Why I Support the Recall…

When we moved to Sudden Valley five years ago, things were far from perfect, but there was a great deal that I now realize we took for granted. My concerns with the executive committee on this board include not only their inability to make progress on legacy issues they inherited, but also the sharp decline that I have observed since we moved here–despite dues remaining the same–and the near total lack of communication with members regarding everything from critical emergency information to updates about our damaged infrastructure.

A recall is not a small choice. It is not an act of political revenge, or an appropriate mechanism to invoke over a simple disagreement over politics. But the executive committee has demonstrated time and time again a gross inability to keep even the most basic functions in our community up and running and has habitually made rash and costly decisions without allowing for community input–at a certain point, enough is enough. Below is a (non-comprehensive) list of my concerns.

In years past, we had a fully-staffed maintenance department that performed tasks like street sweeping, de-icing, and downed tree removal consistently and frequently. Since this executive committee has taken power, these basic, necessary services that keep our roads safe and passable have been either ignored entirely or are cared for only after aggressive pressure from the community. It’s wonderful that our streets are finally going to be swept, but it has been at least six months since they last were, and the amount of debris and gravel that has accumulated has made them considerably more dangerous, especially for pedestrians in the meantime, and there is no way to know whether this sweep event is a one-off or will occur again when needed–but past performance is not encouraging.

Additionally, plenty of damage from the flood event this past November has yet to be repaired, and I have not observed any major road repair projects since this executive committee has taken power, even though there were several in prior years, and these members championed road repair as one of their primary campaign promises.

Additionally there is major damage to the El Agave kitchen, neither of our saunas are up and running, our gymnasium has water damage as well, and the entrance to Gate 28 has gone from heavily damaged to impassible after the flooding.

Plenty of those are legacy issues that existed far before this executive committee took power, but little to no progress has been made on any of these issues, despite ample time to do so, and updates have been brief and sporadic at best.

Instead of taking action, this board devotes endless energy into berating prior boards and complaining. We purchased a home built in the 1970’s. It has plenty of legacy issues that are not our fault. However we chose to purchase it, knowing there may be issues, and I can assure you, complaining about past owners is an utter waste of time–the same is true for these board members. What is done is done; their job is not to complain but to assess the situation, formulate a plan, and implement that plan. If that process has occurred, it certainly has not been communicated to the membership.

When we moved here, the community was thriving–our calendar was packed with events, there were all sorts of clubs and activities that were advertised on our calendar and promoted in our e-blasts. This fostered a huge sense of community.

Additionally, members teamed up to start a food pantry, and blessing boxes filled with food were encouraged to support neighbors going through a hard time.

We had multiple committees working for the betterment of our shared resources, in particular the Parks and Trails Committee, which was making major strides with improvements to our parks and trails.

Opportunities to volunteer to improve our community were prolific and members took advantage of them.

This executive committee disbanded nearly all committees, including the Parks and Trails committee, leaving their projects (which were budgeted for) unfinished. They seized control of the food pantry, then shut it down, and have dedicated an absurd amount of their time in meetings to complaining about the Blessing Boxes. No events are shared on the calendar and on the rare occasion that e-Blasts are sent, they no longer contain information about community activities, as this executive committee somehow perceived it as “free advertising.”

These actions have been to the extreme detriment of the sense of community, and were entirely unjustified–it is one thing not to make forward progress, but to actively destroy what already existed is unacceptable.

When we first moved here, there was a multitude of ways to obtain information: the website was updated regularly, e-blasts were frequent, and social media sites were updated with both newsworthy items, and emergency information. Attending a board meeting was absolutely not necessary in order to have an understanding of what the board was doing and what was happening in the community.

This executive committee has all but stopped e-blasts (and even when they are sent, they often lack pertinent information); they no longer update the website or social media with emergency information about road closures or damage in a timely fashion, and major decisions–like purchasing the Sunmark property–are made with minimal notice to the community (more on that later). The website no longer has accurate contact information for staff members, and closure signs in the offices still direct residents to contact a staff member who left over a year ago.

Even when members do have contact information for the association–for example e-mail addresses for the BOD and the GM–responses are extremely rare, and members with active concerns are left without any avenue for action.

I have found the only way to get any information is to attend the–still remote–meetings, but even then, they leave little time for member comment, spend a shocking amount of time in closed session (often going into closed session for an undeclared amount of time prior to allowing member comments), and when members do get the rare opportunity to speak, they are met with openly hostile, rude, sarcastic non-answers from the board–who is supposedly there to represent them.

Once again, without substantial member input, the executive committee voted not only to rescind the transfer fee, but also to take on the onerous task of refunding every transfer fee ever collected–which entails tracking down people who may no longer live here, determining whether the buyer or seller paid the fee, and then providing an opportunity for the fee to be return. Full disclosure: we paid the transfer fee and will get a refund, if this ever takes place, but I oppose the refund and removal of the fee wholeheartedly. But as I said initially–a differing political view is not valid cause for a recall.

It’s not simply a matter of disagreement about the policy, it is the fact that members of the executive committee claimed they had no choice but to take this action because the fee was “illegal,” despite the fact that a lengthy attorney opinion was released clearly indicating that the fee was not illegal, and the choice was purely a “business decision.” In addition to lying, this board promptly removed that legal statement–the statement that was made prior to the decision–and had the attorney release a second opinion, months after the decision was made, which still does not state that the fee was illegal, but is slightly less damning than the original statement. This is extremely manipulative at best, and overly lying to the community at worst, and unacceptable in either case.

Additionally, though months have passed since this decision was made, there has been no plan discussed to replenish the vital emergency funds–even though we have major repairs, in particular the damage to Gate 28–already in need of funding.

Moreover, the full cost and timeline for issuing the refund still is not clear, though it is certainly to be costly and slow.

Again, full disclosure: this is an issue that is important to me. However my issue is not even simply that this executive board has failed to take additional action in this area, it is that this is yet another example of this board actively dismantling existing services–which are either already budgeted for, or were without additional cost to our community.

We used to have a Firewise service in the spring, in which our maintenance staff would clear out dead branches and trees from our green spaces, and also collect fallen limbs from households–since not everyone is able to transport this kind of yard waste themselves. This is already in the budget–and has been since this executive committee took power, meaning, yes, we are all paying for this service right now–yet it has been years since it has been done, and no plans have been announced for it this year.

Perhaps more troublesome: when I moved here we had an active Emergency Planning Committee which focused on community-wide emergency preparations and coordinated with local emergency agencies for all sorts of disasters. But like the Parks and Trails Committee, despite the fact that this was a volunteer-run organization–with capable, talented, and very active volunteers, this executive committee disbanded it, again, without any sort of back-up plan.

Additionally, a member of this executive committee mocked me when I asked about the emergency alert text system–the sort of system that has proven to be a literal life saver in other areas during fires and other dangerous emergencies. Again, this was not a request for something new; we had an emergency text system before this executive board came to power, and it actually worked perfectly a couple of years ago when there was a fire at AM/PM beach. It was not–and does not need to be–used excessively, but was an asset in a high-fire-risk community, that this executive board has decided to get rid of–again, without community input.

Since this executive board has taken power, we have lost seasoned, competent, reliable employees who dedicated years–decades even–to this community. To lose staff is bad enough, but this board has had the highest turnover I have ever witnessed, anywhere, for any type of organization, and is unable to keep even the most vital positions–like our maintenance crew–staffed.

Staff used to be accessible to members, but that is no longer the case under this executive committee, and punitive measures were taken towards staff and members when a group of members pooled money together to buy gift cards to show appreciation for our brand new maintenance crew working all through Christmas to try to keep our streets as safe as possible.

This committee tries to blame these staffing issues on COVID and “the economy,” but there are plenty of HOA’s that have similar staffing needs and are not experiencing what we are–the turnover is due to mismanagement.

A hallmark of this executive committee’s campaign was that dues were too high and services were too few–yet dues have not decreased under their leadership, despite the fact that services absolutely have decreased, plenty of items in the budget are not actually happening, and we are consistently grossly understaffed (and therefore not paying staff where there are vacancies). Personally, I think our dues are more than reasonable–at least they were when we were getting everything budgeted for, though we no longer are–but the board was elected in large part because of their claims of wasteful spending and that they would slash dues, yet no mention has been made of this since they have taken control.

This was the final straw for me. This purchase was made nearly in secret. No details were released to the community when it was being considered, despite the fact that this lot and building has been on the market for years without interest–this was not a decision that needed to be made quickly.

Membership was given minimal notice for their meeting to make the purchase–and the meeting was not at a regularly scheduled time, so even members who typically go out of their way to attend all board meetings might not have had adequate time to make plans necessary to attend.

In the meeting, there was initially almost no time allotted to member comments; more time was allotted only after another member of the board (not subject to this recall) requested it, and even then, this additional comment period was scheduled after the vote, rather than before.

This executive committee not only made no attempt to determine whether the community actually wanted this massive purchase, but they intentionally carried out the process with as little notice and as little community input as possible.

This purchase was made without releasing the property inspection to the members and without any appraisal (again, despite the fact that the lot has been listed for sale for years, currently in a very hot market, with absolutely no takers–which is a pretty big red flag that the price might not be right).

During the meeting, the board explicitly stated that they had no plan for the building–which makes the actual budget impossible to ascertain, and also demonstrates a level of irresponsibility that is frankly shocking. I cannot fathom making a $1.5 million purchase on a whim, without even knowing what I was going to do with it.

But despite all of this, and despite the fact that the community input they did get was overwhelmingly opposed to the purchase, and despite the fact that we have major repairs to existing amenities that have yet to be completed, and despite the fact that this executive committee just single-handedly depleted our emergency reserve fund; somehow they still felt that spending $1.5million of our dollars was ok, and with minimal (public) discussion, it was done.

As I said, political disagreements are just that, and not justification for a recall. I do not support the recall because I disagree with the executive committee; I support the recall because during their tenure they have demonstrated gross incompetence, unethical behavior, destroyed our existing assets, and acted in secrecy without any concern for what the community actually wants. I support this recall wholeheartedly, and I encourage anyone who cares about this community to do the same.

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