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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Jill Holtzman Vogel and SB 1489: The Sequel To A Flop

Most sequels are flops. That’s why good actors usually stay clear of them.

In June 2008, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27), supported by Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-35) and Del. Beverly Sherwood (R-29), introduced SB 6016, a bill that would have allowed re-writing property owners’ deeds without their consent. For very good reasons, that bill failed to become law.

At the 2009 session of the Virginia legislature that began on Wednesday, January 14th, Vogel returned with her sequel: SB 1489. As first introduced by Vogel, SB 1489 differs from SB 6016 by only 5 words. It’s noteworthy that while Saslaw and Sherwood publicly attached their names to last year’s SB 6016, Vogel alone is championing this year’s SB 1489.

SB 1489 is a bad bill. It’s a naked attempt by Vogel to interfere in active litigation, a point made clear by the headline posted on Vogel’s own website: “Lake Holiday suit spawns legislation….” (Like most of the images on our site, click on the image itself to get a better view.) It’s also unconstitutional on both state and federal grounds, because it attempts to retroactively change vested property rights.

The prospect that a property deed can be rewritten over the objection of owners introduces a degree of uncertainty for any buyer contemplating a purchase in a community affected by Vogel’s bill. Who would ever buy a property in such a community, knowing that the deed governing that property could be re-written? Vogel’s bill allows “in whole or in part, any provision of a declaration” to be changed. Current upheaval in the financial markets has made clear one thing: uncertainty destroys value. No buyer would touch any property in a community affected by Vogel’s bill because of the risk that the property deed could be changed in unforeseen and undesirable ways. The irony: if Vogel’s bill passes, it will destroy the property values of tens of thousands of Virginians, including those at Lake Holiday. Vogel may not devote a lot of thought to the impact on the property owners she destroys as she contemplates her move to a $5.5 million mansion. When a buyer spends that kind of money, changing “any provision” of the property deed isn’t tolerated.

It’s no surprise that Vogel’s bill will have significant unintended consequences on tens of thousands of Virginians, consequences that Vogel lacks the expertise to properly evaluate. By her own admission, she’s not an expert on property law. She also has a record of distorting the facts in a desperate attempt to make her case. For example, the articles on Vogel’s own website refer to her claiming there are “more than 9,100 property owners associations across Virginia….” According to Virginia’s own Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, there are only 3148. One doesn’t command very much knowledge in the field of Virginia property associations when one doesn’t even know how many of them actually exist. If Vogel had a basis to claim there are more than 9100 associations that would be impacted by her proposed legislation, that is all the more reason why her changes should be carefully studied rather than hastily enacted into law.

Vogel’s own website refers to her observing that:

similar problems regarding the language in the act are likely to raise issues with each of the other 9,111 property owners’ associations throughout the state.

In the entire history of Virginia’s POA Act since it was first enacted in 1989, there have been only 3 Virginia Supreme Court cases that challenged whether the Act applied to a homeowners’ association, and 2 of those cases involved the same community. Vogel’s notion that the state is full of “similar problems” is a distortion that isn’t supported by almost 20 years of legislative and judicial history.

The most blatant of Vogel’s distortions – one she made to her own colleagues in the Senate – is her false claim that plaintiffs support her effort:

I explained that some of the plaintiffs [in the lawsuit against Lake Holiday Country Club Inc.] were overall good with it.

To be absolutely clear, the plaintiffs in the case are opposed to both of Vogel’s bills and are strongly against her effort to permit retroactively re-writing property deeds. In Vogel’s words, plaintiffs are not “overall good with it” as she falsely claimed. Through their counsel, plaintiffs in the case unambiguously communicated this strong opposition to Vogel herself. Following the original publication of Vogel’s statement, plaintiffs’ counsel demanded to Vogel that she publicly retract this obvious lie, but to date Vogel has not done so. Instead, she re-published the lie on her website.

Along with Vogel’s bad facts and distortions, in its present form SB 1489 contains an emergency clause. Since other associations aren’t storming to Richmond to fix a non-existent problem, the emergency to which Vogel refers must be that the plaintiffs in the case have filed their brief with the Virginia Supreme Court.

Curiously, Vogel’s web site includes 3 articles describing her efforts to introduce 2008’s SB 6016, but there’s no mention of that bill’s ultimate fate. SB 6016 failed to become law, a failure that took 4 days to come about.

At the June 26, 2008 meeting of Virginia’s Housing Commission, where SB 6016 met its fate, the only members of the public to speak on that bill were representatives and lawyers for the parties in the Lake Holiday case – the very case Vogel claims her bills don’t target.

One of the lawyers who argued in favor of SB 6016 at that meeting was Bob Diamond, an attorney from Reed Smith that represents Miller & Smith in the Lake Holiday lawsuit. Diamond is a member of the Presidents Club of the Community Associations Institute. Diamond has played an important role in pushing for the legislation Vogel has introduced. One wonders if Diamond is using his position to claim to have identified a non-existent problem and propose a fix solely to advance the interest of his client. His client is a party in the very lawsuit Vogel’s legislation targets.

If the history of sequels is any guide, the future doesn’t bode well for Jill Vogel and her SB 1489. As Entertainment Weekly observed on the subject of sequels:

…[S]ome are so ill-conceived, so cynically calculated, and so aggressively inept that they need to be called out and held accountable in the public square.

Every property owner in Virginia needs to work hard to see that Vogel’s sequel suffers a defeat more swift and resounding than her failed original.

To track the outcome of SB 1489, visit Virginia’s LIS System. To see the reactions of other Virginians, check out Richmond Sunlight.

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Jill Holtzman Vogel’s VA POA Act Amendment Is Tabled

Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel’s (R-27) emergency effort to amend Virginia’s Property Owners’ Association Act has been tabled for the special session still going on in Richmond. Her bill, SB6016 (our link is to a PDF redlined version of her bill provided to us by her office), Virginia Property Owners Association Act; reformation of declarations, was originally introduced in the Senate on Monday 6/23, where it was quickly referred to the Committee on General Laws and Technology. At a vote of that committee on Tuesday, the bill was reported out, or sent to the full senate. On Wednesday 6/25, the first vote on the measure in the full senate failed, but after a recess, a second attempt narrowly approved the measure by a single vote.

Following approval in the Senate, SB 6016 made its way to the House of Delegates, where it ended up in the Committee on General Laws. The next stop: the Housing Commission. And that’s where it stopped. Both we and others raised a number of concerns about the proposed legislation, perhaps the biggest of which was a serious question of constitutionality at the state and federal levels. The Housing Commission unanimously decided to table the bill for the remainder of this special session.

According to the Winchester Star, “Vogel repeatedly has stated that her bill is not related to an ongoing lawsuit against Lake Holiday Country Club Inc.” She continues to maintain this position. Bob Diamond, an attorney from Reed Smith representing Miller & Smith, and an attorney from Rees Broome, who happens to represent LHCC, were among the very few attendees commenting to the commission. Given their Tyson’s Corner offices are about 2 hours from Richmond, it’s an odd coincidence that attorneys for 2 defendants in a lawsuit happen to be about the only ones showing up to champion a bill that its chief senate patron said is “not related” to that lawsuit.

Start to nothing in 4 days. The legislative process is pretty quick in a special session.

We’ll discuss this further in due course.

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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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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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Suzy Marcus, Silent Sitter

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, was absent from the December 27th meeting. Rick was the two-time defending champion (if that’s the right phrase) in our Silent Sitter contest. In fact, up to this point, Rick has won every Silent Sitter award we’ve given, since we’ve only given 2. We’re not sure if he was busy or has a strong sense of fair play that required him to give another director the chance to win the Silent Sitter award.

Given a fair chance, somebody other than Rick Bleck did win our Silent Sitter award. That person is Suzy Marcus. Congratulations, Suzy! You’re our Silent Sitter for the December 27th meeting. Ever since we conceived copied the idea for the Silent Sitter award, we just knew that as long as she showed up, Suzy Marcus would put in a strong showing. The video clip Oops We Goofed (also linked in our post Twenty Certified Letters Later… and on our Videos page) pretty much includes Suzy Marcus’s entire contribution at a meeting that was well over 2 hours in length. In other words, if you don’t count silence, she didn’t contribute very much. When you consider that board members get their board books in advance of the meeting so they can show up ready and prepared to contribute, there’s simply no excuse for that much silence.

Suzy was absent from the 11/26 board meeting, at which she was responsible for presenting an “Open Discussion on Realtor Outreach.” Presumably, she was planning to lead a discussion of ways to help market the Lake Holiday community to real estate agents. When she was absent in November, this topic was moved to December. Perhaps she forgot about her own agenda item. We didn’t. Any benefits from a realtor outreach have now been delayed for 2 months. Sellers may not take kindly to a board that talks tough about a challenging real estate market but when it’s time for action only procrastinates. Chalk it up to having Silent Sitters on the board.

We do have sympathy for Rick Bleck, Suzy Marcus, and every future Silent Sitter. It’s very difficult to break out of the Silent Sitter role, as our video Only 3 For the DEC demonstrates. The DEC is LHCC’s Development Executive Committee, and this committee is where the important stuff happens. As Wayne Poyer explained in the following video, the DEC manages the relationship with Miller & Smith, the biggest developer at Lake Holiday. The DEC also handled the initial relationship with potential golf course purchasers and developed the Utility Extension Program (UEP). In other words, it plays a lead role in critical development issues at Lake Holiday before these issues ever reach the board.

After Wayne Poyer described the DEC at the board’s November organizational meeting, a number of directors jumped at the chance to serve on this important committee. Directors Noel O’Brien and Robin Pedlar, two directors who could challenge for a Silent Sitter award in any given month, wanted to serve. But alas, after offering the tease of what the DEC got to work on, Wayne Poyer explained that there are only 3 seats on the DEC. Without further explanation, these potential Silent Sitters who wanted to contribute just had to understand that Wayne Poyer, John Martel, and Dave Buermeyer would take over the DEC. Is it unusual that 3 men appear to just assume they should dominate this committee and 2 women appear to just understand that this committee is not for them?

Why aren’t Noel O’Brien and Robin Pedlar on the DEC?

We’re reminded of LeeAnn Stevens’ comments about former LHCC President Chris Allison’s attitude toward women:

Chris [Allison] has a real problem with women. We don’t have brains. Our opinions don’t matter. He’s not going to give her the time of day.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Silent Sitters like Suzy Marcus and Rick Bleck have to overcome more than any general reluctance to contribute. They’re fighting against a highly concentrated leadership that blocks them from tackling important tasks.

As much as board members may claim to dislike our Silent Sitter award, the powerful few cherish the existence of Silent Sitters like Suzy Marcus.

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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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