Emerald Lakes Board of Director’s Open Meeting, December 9, 2017
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance. Six board members were present. Treasurer Stefania Johnson was absent due to a death in her husband’s family.
Diane Caldwell read the standard board meeting procedures, which state that the meeting would be held in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, and she cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. As Secretary, Gilda Spiotta would be taking minutes, the membership was not allowed to comment on the meeting until public comments, and that 2 minutes will be allotted to each member in good standing. Caldwell also stated that there would be an executive session at the end of the open meeting.
Caldwell immediately asked for a motion to approve the October minutes. Al Leslie called for the motion and Bob Leon seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Caldwell began her President’s message by stating there is a lot going on. Everyone is shopping, there is a lot of traffic, and that it is a good time of year to be with loved ones. She stated that it is a time for us to be joyous. She prayed that we all had a healthy, prosperous new year and wishes the best for everyone. She wished people Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year.
Caldwell also stated that it was unfortunate that she had to speak of negative things. She reiterated her issues with social media and basically stated that there is a site that gives out information that is incorrect. She cautioned members to be careful as to what you post and say because it could cause ramifications that will not be pleasant. She went on to say that she had received an email from our attorney who thought his services were being terminated when they weren’t, based on an article on this blog. She stated that we were terminating part of his collections, but he walked away from the Association. She further stated that all board members past and present were sworn to secrecy in perpetuity. Caldwell stated that the attorney heard it through rumors and minutes on a website. Caldwell reiterated that it was not true, and that in closing he terminated his services with us. Caldwell stated that you will hear that we interviewed another law firm. Caldwell stated that we should not be posting on how badly we are doing financially. She asked that people who post consider how they might be hurting ‘our assets.’ She also stated that she has witnessed untruths said about her, but she can handle herself. She ended her message by saying that she will be talking to the new attorney on how the Association will handle this, and that it wasn’t the official ELA minutes to the public that caused this. She further stated that we could take it for what it is worth. (Reporter’s note: In the September issue of this blog, it was reported that the board voted on changing the collection process. There was no mention of retaining our current attorney’s services until the public comments of the meeting. Laura Jones responded to a comment from Buz Whelan where she stated that our current attorney would keep only the 22 delinquent accounts where lawsuits were pending.)
Al Leslie read the Treasurer’s report for the absent Johnson. He stated that Administration was down, Public Safety was down, Maintenance was over, the Community Center was over, and the Bar and Grill were over. [sic]. The attorney collections year-to-date were $125K. Dues collection was down at $925K. Leslie further stated that the Bar and Grill have reduced their monthly costs from$4.8K to $3.2K. He stated that we have an allocation problem, and that that was the end of the Treasurer’s report. Caldwell interjected that Johnson’s spreadsheet will be in the newsletter and on the official ELA website. Leon made a motion to accept the Treasurer’s report as read, Spiotta seconded and the report was unanimously accepted as read.
In the Manager’s Report, Laura Jones stated that she wanted to thank the maintenance team who came out early that morning to prepare for snow removal. Currently, employees were spreading an 80% salt, 20% cinder mixture. When the roads are plowable, the mixture ratio is 60% salt, 40% cinder. She stated that the warmth of the tires riding on our roads will crush salt. She said that maintenance was on top of the snow situation. Jones also stated that our gaming license request was returned since a signature was not notarized. The form was resubmitted and it will take 3 to 6 weeks to learn if we are approved. Jones stated that legal RFPs were sent out and Young and Haros was selected to be the new attorney of record. An employment manual is being prepared. It is a “How to do this Job” document and will contain Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). A fundraiser policy is currently under review by the board. Caldwell stated that the fundraiser and solicitation policy should be posted on our website. Jones stated that we have a legal problem (civil suit). A hearing is set for 1/17/18. A vendor is claiming that we did not pay them in full. Jones stated we paid them, but will not pay for work not approved. She is confident that she will be successful in court.
Jones stated that 175 delinquent accounts were turned over to Sunrise on 12/4/17. She also stated she sent out a severance letter to our current attorney on 11/1/17. The letter gave our current attorney a deadline of 12/3/17 for our delinquent collections. Jones stated that Sunrise has 4 settlement offers, so it is “starting to work out”. Currently Nicole, Nicky and Mike are being trained to handle in-house collections. Jones described an amnesty program which will be offered to delinquent homeowners. It is a onetime offer that will reduce fees and interest on their account if they pay it in full. Jones went on to thank Daryl Gamble for turning around the Community Center. She stated that “no one can match his vision”. She also heard that karaoke night was a blast. She further stated that the atmosphere at the Community Center has changed and no one deserves more praise that Daryl. She stated “It wouldn’t be the same without him”.
Jones stated that the annual road maintenance is completed with $48K remaining in the budget. That money will be used to keep up our roads on pot holes and cracks.
Jones gave kudos to Caldwell on the pressure she put on Mario Scavello and the township. They supplied materials for the roads in Blueberry Estates where 11 members live. She stated that 6 1/2 tons of material was given to us and that our maintenance team did a great job of applying it to the roadways. Caldwell interjected and stated that our maintenance staff did an amazing job. She also stated that she told Scavello that he is up for election soon and that she has no problem going to the Pocono Record. She than commended his aggressiveness and stated that thank you letters will be going out to all parties that were involved.
At this point Jones continued with her manager’s report, stating that she wanted Rules and Regulation to team up with the Fishing Club to revise the rules for ice fishing. She went on to state that we have a beaver problem and that they are tearing down trees. 8 trees were down on Main Beach. She stated she was learning about beavers and how they break ice and tear down trees. She stated she knows of no way of stopping them without killing them. They may die. Nobody minds killing spiders, but it is harder to kill a beaver. She spoke to the Gaming Commission and they recommended setting leg hold traps that would clamp down on the beaver. She rejected that idea since we have children that play at our lakes. Currently Maintenance is wrapping our larger trees. Aluminum sheets will be used on the smaller trees. Jones stated that the code enforcement stats will be posted on the web and in the newsletter. Jones ended with wishing everyone happy holidays and that she hopes we celebrate them with love.
Director’s comments started with Dave Borsos. His wished all a happy holiday and stated that they have long meetings to make these open meetings run smoothly. Jake Bower wished everyone the same. He stated he is getting more involved with the community, and he has a positive attitude, and that they have a lot of things to correct. Bower stated we are going against ourselves when we post negative things. He believes the Community Center is unbelievable and that they are going to keep the ball rolling. He also stated that there are precious pictures of the children from the tree decorating function to be posted.
Bob Leon reminded everyone of the New Year’s Eve Party and wished everyone a happy holiday. Al Leslie reiterated the earlier kudos to Caldwell with the action on Blueberry Estates. He wished everyone a safe and happy holiday and stated that bingo will go on tonight even though it is snowing. The jackpot was up to $580. Gilda Spiotta wished everyone a happy holiday and stated that it is the time of year when her students are off the wall. She reminded all to remember the beautiful things and to try to work things out. She also stated that if you have a suggestion, she is interested in your input, and she thanked everyone for their contributions.
Earl Franks started the committee reports for Finance and Planning. He stated that the October issue was resolved and proposed going from accrual to a cash system. He stated there will be a new accounting recording system. He asked, since our attorney terminated all services, who is doing our legal work now? At this point Caldwell interjected that our current attorney was very unprofessional. Franks stated that as to the bar and grill, we are getting into next year’s funds. The board should determine an acceptable cost. Frank took exception to the numbers in the treasurer’s report and stated that we are $51k below in collections and $15k under in dues. He then wished everyone a happy holiday.
Loretta Schneider reported for the Real Estate Committee. In November they developed their objectives and goals. She stated that there was an educational component to their objectives and goals and that the landlords should be involved in the TOPs system. They are currently reviewing and implementing a long term rental policy. Schneider further stated that she is a landlord and lives far away so she will not be able to make all the open meetings. Susan Bower will represent her when she cannot attend.
Louise Leon thanked the board again for the Adult Water Aerobics (AWA) hours. At this point, Caldwell offered kudos to the AWA for their patience. There were ups and downs and ups and downs. Caldwell stated she recognized the value, and that a former board member who was against this group stated that he was joining. Caldwell commends the value AWA brings to the Association. Leon stated that they will offer a prize to every new member. She would not say what that prize would be, but she will pass on Caldwell’s comments to the group.
Under old business, with Button Oil, Caldwell stated that she forwarded a text message to Mr. Jones at Preferred Management that stated that the Button verification needed to be signed. Mr. Jones said that he sent it but did not get a confirmation that it was received. He stated he would re-send and Caldwell told him that she also wanted it sent to her.
The current Point of Sale (POS) system has no tech support. The board researched several systems and selected a Clover system. The Board talked to Wells Fargo and PNC to see that it was compatible and how it could be used. Caldwell stated that it was an easy touch screen system and will be located at the front desk, the bar, and the kitchen. The system has a good reporting function, and this was a good turning point for us to get back on track. A resolution was proposed to accept the Clover POS System. Discussion from Borsos was that this system is used by other places like us and small businesses. Bower stated that he cannot vote and recused himself since he works for Wells Fargo. He stated that the Clover system has a button that can be hit if there is a problem and that we will receive a call back in three minutes. He stated that this system is used across the world and the updates are downloaded overnight. The system is usable from a laptop and changes can be made easily. Leon stated that he researched the old and new system on-line. For the old system there is a charge to reach out to them for support. Clover has YouTube videos for instructional purposes. He also stated that there were hand-held devices that could help with bingo. He cited an incident that happened the night before when a member was sitting at the bar while his family swam in the pool. After the swimming they sat down for dinner and were issued two bills. The current system could not combine the two bills. Leon favored PNC over Wells Fargo since PNC will give a discount on credit cards.
Leslie stated that the system was a lot easier and that he favored PNC. Spiotta stated that she had done research, and that they had accurate reporting. The system will give us what we need and she chooses PNC.
The motion passed with all directors in favor of the system and using PNC. (Director Bower recused himself from voting.)
After voting Leon stated that the resolution did not say we were leasing the system. The board reread the motion with the correct language and the board held another vote with the same count as mentioned above.
Under new business, Caldwell stated that what transpired this week meant new counsel was needed. 18 RFPs were sent out to legal firms and on December 1st the board interviewed Young and Haros in Stroudsburg. Motion was passed unanimously.
A collection amnesty program resolution identified 175 delinquent accounts. Any delinquent account between $9,999 and $1,000 will be eligible for a one time reduction of fees and interest if they pay their account in full. Anyone less than 1 year in arrears is not eligible. Leon stated that it was wrong and in conflict with something. He questioned about the delinquent accounts under $1K and was told they are still paying. Spiotta made motion to accept resolution. Leslie seconded and resolution passed unanimously.
Under public comments John Palmisano stated no one should be allowed to use roads if they don’t pay their dues. Jones stated that yes there is no free ingress or egress.
Joe Olall gave kudos to the board for their due diligence for selecting a professional HOA attorney.
Louise Leon wished everyone a happy holiday and profusely thanked the board again for the AWA hours.
Ange Noonan stated that she loves being here and that the changes are amazing. Food is delicious and that we are probably better off without our old attorney. She wants a yoga class with a professional instructor where members can pay dues. Jones instructed her to see her after the meeting. Also she requested a dog run but was told that the funds were not available at this time. Maybe in the future. Jones stated that if Noonan heads it up and gets donations she would fully support it. Noonan asked why it took so long to post the minutes so that people will get the “real message”. Caldwell stated that they are looking into live streaming so that there are no discrepancies. The live streaming will only be available to members and that when minutes get approved the stream will come down.
Loretta Schneider asked if the board would consider conference calling so that members can participate. Caldwell stated they are investigating that with Verizon. Caldwell stated that it is an interactive live media.
Buz Whelan stated that he once again will to be “the skunk at the picnic”, but he said that he didn’t think that the attorney resigned over social media. He stated that these open meetings are public forums and are subject to public scrutiny. He further pointed out that the resolution to turn over all delinquencies from $3, 000 to $9,999 to Sunrise Collection and have delinquencies below $3,000 handled in-house was made at the open meeting on September 29th. The ethical, businesslike and courteous thing would have been to notify Mr. Hludzik of this sweeping change in the relationship immediately, no later than the next business day. It was this attempt to keep the change secret that caused the attorney’s resignation. Caldwell interjected that she has it here in black and white and that she was not quoted properly or that things were left out. She further stated that Hoffman, who was our attorney for a while said that no board or director should comment on unofficial media. She wants to vomit. She withholds her comments on the advice of counsel and does not post on underground media. She has a fiduciary responsibility. Whelan responded that she mischaracterized Hoffman’s advice, and that he was at the meeting. Hoffman answered Bob Lauri’s question by saying directors could post if they wanted to.
Kathy Whelan asked what the date was on the letter sent by our attorney when he resigned from the Association. Caldwell stated that she will not answer that question. She stated we had other collection matters with George and they were forced to hire for other things. [sic}
Leslie makes motion to end meeting.
*Please note, for the second consecutive month, there was no welcoming of new members.
Reporters Note: I write these reports based on notes taken during the meeting. I get no special consideration or cooperation from the board. I try my best to report accurately, but occasionally mistakes will be made. I invite correction and have no desire to intentionally mischaracterize any comments or actions.