conformity. Wayne Poyer rebuked Martel because he “cannot agree to accept an expense that is absolutely mandatory for the continuity of this association and the community.”

Audience member and former board member Lou Einstman also went after Martel by suggesting his refusal to vote in favor of this expense would mean that LHCC will “breach the dam and we’ll have an empty hole where the lake sits.” Einstman, towing the party line, was allowed to speak outside of open forum without reprimand from any board member, a privilege we doubt would be afforded to a board critic. Both Wayne Poyer and Lou Einstman engaged in scare tactics in an attempt to coerce Martel to vote their way. It’s an absolute certainty that Martel’s vote against this proposal would not result in a breach of the dam, because Martel and everyone else in the room already knew that Martel couldn’t block acceptance of the proposal. Moreover, while inspections are certainly important, delaying an inspection to get a better price does not mean the dam will be breached or that the “continuity of this association” is imperiled. We also doubt that Martel was attempting to delay the dam inspection indefinitely.

The scare tactics employed by Poyer and Einstman are strikingly similar to those used by Chris Allison in his February 2006 letter to members. At that time Chris Allison suggested that unless higher utility rates were put in effect, property values would be at “very serious risk.” He suggested that without higher utility rates, the ability of Lake Holiday homeowners to “get water from our faucets, and flush our toilet [sic]” would be at risk. A little more than 2 weeks after Chris Allison made those outrageous statements, the VA SCC ruled that LHEUC’s rate increase and rule change was “defective and should be given no effect.” LHEUC was ordered to refund the overcharges. In October, 2006 LHEUC reported that it produced profits of $65,459 through the 9 months ending 9/30/06 without the rate increase. Both the Chris Allison attack letter and the attack on Martel involve crazy predictions of disastrous outcomes to get people to conform.

At the November 26th meeting, it appeared that the scare tactics of Poyer and Einstman would not persuade Martel. So director Pat Shields tried a new tack: Shields explained that Poyer was really just trying to build a “consensus.” What Shields meant by his use of the word “consensus” was unanimity, because allowing for Martel’s sole negative vote, the vote would have been 9-1. Consensus denotes the opinion of the majority or the general agreement of a group, not unanimity. Even if 2 other directors joined Martel (a very unlikely event), a consensus had already been reached, and Shields knew that. On a practical level, the board wasted time using scare tactics to transform consensus into unanimity.

For most of the discussion, it appeared that Martel would hold firm and cast a negative vote on a topic that for him was a “matter of principle.” But principles weakly held have a way of collapsing. Instead, Martel opted to abstain from voting, rather than vote against the measure.

Martel’s abstention should not escape notice. In its “To Vote or Not to Vote Overview,” the National Conference on State Legislatures states that when a policymaker abstains from voting, he “disenfranchises” the voters that elected him. The NCSL points out that abstention may be necessary for policy makers “when their personal interests conflict with their public duties.” The NCSL includes references to Virginia statutes that govern rules for state legislators, and the triggering event for abstaining is having a personal interest in the matter. What is Martel’s personal interest in a vote on a dam inspection? If he has no personal interest, is he using an abstention as a way to avoid casting a negative vote?

We suspect that LHCC’s minutes of the 11/26 meeting will reflect only the motion and the final vote, from which Martel abstained. We doubt the minutes will include the attempts at intellectual coercion and how LHCC Treasurer John Martel elected to disenfranchise the people that elected him instead of standing strong on what he said he considered a matter of principle.

How true the thought, actions speak louder than words.

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