Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Board Meeting for December 11, 2007

Greetings -

Here are the results of last nights board meeting. There were lots of fascinating topics such as employee health benefits and property insurance deductibles, but I'll spell out at least the headlines for those who may be interested. If you want more detail, please contact me at or post a comment here.

Cindy Greengold's mother is ill so she was not present. Dr. Bettey filled in and did a great job as President last night.

1) Architectural Application Appeals Hearing - we approved a permanent cover over a barbecue that was less than the mandated set back amount. 4-0 in favor.

2) Communications and scheduled Presentations - Bryant Rossiter provided a comprehensive presentation on the activities of the "Neighbors Helping Neighbors" program which seeks to help Nellie Gail residents be prepared to help themselves and a neighbor in the event of an emergency. Be sure to step up and work with 5-7 other homes in your immediate vicinity to have enough food, water, and emergency supplies on hand and have each other's contact info to check up on and assist them in an emergency.

3) Homeowner Comments
-- Sharee - "Thanks for the work on finding horse trailer parking." Arenas and bullpens get flooded when it rains, can staff trench some channels when that happens to let them drain quicker? (Staff was directed to see if this was possible) [Note: Thanks to Bill Enholm, Dr. Bettey and the neighbors who worked out a solution to the issue of scheduling and cleaning up the arenas where jumping is done so that everyone can enjoy the arenas. This is the way we want to do things in Nellie Gail -- working it out not fighting over it]

-- Mary Kehoe - expressed great frustration that requests to staff to replace or repair dressage equipment and the footing in the arena had been ignored. Stated that she wanted to have a top notch facility so she could attract more customers for her business. [Heated discussion between Bill and Glen (GM) over why this happened and why it couldn't be addressed in open session. Since I can't share what happened in closed session I can at least tell you we made clear our views on getting things like that fixed. I did make the point in open session that perhaps we need the trainers to provide the Board reports the way the Tennis and Swim directors do so things like this don't get lost in the shuffle.]

-- Linda Mudd - Agreed with Mary Kehoe and suggested we have an Equestrian Center Manager again.

4. Action Items

-- Raise the deductible on our property insurance to $10,000 to save money on insurance rates. Approved 4-0

-- Approve the renewal of employee health insurance with the higher rates, add the ability for employees to convert to PPO insurance at their own cost, add the ability to add dental insurance at their own cost. Approved 4-0

-- Board was presented with their list of goals and objectives from the Board retreat to review and prioritize via e-mail comment.

-- Opposed giving credit to residents for dues during the period the pool was closed for repairs. It was felt this would create a precedent for every time something was wrong with a trail, tennis court, arena etc. And since it was a complicated maintenance breakdown, not an act of negligence that it was fair not to offer this.

5. Consent Calendar

-- Accepted and approved the minutes, September financials and the facilities reports including explanations on the great variances in some items between budget and actuals. (I can explain for those really interested)

-- Audit - Bill noted there were errors in the audit report that should have been caught. Jan noted that there were confusing items that might give neighbors the wrong impression about our financial situation related to reserves. Ultimately James moved that the audit be reviewed again by the firm, examined by Bill and if he approved it then it would be mailed to residents.

6. Executive Session

I can share the broad topics but not details. We all fight constantly to push things into the open session so there is no concerns the Board is trying to hide things. But Glen and the attorneys often beat us back on that.

-- Update on litigation on three lawsuits.
-- Reviewed some bids and proposals on various issues such as the arenas, trails and our Conditional Use Permit for the stalls.
-- Employee issues

The concerns in general were that costs were going up all across the board and we needed to look for ways to cut other costs or avoid other increasing costs if we want to avoid raising dues. It was noted (by me) that we ought to make sure that the costs associated by the centers are recouped by the fees at the centers as they are to be self funding.

7) Directors Comments

James -- Where is the Code of Ethics that was to have been posted and brought back for a vote? (Jan expressed some concerns with some provisions in there and worried that others weren't in there. Glen said he didn't want to overload us with too much and so didn't bring it back. (Note: That's not his job to decide in my opinion.))

-- Expressed unhappiness that Glen did not set up the homeowners meeting about the arenas and jumping in a way that all members of the Board could attend. [The board got a last minute e-mail telling us only 2 could attend to avoid violating open meeting laws. So the other board members have to hear second hand about the issues we vote on and what the views of the neighbors are. The lawyers disagree with Glen's interpretation so the Board I think in future will follow the lawyers advice rather than Glen's so we can be part of these meetings which are supposed to give the Board the time to address issues in a greater level of detail than we can when limited by time at a Board meeting. How stupid to have a meeting to give us time to hear neighbors talk about the issues and then deny us the ability to be there to hear them!]

Bill -- Raised concerns that we still don't have up to date financial reporting and we're losing our financial reports person and we just gave the new GM check signing authority that didn't exist before. Also suggested we get CPA residents involved to help take a look and make sure we are on track with everything.

Jan -- Noted that we need Executive session and Regular Session minutes in a more timely manner right after the meeting to check for errors while our memories are still fresh.

-- Wants the CC&R report on the status of violations each month as we used to get it.

-- Would like Glen to issue a bimonthly GM report to the Board the way previous GMs have so we are more up to date on things.

-- What happened to the Christmas lighting in Nellie Gail? [Answer -- the company sent us a letter telling us they weren't going to do it anymore and the interim manager dropped the ball and didn't get us a new company lined up and by the time Glen knew it was too late]

-- Tom Brockmiller sent in a letter that wasn't presented to the Board despite having told Jan that he intended it to be. [I had a sharp word for Glen on that as I feel any communication from a resident is a communication to the Board. He disagrees. I want to press this because I don't want to hear that issues have been covered up or ignored because the Board wasn't told. (We didn't get mary Kehoe's letter about the Dressage arena for example) Please address your letters to the Board of Nellie Gail so that there is no doubt and be sure to ask one of us if we were told.]

-- Are board members still covered by the Board of Directors liability policy after they leave the board for decisions made while on the board? (Yes)

-- Raised the issue of amending the bylaws to create staggered terms of office for the Board so all five are not up at once all the timer. Bill chimed in that he's like us to do away with cumulative voting and proxies as well.

-- Did we write down the proposal that came out of the homeowners meeting? (Yes and it was posted in the Equestrian Center [How is that working for folks by the way? Please let us know]

We're going through challenging times. We've had two employees depart and so others have had or will have to pick up the slack in the meantime. there have been lots of equestrian related "brush fires'" that need addressed by a GM who is still doing his best to learn what they are. There are brush fires, priorities of the board members (I'm still trying to get our centers to be run more professionally such as how the contractors and the people who oversee them are the same people for example) and priorities of Glen. Glen, with luck, will be here a long time. The board members by choice or not may not be so we want to be sure our priorities are addressed first. I wanted to get on the board address four major areas of concern ; (Communication with residents, the ARC treatment of residents and improving the business practices of the centers;) get a code of ethics and some other Board improvements; stop the Water Park and then go home after a year term. I'm still shooting for that. I want to be sure others who want to serve get their chance to participate. Besides... we adjourned at 11:45 pm last night. ; )

If I have any of this wrong, please let me know. I don't claim infallibility. If you want to add color commentary please do so through the comments section. There were not that many residents there last night. It either means we're doing a good job or they have given up hope. ; )

Let us know. That's partly what this blog is for. Please help spread the word. I was told that the Minutes can't reflect the things I discuss here and although the agreement was that Pony Express President's message would reflect those things instead, it hasn't quite happened the way I hoped so this blog is the means for me to try to improve communication with residents. (And will provide a record for residents to review when they decide how to vote next year I hope) And this way I get to put my commentary up. But I'd love to hear what others think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your timely posting and for telling it like it is. I'm still hot over the issue of the proper role for our general manager. He seems to think his job is to run the ranch and its businesses according to his priorities and agenda. I believe it is the Board's job to set priorities and his agenda. It is then the General Manager's job to carry out the plan to the best of his/her ability. What is confusing for the GM is that there is not consensus on the Board with respect to this issue.

It should be impossible for the General Manager to get into a debate with a Board Member about what's best for the community. That debate is best left to other Board Members and other residents. Once there is consensus it is the GM's job to execute.

I ran for the Board for three reasons: make Nellie Gail governance and employees resident friendly, make sure the businesses are run like businesses and make NG Ranch the best place to own and ride a horse in California.

I'm pushing hard to make progress on these three issues and will continue these efforts.

Nellie Gail employees need to think of customer service in the Nordstrom model. We are the customer. Service needs to be the culture. By this I mean if a resident has a problem with a barking dog the proper attitude isn't - that's not our problem, call the city. The proper attitude is let me help you with that, I've been down this path before. You need to contact John Smith at Animal Control and Bob Jones at the Police Department. Do you also want me to make a call to see if they have any other ideas?

With respect to getting the financial house in order the first order of business is quality Management Information Systems. The financial statements, as presently prepared, don't provide good information. Financial statements become meaningful when they compare this year to last year and this year to the budget. It is meaningless to handout standalone monthly numbers. Also we need to breakout swimming number from tennis. It isn't fair to those responsible for the financial performance of the centers to combine data. Finally we need adequate financial contol. One person had broad financial responsibilites without the necessary segregation of duties. One person can't open the mail, make the bank deposits, write the checks, invoice vendors, reconcile bank accounts and prepare the financial statements. This is an open invitation for crime.

To make Nellie Gail the best place in California to own and ride a horse we need to address the arena usage and trailer parking problems. I'm a strong advocate of a middle arena that has great footing, is available for the use of all residents and boarders and is paid for by increasing board at the center for non-residents to market rates. We are presently about $100 a month too cheap. A stable without trailer parking is a problem. I want to look at the entire layout of the facility for parking spots that aren't visible from the street.

I'd be remiss if I didn't congratulate Bob for running a world class tennis program, Mary for running a great Dressage program and Mickey for running a highly regarded jumping program. I don't want to lose the programs that make many residents happy while trying to add programs and facilities that address the needs of others.

I didn't run for the Board to be a puppy dog. I ran to change the world. Feel free to let me know if I'm misreading community support for this role.