November 2013 Budget Meeting
If the Board does not like these minutes, they can issue their own and it will gladly be published on this website. The Board practice has been to not document what occurs at these public meetings other than to record their approval of their redacted budgets.
- The Board failed to answer or even acknowledge questions submitted before the meeting within by the requested time.
- Association Fees are not rising from $215 / month
- The Reserve Plan is not being used to plan longterm repairs; no alternate plan was presented.
- The information presented was not the Corporate Budget in total for the Association; redacted were all expenditures planned from the Reserve Funds and by Special Assessments
- The Board announced they were planning a onetime assessment of $5,000 for stucco repairs (hypothetical estimate given at the meeting by the Treasurer). The Associa Mid-Atlantic community manager has since stated it could be $7,000 per homeowner
- Holly Setlzer, Esq. attended the meeting in it's entirety (not for free); her reason to be there was not clear but one Board member stated that when the Board "feels" threatened, they can make such expenditures on the Association's behalf.
- The Board voted to Approve the redacted and partial budget; approval was unanimous.
2 The Details
While the Board restrained themselves from making derogatory and slanderous remarks when homeowners asked questions, they failed to conduct themselves with decorum, talking over homeowners who were attempting to ask questions and failing to fully answer questions they found awkward. In answering the written questions submitted before the meeting, the Treasurer made an inaccurate statement about the questions received. The Board simply ignored a number of questions submitted that they found uncomfortable with reference to execution of their fiduciary responsibilities, pretending they never received the questions. An email sent by the Board President and forwarded to others in the community clearly stated that he had instructed the Board to "shut down" individual(s) asking awkward or difficult questions which would be too revealing as to the actual facts.
An example of one of the ignored questions, originally submitted in a more abstract manner, is restated more directly to facilitate the Board Members' apperception: Mr. President, Shouldn't the community understand how the decision was made to refurbish your stucco chimney (your deeded personal property) as a common expense paid by all members? Was this the most pressing repair that needed to be made? How does the Board prioritize repairs within the community? Are decisions arbitrary and capricious or worse, does one need to be a Board Member or Friends of Board Members? Please explain how everyone in the membership of the Association benefits from your newly rebuilt chimney and other enhancements which were paid for as a common element expense. Who is the primary beneficiary of this common element expense, please tell us? Assuming it is you, do you plan upon reimbursing the Association for the costs of this repair and other repairs made to your home at everyone's expense? Mr. President, How many thousands of dollars of the Association's money has been spent refurbishing your home in total by the Association over the last several years? Please tell us. Here's something you should read in context of your explanation: Title 68, Real and Personal Property, Part II Real Property, § 5314. Assessments for common expenses.. Do you think you can figure it on your own or will you need help from the Association's "General Counsel"? It's written at an eighth grade level but if you want to spend more of our association's money to defend why you feel entitled to spend the association's money on yourself, go for it. Maybe we can add it to your bill.
The Board members also might want to read up on parliamentary procedures or refer to the Board resolution of several years ago on using Robert's Rules (maybe you could start with something simple like let one person talk at a time and stay with a question until it is answered). Putting all of this aside, here are the important highlights from the meeting:
- The monthly dues are not being raised
- The Board announced they are short "hypothetically" $1,000,000 (yes, one million dollars) and will be assessing each unit owner a lump sum of approximately $5,000 (amount estimated by the Treasurer) within the next two years! This is not a joke, rather it is quite a serious matter of the homeowner associations finances and lack of disclosure! Contact the CMCA® manager, Steven C. Bickley, for more information. Since this meeting, Mr. Bickley has been quoted that the association may need closer to $1.4 million dollars ($7,000 per homeowner) or more. One might find contacting Steve to be a frustrating experience. Instead, if you are an homeowner in the association or thinking of purchasing here, demand to see the Falcon Engineering Stucco Report and the bids for the proposed work that justify this expense and proposed special assessment, you might find it more educational. It is your legal right to inspect and copy records which are of an interest to you as a homeowner and the Board has promised transparency. To date, they have refused any inspection requests of this and other information "due to extenuating circumstances" which they will not define.
- The Board stated they saved $3,000 on landscaping costs and $10,000 on trash collection by contracting with new lower cost vendors (where are the competitive bids to substantiate this, the workmanship of these new vendors is in question, but who really cares when the homeowner association is short by a million dollars or more!) It's hard to believe they even mentioned this as a "board achievement". Then again, at least one of the Board member gets her driveway specially plowed (1906 WFC evening of 12-14-2013) while the streets were being cleared by this new lower cost vendor. All other homeowners had to wait until the next day. A benefit of Board membership?
- The Board refused to state why they have not disclosed the full budget; only what they plan to spend from the Association's operating fund was presented! Where is the million dollars being spent, on what budget? What about planned expensed items being paid by the Reserve Fund? Aren't these expenses being budgeted or does the board make up what they spend from other funds as the year goes by without any intention of informing the Association members first? For homeowners who did not attend the meeting, how would they even know that what has been supplied is a redacted partial budget from what they received in the mail? One wonders if this borders on fraud; presumably the newly announced General Counsel who was present at the entire meeting and supplied with all materials has no issues with redacted budgets and lack of disclosure. But what would her colleagues think in the legal profession? Ethical Conduct? Lack of Competence? Conflict of interest given her collection business with Mid-Atlantic? One can only wonder... Does the Board really have two professional accountants, including one who ran for office by using her CPA credentials?
- The Board stated that they have had an engineering study conducted on the integrity of the homes stucco siding months ago but will not disclose the findings nor have they provided the report to the people who own the homes. Not even the newly formed "Stucco Committee" members have been offered a chance to see the report. How about disclosure to the homeowners? Are there health issues involved? Mold? Wood rot? Presumably the General Counsel has suggested non-disclosure until sections of the report are redacted, Why are the redactions being made and for whose benefit? For example, is it being done for Associa Mid-Atlantic's benefit, this management company was tasked by contract with maintaining the stucco siding. What do you have to say Board, whose interests are you protecting?
- The Board announced they are not following the long term Reserve Study Plan for maintaining the Association, joining the ranks of many other Associa-MAMC communities that also do not follow their Reserve Plans. Here's the big question: if the Board members are not following the paid experts' (licensed engineers and accountants) plan, what longterm plan is the Board using, if any?!? Certainly, no alternative long term plan was presented. Perhaps the Board is following the advice of the CMCA® manager, an individual who took a two and one half day PowerPoint training class to acquire his CMCA® credentials (High School diploma not required!). What is this the recommended Associa Mid-Atlantic Management Company way? Associa-MAMC is a licensed AAMC company which should certify that a management company has "well-trained managers who can handle the myriad of responsibilities involved in managing a community" (a designation that can be purchased for $300 and maintained at $160 / year).
- Ms Holly Setzler, Esq., was introduced at the "General Counsel" for the association by Board member Eileen McAnally. Ms McAnally stated that because the Board members are volunteers, when they feel threatened, they are entitled to have counsel present. There is a huge issue with Ms McAnally's statement; if Ms Setzler is "General Counsel for the Association, she is to serve the interests of the legal entity of the Willistown Woods II Homeowner Association Inc, (dba Willistown Knoll), not act as the attorney for board members to defend their misconduct. If the Board members require an attorney to defend themselves for their questionable actions, they should pay for their own attorney, particularly when they have not acted in good faith in reference to the law and the governing documents of the association.
- Why the Board authorized Association funds to have an attorney at the meeting, paid by the association but refused to allow Ms Setzler to answer questions of the general membership needs to be answered by the Board. Do they presume that Ms Setzler's presence their is somehow for their "protection" or exclusive benefit but should be paid by the membership? A more general question, when is Ms Setzler's involvement in homeowner association business authorized at all?
- The one question involving Ms Setzler, whether expenditures paid from the reserves such as roof replacement and stucco repairs were capital or expensed and should be disclosed prior to the Board spending the money, she would not or could not answer. Then again, she isn't an accountant but she was obviously okay with the Board presenting a redacted budget of expensed items, not disclosing the condition of the stucco requiring a million dollar expenditure (for what?), and the Board spending from the Reserve Funds without prior disclosure. BTW, Ms Setzler has been the Association's Collection Attorney for quite a number of years. And while she occasionally provided legal advice to the Association on an ad-hoc basis, she was never engaged to be the Association's General Counsel. Where is this decision in the minutes? Is there a description of Ms Setzler's responsibilities as the Willistown Woods II Homeowner Association Inc.'s General Counsel? Is Ms Setzler now on retainer? Is there a contract? Ms Setzler certainly did not object to the title given to her but this new title given to Ms Setzler is so confusing, what are the facts?
- An off-duty Willistown Policeman was hired to sit in the back of the room, perhaps to protect the homeowners from Board members who have obvious anger issues with members of the association. In the last several meetings, it has been the Board members who could not behave themselves; had any members conducted themselves in this way, the Board members would have most likely demanded they be evicted. Board members certainly appear to be happier when they don't have to communicate with the members and when they do, their handlers (management company staff and management company recommended attorney) are not far off.
- Most concerning comment of the meeting goes to a former board member from 2009-2010. This individual said from the Association Records she has retained from her Board service, she could find nothing that would indicate there was anything wrong with the Stucco. And why did she think the mason at the time was cutting out sections of Stucco siding to look for rotted wood during her term of service? And what did she think the special assessment for "rotted wood" were caused by? Did she think mice crawled inside the walls and ate the wood? Perhaps she has forgotten, it was those special assessments that were collected, never reported as income, and never used to repay the Reserve Fund as was stated to the homeowners who paid the assessments. Don't you remember, it was funds that simply disappeared from the records, remember now?
- Most revealing moment was when offered a printout of Pennsylvania Statues on homeowner association budgets, one board member flatly refused the piece of paper, not wanting to read it, engage in any intelligent dialog, or perhaps learn how to be a better board member. (Title 68, § 5303. Executive board members and officers, (b) Limitation on authority) And this is one of the persons entrusted with the future of our homeowner association on behalf of the all of the people who live here?