Thursday, April 17, 2008

Board Meeting April 16, 2008

Another long night so let's get right to it. And as always, if there are corrections or deletions please tell me ASAP. I want this to be as accurate as possible..

UPDATE: Our attorney's conceeded they were in error in when they stated the requirement for a bylaw amendment was 50% of ALL of Nellie Gail and not just 50% of quorum. We need to stay on top of things like this because errors happen.

Executive Session
We discussed the questions and process for interviewing and selecting candidates for the ARC. There are six candidates. Three current members (of the five on the committee. Although the CC&Rs say there should only be 3) and three new applicants.

We then discussed the status on one of the ongoing lawsuits. Per usual, I can't discuss the details, but look at our budget and financials to see how much we spend in legal fees each year...

Open Session began at 7:10pm with all directors present

1. Cindy introduced Maggie Merante, our new general manager and provided some background on her. Welcome Maggie!

2. Minutes: Approved with a couple of minor edits. Motion by James Second by Bob passed 5-0

3. Consent Calendar - Rather than receive and file, Cindy opted to have the managers give their reports verbally for Maggie's sake.

a) Tennis Report - Bob shared information on all the various types of leagues and programs offered at the Tennis center. Lots of programs for a variety of people day and night. I asked him to post all of that program information on the blog.

b) Swim Report - Louis shared information on all the swim programs and noted they are trying to bring back a master's program for adults. He noted that we're approaching the summer season when we get 500-600 kids. I asked him to post all of the information on all the programs on the web site. Cindy asked him to be sure to have CPR training for all staff.

c) Equestrian Report - Mickey gave a comprehensive overview of what's he's done in the month since he took over. Way too much great stuff to list here so he (knowing what was coming) said he'd post it all on the web site, but here are a few highlights that jumped out at me.

-- There will be some upcoming events such as a Kentucky Derby party, a movie night, a horse nutrition seminar and a chiropractor for horses will do a demonstration.

-- The subleasing and stall waiting list issues are being resolved. Bill had contacted Mickey suggesting that a deposit be required to get on the stall waiting list. That is to be brought back to the Board as an official policy.

-- Mickey noted that our board fees are too low and need raised to match those of other facilities (this being the issue I raised at the candidate's forum when I ran and was roundly ripped apart and mocked for by the same group who pushed for Mickey to be the manager...)

-- Noted that we pay $50,000 a year to dispose of horse manure. He's exploring options such as finding a "green" company to haul it for free or buying a truck so we can haul it away ourselves. The city won't let us do anything else because of the exclusive contract they have with CR&R.

-- Cindy asked that the Equestrian Center staff receive CPR training as well.

-- Time to replace/replenish the footing in the upper arena

-- Middle arena needs redone

-- Wants to buy some storage sheds and power wash and repaint the barns to make the center look better.

-- A couple of (non-licensed?) Dressage trainers are coming in teaching lessons that "don't seem to bother people" but there have been complaints of foul language. I pointed out that trainers not licensed/credentialed what have you by the Association shouldn't be there at all since it is the policy and unfair to residents who want to train or bring in their own trainers for other disciplines. That policy has been used to drive away some families, but that was ignored and Jan only noted that we needed their insurance on file. I guess we have policies to keep out people we don't like rather than policies that apply fairly to everyone... (Is that negative to point out...)

d) February 2008 Financial Reporting - Our financial reports are a disaster. Once Liza left that aspect of things fell apart. Bill has been really on top of this driving it. It was noted that the February report we got was incomplete and made no sense. Expenditures have not been categorized properly and so many bills went unpaid that we can't even use the current reports to develop an accurate budget. Maggie and Maureen ( our new assistant general manager) are tasked with fixing that first and foremost so we have an accurate financial picture. Every month the Board has hammered on this and Bill especially because he takes his duties as Treasurer very seriously. It was agreed that rather than approve the February Financials that we note they are a draft and are received and filed for now until they are made accurate.

4) General Manager's Report - It is her third day on the job so she simply noted that getting the financial reporting and budget in order are her first tasks. And she is getting to know the staff and how they work.

5) Presentations -

a) Nancy Michael- We were to approve a final ballot for the bylaws (which she noted had all been approved for the ballot at the last meeting...) but it was not an actual representation of what the ballot would actually look like. This was to be our last chance to approve the materials before the election but the Board was not comfortable approving documents that required so many changes.

The change that the attorneys said needed made was this: Rather than approve the bylaw changes by 50% of the quorum of voters (that is those who vote in the election so long as more than 50% of them vote), they are saying that 50% of EVERYONE in Nellie Gail has to approve the bylaw changes. That would be like saying that a ballot proposition is only valid if 50% of everyone in California votes. Here's what our bylaws actually say:

" The bylaws, and every part thereof, may from time to time be amended, altered, repealed, ... by the vote of a majority of a quorum of each voting class of members present in person or by proxy."

Majority of a quorum, not majority of everyone in Nellie Gail.

Next we discussed the election process. It was noted we needed an independent elections officer. Several people who actively campaigned against Bill and I were proposed and people seemed shocked that Bill and I didn't feel comfortable with them them... Ultimately we decided to ask Lt. Doan of the Sheriff's office to do it and if not him then one idea was to do an exchange with another HOA. They'd be the election officer for us and we'd be the officer for them. The election officer's job is to collect the candidate application and statements, make sure they are received by the deadline and that the statements are not read by others like incumbent board members running for re-election. And the officer also collects, secures and counts the ballots.


May 16 5pm - Deadline for submitting your application and candidate statement - pick up your form from the office. I will try to post it on the website in a prominent place as well.

June 16 - Ballots mailed to all homes

June 25 - Candidate Forum and Forum to discuss bylaw amendment changes

July 23 - Annual Meeting and election (if we get 50% quorum requirement, if not then the election is postponed to some date in future.)

It was requested that the election rules be reviewed at the next board meeting.

Public Forum

Marlene Sandler - The horse traffic mirror is in the office. Where should it go? Cindy suggested she post it where she thinks best. She then noted the conditions of the trail behind a neighbor's home and wanted to know what we were going to do about it. Sandie noted that she was aware of it and working on it. Marlene also noted a trailer is often parked there. Cindy asked if we have a time limit on that. If the question was ever answered I didn't catch the response.

Mr. and Mrs. Meidell - Noted that an easement for a horse trail runs in their front yard that hasn't been maintained by the HOA. They want to plant artificial grass and cut down some trees. In subsequent discussions it was noted that the HOA should have done it's job in trimming their trees. This item was agendized for next month.

Lorie Blough - Noted that there are trees that back up to her property that need trimmed. In fact a limb fell and damaged her neighbors yard. She was told the tree was HER responsibility despite the fact that the association had maintained those trees for years. She noted that no one told her there was a change and if there was, please officially notify her. A heated debate amongst the Board ensued. Bill noted that the CC&Rs are clear that if the tree is in the easement it is her responsibility to trim and if not it is ours. No further discussion needed. Cindy wanted staff to look into the overall situation and see if anything needed done to determine which trees in Nellie Gail's were ours or neighbors and formally tell them so. Bill said it was not a priority and didn't want staff to spend time on it. It is the neighbors' responsibility to determine if the trees are in the easement or not. So if you have any questions, Sandie noted she has pretty good maps of easements. Contact her and find out if the trees are yours or the Associations to maintain. And remember that anything growing in your yard that grows out into the easement must be cut by you or the Association will trim it for you and bill you for it.

Cheree Behringer - Any update on horse trailer parking? (Yes, part of the report you'll see below).

Bryant Rossiter - Gave an update on emergency preparedness efforts in Nellie Gail


Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Update - Presented the options for getting into compliance with our (CUP). Recommended we not only get approval for the additional stalls but ask for more going from the current 96 to 104. Also, while getting approval we should get approval for other projects we MIGHT do if approved by Board and potentially residents if the cost is more than the amount required by the CC&Rs. These include:

-- Create horse trailer parking for 15 spaces in the area below the dressage arena
-- Create 15 foot wide exercise path around the upper arena
-- Add an exit driveway below the dressage arena
-- Change the sand volley ball court into a sports court
-- Change the abandoned bathrooms in the clubhouse into a fitness center, day care, offices, storage or other service use.
-- Turn part of the open space slope area into a viewing stand.

I jumped on that last one. I asked if the Association really was going to exempt itself from the rules about open space when we deny residents the same right. That got through because Jan and Bob and others pointed out other non-open space areas in the EC that could be put.

It was suggested that the hillside behind the barns be used as a turnout area. Bill suggested we explore getting a water tower and expanded feed storage space so that in an emergency the horses (and potentially residents) could access that in an emergency.

Motion made by Bill and seconded by Jan to pursue the option to expand the number of stalls and all the other projects mentioned above. Passed 5-0.

Architectural Review Committee Applications - Three of the six applicants were present, but one had to leave before we got to this point due to the lateness of the hour. The other three were not present including two of the current members.

William Frey (new applicant) - made a great presentation noting the complexity and costs of the new projects and how we needed people with more professional experience. He is a developer himself who does renovations of homes. He noted he's been through the ARC process. He had some excellent ideas for improving the process and reducing the costs such as having a set of all blueprints of all the different models that could then be purchased by residents saving them the at least $5000 costs of getting new blueprints drawn up.

Bonnie Adams (current member) - stated she wanted to keep the open spaces and things the way they are now. When I asked her about all the complaints about rude treatment, keeping people out of the room when their plans are reviewed, and all the other complaints -- she denied them all. Bill noted that twice in the last four years he went through the process and had to sit outside in the lounge with other residents while his fate was decided. She still denied that was possible. So in essence she called Bill and all the others who reported these problems liars. Never offered up an apology or a desire to ensure that it doesn't happen. Simply flat out denied it actually happened. "It never happened in the time I've been on the ARC" she said. When I was campaigning door to door, this was a common theme that people offered up to me on their own - the problems with ARC and they way they treat residents. And this included many people who had their plans approved so no sour grapes issues. So who are we to believe?

Bill noted that if the others didn't show up they shouldn't be considered for the ARC. I noted these are volunteers and they had about 24 hours notice to be there which wasn't fair. We are scheduling another special meeting for next Wednesday and hopefully the other applicants can be present then. It's still not too late to apply for the ARC so get your application in ASAP. I'd rather have a vacancy and fill it later with someone who has respect for their neighbors and supports property rights than what we've heard or experienced from the current ARC.

Budget Preparation Planning Schedule - After debate and discussion we determined the following:
-- The budget must be adopted by 60 days before the start of the fiscal year. Our fiscal year is by practice starts October 1, but the bylaws say it is supposed to be July 1. But like many other previsions (having 5 members on the ARC instead of the three called for in the CC&Rs for example), it is ignored. I am willing to be flexible to get things done, but it seems there are some who want us to abide by the letter of the law of the bylaws and CC&Rs when it suits their personal agenda. If we're going to demand people follow policies, we have to do it consistently and apply them to everyone. That's just basic fairness and it is because that doesn't happen that we have the negative situation happening.

So, we are going to adopt a budget by Aug 1 at the July 16th Board Meeting just before the Annual meeting and elections. Our first budget workshop, open to the public will be held Thursday June 19th. We are hoping by then that Maggie and Maureen have been able to restore our financial reporting so we can accurately gauge expenses to do a proper budget.

Web Site Update - By this point it was nearly 11:30 and so I simply told everyone to look at the website and see the changes I have made thus far. I noted I was going to work with staff to get an RFP prepared to put the web redesign and maintenance out for bidding so we can get an idea of the costs for budget purposes. I'll do a special post about the web site later today or tomorrow.

If you're still reading, you are a dedicated resident and I applaud you. Most will never read this, but my hope is that this will give people a resource to go back and research what happened and use it to decide how they will vote in the next election. I'm hoping that just knowing this record is being kept will make people feel better about the Board and the HOA.


Anonymous said...

Could you please tell Dolores Caringella that the last time I checked Nellie Gail is in the USA and there is freedom of speech in this country. There is no law about having a site to tell the truth and keep people informed!

Anonymous said...

Thank you James for keeping us informed. I have quite a few questions, but will post them later. I really appreciate the time and work it takes for you to keep our community educated.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Wiki has enough information about the real Nellie Gail. Maybe we should let them know more.

Anonymous said...

Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Update -

Where is all this money coming from and how come it almost entirely benefits the EC?

They don't even pull their own weight! Why give them more?

Anonymous said...

None of the old ARC people should be allowed to stay on. There should be term limits for the ARC.

Anonymous said...

Thank you James for keeping all of us up to date. I was disgusted to read about the proposals relative to the "Independent Election Officer" and the non-certified trainers. The arrogance and ignorance of some of the residents here is really disturbing. They have a total disregard for conflicts of interest and don't understand the meaning of "independence." Do they really think the rest of us are that stupid and naive? The trainer policy was a total cram down to benefit Jan and now is being disregarded? I suggest you call our liability carrier on that since having qualified and insured trainers was purportedly so important when that policy was proposed. The Board should also be reminded that intentional conduct is excluded from standard E&O and D&O policies, so some Board members could find themselves defending lawsuits at their own expense, as they should. And to the person who wrote that they read the blog site and decided to move elsewhere, good decision! Unfortunately, Nellie Gail has a gang problem that approaches those of East Los Angeles and we are having a real hard time cleaning up the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

We need a new legal firm. They have repeatedly given us bad and inaccurate advice. Why don't we bid it out again? In fact we should send everything out for a bid again.

Anonymous said...

The board should use the following model, called the "Self-Sufficiency Model", to budget for the middle arena and upper arena projects that have been mentioned over and over again in the meeting notes:

Project Cost / 100 Stalls / 12 Months = Monthly Increase in Stall Rent

This works out to an increase of $84/month for each stall for every $100,000 needed to repair, redo and maintain the facility.

Anonymous said...

The H.O.R.S.E. people really should get up to speed. Look elsewhere in the blog for the acronym spelled out. It is a great one.

Anonymous said...

"The Board should also be reminded that intentional conduct is excluded from standard E&O and D&O policies, so some Board members could find themselves defending lawsuits at their own expense, as they should."

This is really important that the board realize this. This was a great post in all.

Anonymous said...

That is a great idea. I don't like subsidizing Jan Curtis and Mickey Hayden's business. Mary Kehoe pays a fair amount for the benefits she receives.

Anonymous said...

I just found out about this blog and have some questions;

Why do we pay for the centers - or fund the reserves for the centers with our dues?

We have to pay to use them and keep them up and people are making money - and quite a living from what I can tell - from the centers and our association is NOT?

The centers don't even make enough to replace reserves?

Where can I get more information on this? How can this be? Who is profiting from the centers we all paid for?

This is not right.

James said...

All excellent questions and I encourage you to contact maggie merante, our new General manager to ask her those questions because she will need to know the answers herself. Thx!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the statement that the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance of trees on the easement. Read art. V sec.1 and art. VIII sec. 15. The HOA needs to maintain the easements as in the past.