It’s Not Our Problem Anymore

Frustrated by utility problems and LHCC’s changing tune on its responsibility to resolve them? That’s no surprise in light of some recent comments by board members. After cashing the check from the utility sale, without notice or explanation LHCC’s directors seem to have withdrawn their commitment to support homeowners having problems with utility service.

On May 20, 2006 LHCC held a meeting at the Reynolds Store Fire House to try to sell property owners on approving new governing documents. Then LHCC President Chris Allison and current President Wayne Poyer were in attendance, along with then GM Dave Ingegneri.

Utility issues were raised by a number of owners at that meeting. LHCC and Aqua Virginia filed their petition to sell LHEUC’s assets to Aqua Virginia just 3 months before, and owners were concerned about the consequences of selling the Utility. Before the sale was approved by the SCC, Aqua Virginia was operating LHEUC for LHCC, so property owners got a glimpse into how Aqua would behave as the new utility owner.

Homeowner Duran Field described a problem he had with a lift station near his home. He told Chris Allison that after an initial response from Aqua Virginia, he called 7 more times and never received a single return call. He ultimately had to ask GM Dave Ingegneri to intervene to get the problem resolved.

Field, whose voice is heard first on the audio clip, summarized his experience:

I’m not saying that the long term consequences of selling to Aqua are good or bad. Short term, I’m not that impressed.

Field justifiably wondered about the impact a loss of control would have on utility customer service. At the end of the clip, then LHCC President Chris Allison soothed Field’s concern:

You’ll still call Dave Ingegneri. You will still call Dave Ingegneri. Those people are going to have to be responsive to us.

The meaning of Chris Allison’s comment is crystal clear, especially since he repeated it twice. Even after the utility sale, the Lake Holiday GM, who reports to the board, will be the point of contact for utility issues; the sale would not result in a loss of control because the Lake Holiday GM, paid by property owners, would insure that “those people” (i. e., Aqua Virginia) would be responsive.

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Field and everyone else in the room could be comforted by Chris Allison’s tough talk. Or could they?

Fast forward to November, 2007. Much had changed. By this point, LHCC had closed its sale of LHEUC’s assets to Aqua Virginia. It had deposited the proceeds of $1.16 million in its bank account, and it was well on its way to spending most or all of that money. Dave Ingegneri resigned as GM in June of 2006. Ray Sohl took his place that October. Chris Allison was no longer President, having been replaced by Wayne Poyer, who as an LHCC director listened to Chris Allison’s May 2006 comments without objection.

But one thing had not changed: utility troubles were still a top concern for property owners in late 2007.

The video clip is part of a discussion of John Martel’s proposal to hold board workshops from the November 26th board meeting. Board member Jo-anne Barnard, formerly of the US Patent Office, described her thoughts on Martel’s proposal. During her remarks, she pointed out that the information section of the board book included “a lot of complaints about the water company.” That water company is now Aqua Virginia.

Did Wayne Poyer tell Jo-anne Barnard that complaining utility customers should call Ray Sohl at 540-888-3549 x 104 or email him at gm@lakeholidaycc.org?

Of course not. The check cleared. The representations that LHCC board members made to owners before the sale was approved to discourage objections to the transfer were now meaningless. Those representations have been long since forgotten. Owners that remember these commitments made by board members aren’t sticking to the board’s positive agenda.

So what exactly did Wayne Poyer tell Barnard? He said “it’s not our problem anymore.”

Jo-anne Barnard made no attempt to correct Wayne Poyer or recommend a different approach to addressing utility problems. The complaints mentioned by Barnard are now filed away in a tab of board members’ board books, but they are no longer automatically part of the open discussion at board meetings. Why not conceal the complaints when revealing them would only risk greater exposure of the broken promise?

LHCC board members have consistently told property owners one story to overcome objections and manufactured a different, opposite story later. Another example of this behavior occurred in the Utility sale itself. In the August 2000 President’s Report Frank Heisey wrote to property owners that “selling of the utility company would require a 2/3 majority vote of the eligible membership….” Then, when we challenged the Utility sale in court unless it was approved by property owners, Frank Heisey and LHCC filed a response with the court that said that they “deny that the sale requires a vote of the members….” No requirements changed, and no mention was made in court of the discarded earlier statement of what was required.

This conduct is not some recent discovery. We’ve covered this before in our post Deliberate Behind the Scenes Manipulation of Information, the title of which is a direct quote from former LHCC President and current director Pat Shields. Why is this pattern of behavior repeated year after year? Lake Holiday property owners don’t hold their leaders accountable for the flip-flopping.

Changing commitments and concealing complaints to deny a problem. That is the problem of LHCC’s leaders.

The problem won’t go away until owners wake up to the flip-flopping, publicly acknowledge it goes on, and take control of their community away from double-talkers.

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