Why Did GM Allen Roth Resign?
by Buz Whelan
The sudden resignation of GM Allen Roth came as a surprise to many and a shock to a few. Allen had only been GM for 19 months when he announced he would be leaving. Fewer than two years before he had told the search committee he was willing to commit to a minimum of three years of service to Emerald Lakes. He repeated that assertion to the board when they did the final interview. At least some part of making him the choice for GM was that promise of long service. What happened to change things?
Mr. Roth turned in his resignation on December 26th, the day after Christmas. He stated that Saturday, January 25th, just 30 days hence, would be his last day. Contrast that to the previous GM, Gil Werner, who told the board in October of 2011 that he would be retiring at the end of May, 2012. Mr. Roth’s resignation was surprising, not only because he had been here such a short time, but also because he was giving no time to find and train a replacement. As many others, I wondered why this was so.
On Thursday afternoon of January 16th I sat down in the GM’s office to get answers to my questions. In order to ensure candor on the part of the departing GM, I agreed to withhold publishing the results of the interview until he was settled in his new job in distant Colorado. He was going to serve as the general manager of a combination owner/rental chalet and RV community in that state.
First, the obvious answer to the obvious question: why are you leaving? I’m leaving for a challenging position at a higher rate of pay in a part of the country that is new and exciting (to me)…or words to that effect. There’s no surprise there; it’s exactly the answer I expected.
The more interesting question, at least to me, was this: why was he looking for another job? Why, with just over a year as GM of Emerald Lakes, did Allen Roth begin a job search? And that is where the interview got interesting.
At first Allen laughed, a trifle nervously, as if he had been hoping he wouldn’t be asked this. This is where our agreement took shape. I didn’t want some diplomatic, politically correct, but ultimately false, explanation. I wanted to know the real reason or reasons. And so I promised to delay my reporting. Agreement reached, I repeated my question. Allen hesitated, as if searching for the right way to tell me what he was afraid might offend me. I assured him that I could handle whatever he had to say. He sighed, shook his head, and then told me that Emerald Lakes was in deep trouble. We are facing deteriorating facilities, amenities that are running down and capital projects that must be done, but at costs that he doesn’t believe the community is prepared to absorb. He explained, “When whoever it was wrote your bylaws, they had a brain fart (his term). They put the membership in charge of revenue. People who have absolutely no idea what it takes to run this community are the ones who decide how much money we get. It just doesn’t work.” He went on to discuss other communities, comparing those whose revenues are controlled by a board of directors to those whose membership are in control. In example after example, it was clear that membership control eventually leads to deterioration and finally receivership (bankruptcy). He said with some apparent sadness that he doesn’t see how we are going to raise enough money to do what must be done over the next five years. He then went on to describe the current working conditions for the GM.
“Your current board is essentially dysfunctional,” he said. “You have members whose main goal seems to obstruct any progress. They have no understanding of their proper role, no true understanding of how this association works, and they make it impossible for me to do my job as I see it.” While declining to name any specific directors, he insisted that since I attend the open meetings and board workshops, “You know who they are. I don’t have to tell you.” I had to agree, but since the GM declined to be more specific, I feel bound to leave it to the reader to figure out who he meant. I said to him, “Would it be fair to state that the behavior of these certain board members was an aggravating factor in your decision to seek employment elsewhere?” He laughed and answered with two words. “Big time,” he said.