July 26, 2014 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
The meeting was unusual in that the time and energy of the Public Comments section greatly overshadowed that of the prepared agenda items. What is normally a brief and uneventful portion of the meeting was instead characterized by angry exchanges between board members and attendees.
The meeting was called to order at 9:34am and began with the usual pledge of allegiance to the flag.
President’s Comments: President Leslie said he hoped to see “all of you” at the annual meeting. He added that he was proud to serve as this board’s president for the past year and was also proud of all they accomplished. These remarks brought puzzled looks by many of those in the audience. He concluded by calling for the treasurer’s report.
Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Earl Frank said that due to the ongoing year-end audit, no financials were available. He further stated that the audit was on schedule and would be completed in time for presentation at the annual meeting. He said that to his knowledge, thus far no irregularities were discovered.
Manager’s Report: GM Judy Kennedy wished all the candidates for this year’s election good luck. She expressed the hope that all would have a mindset to work with management. Ecological Solutions will be treating Deer Lake Tuesday, July 29th. Public Safety will be putting stickers on illegally parked cars warning of towing if not moved and that, if the warning was ignored, towing would follow. Director Fitzgerald then interrupted, asking a question about Ms. Kennedy’s credentials. This forced Ms. Kennedy to discuss a procedural difficulty caused by her recent name change (Fitzgerald’s question elicited personal information inappropriate for a public forum. I’m uncomfortable having to write even that much on the subject). Ms. Kennedy also responded to another question from Fitzgerald, assuring the board that she is working with the new attorney in helping to get him acclimated to our particular situation and set of problems.
Committee Reports: As is the usual case leading up to the annual meeting, the Maintenance Committee, Finance & planning Committee and the ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws will not meet again until September.
Reporting for the Events Committee, Chairperson Stefania Johnson reported on a very successful Sock Hop/Classic Car Display/Drive-in Movie event held the night before. She announced that Dancing With The Stars is being moved from August 16th to September 27th. Ms. Johnson then reported that the Adult Night, scheduled for August 23rd at the outdoor pool would be moved to the Community Center. This is due to inadequate lighting at the pool that would cause the event to be terminated prematurely as twilight fell. She was stopped by GM Kennedy who said that the board would have to approve the move. Alternatively, the date of the event could be changed. Stay tuned.An Octoberfest celebration is in the planning stage with a date TBD. Halloween falls on a Friday this year. That night there will be an adult costume party at the community Center. A kids’ party will be held at the center the following day.
Speaking for the Nominations Committee, Chairperson Cookie Lietwinski reminded all that Meet the Candidates will be held at 9:30am, Saturday, August 2nd in the Community Center. She will act as moderator of the question and answer event.
Liaison Carmen Broadnax reported that recommendations by the Real Estate Committee were being considered.
–Clause 15 – Attorney – Second Opinion Newly engaged attorney Ed Hoffman is now studying the “Clause 15” properties and problems thereof. This is the same problem that attorney George Hludzik had been studying for the last year.
-Bylaw Changes The new attorney is also studying the bylaw changes submitted to the board on January 25th last, and which had been under review by our former attorney since then. Therefore, there will be no bylaw revisions on the annual meeting agenda.
-Variances The new attorney blah, blah, blah.
-Resolution #45 – Equipment Purchase A total of $103,000 was appropriated for the purchase of a tractor, mini excavator, roadside cutter and equipment trailer.
-Resolution #46 – Tax Appeal – Reclassification The board unanimously resolved to seek reclassification of recently acquired properties to class 6 (amenity use, non-taxable).
A resolution was offered and then withdrawn on approving a form for beach usage by members for group activities such as parties. The consensus was that individual forms were not properly handled through official resolutions.
(Author’s note: The public comment section of the meeting was somewhat chaotic in that members raised issues that were briefly discussed, abandoned to new topics and then re-addressed. Instead of attempting to present these in the normal temporal order I have grouped them by topic. Where possible there are quotes, but conversation was often so fast and furious I can only characterize it.)
“Clause 15 Properties”: Pat Galderisi, who has done considerable research on these properties and the problems they present, spoke at least 4 times on the subject. She is frustrated by the lack of action by the board and attorney. She pointed out that she worked with then-board Secretary Carmen Broadnax last summer and that the fruits of that labor were turned over to the board. Apparently there was considerable detail in the report and a great deal of effort was involved in putting it together. Ms. Galderisi emphasized that grouping all problem properties under the “Clause 15” nomenclature was misleading. Some properties were designated as Emerald Lakes only until a specific point in time, such as 1987. Other properties do not have declarations attached to the deeds, and while they are located in Emerald Lakes geographically they are not technically (or officially, whatever) part of the association. In many of these cases owner/residents pay dues and enjoy the full benefits of membership -including voting at annual and special meetings. This ‘voluntary membership’ is not permitted under our bylaws and Pennsylvania Act 180. Galderisi cautioned Judge of Elections June Solla that she must take care in ensuring that non-members, whether dues-paying or not, are not allowed to vote. Carmen Broadnax asked that Pat give the Judge of Elections a list of these non-member dues payers. Galderisi responded that she had given all the information to all the board members and was not about to duplicate the effort. She demanded that the board prepare a list from the information they already had. Other members, for instance Flo Mauri, also contributed to this discussion/debate that flared up again and again throughout the comment period. At one point President Alex Leslie said of the issue, “This board will see it through. You have my word.” When asked for a deadline, Leslie declined to provide one.
Staffing: Member Kevin Marsland questioned why, when a huge event was underway at Pine Tree Island Beach on Saturday, July 5th, the Community Center was also open and fully staffed. He complained that this was not an efficient use of resources, since very few members utilized the center while over a hundred were at the beach. GM Kennedy, thrown under the bus by board members, tried to justify the decision by saying that the center normally stayed open during past external parties. She was apparently given this incorrect information by board members, though none stepped up to shoulder responsibility. Events Chair Stefania Johnson corrected the misinformation, and member Buz Whelan pointed out that the board has dominion over all amenities and can open or close them at their discretion. Examples given were the comedy shows and the cabaret night where paid admission was required. Whelan also cited the fact that the CC was once open 7 days a week, and though it is open Wednesday nights during the summer, it was closed Wednesdays during the Winter. To a director’s comment that the beach event was successful (so what’s the problem?) a number of members protested that voluntary actions by members were responsible for that success. Flo Mauri said that using the success of the party as justification for pulling staff was totally unfair, since it could not be known that members would step up and, in any case, substituting volunteers for staff is poor management (or words to that effect).
Beach Rental: Another back and forth as members pressed for details on large parties at the beaches, most often Pine Tree. Apparently there is no charge per se for the permit, though a $200 refundable clean up deposit is required. There is also a $5 per person bracelet charge for non-members. Questions about size and noise limitations went unanswered. The GM said that even if a party were authorized the beach remains open to members. This seemed a bit disingenuous since huge, noisy parties of any particular group have an inhibiting and intimidating effect on non-invitees, regardless of whether the beach is said to be ‘open.’
Bylaw Revisions: Speaking on behalf of his committee members, Chairperson Buz Whelan voiced his frustration that no bylaw revisions would be on the annual meeting agenda. Not only was the committee specifically charged with developing a comprehensive amendment and procedure for absentee voting in September of 2013, it succeeded in the task and presented both the amendment and protocol for voting to the board at the January 25, 2014 monthly open board meeting. At every single successive board meeting, workshop and monthly open, Whelan asked about the status of the amendment and was told, every time, that the attorney was studying it. Now, said Whelan, we are told that the new attorney is looking at it, and the process is back to where it was in January. Whelan also asked why the question of removing the unsightly property amendment from the bylaws was not being considered since it is hardly a legal question. He reminded the board that an interview with Code Enforcement Office Ralph Musto revealed that not one citation for unsightly property has ever been written based on the bylaw amendment. According to Musto, the issue is more comprehensively covered in the Emerald lakes Association Rules and Regulations, and that is the basis for citations. No answer was forthcoming to the question of why this is not being offered for a vote.
Misfeasance of Board Authority: Member Darren Johnson rose to complain that a board member with a personal vendetta against his wife Stefania used her access to member records to harass her. Apparently, though Darren and Stefania had updated their property deed to include Stefania upon the occasion of their marriage, this information had not yet made its way to the office records. A letter was sent informing Stefania that she could no longer chair the Events Committee since she was not a member of the association. While the Johnsons were able to correct the misinformation, Darren expressed his outrage that access to personal information by a board member could be used to forward a personal agenda. Director June Solla asked President Leslie to make a previously agreed upon statement. Leslie said that the board approved the letter. Johnson responded that this approval was based on incorrect, outdated information.