Answering questions that no one asked

At a previous Umbrella Board meeting, I made a statement about the real estate office lease which expires around April of 2018. Mind you, they don’t record those comments in the minutes, but evidently they feel defensive about not doing the best possible job.

Here is the statement which I gave to each member of the UB at that meeting:

The current lease and arrangement with Bain Real Estate runs through March or April of 2018—early next year. This contract was completed without Providence Point’s interests being professionally or legally represented, and it states that fact in the actual lease agreement.

 

Prior to obtaining the office space on our property, Bain was like any other real estate company as far as sales and marketing in Providence Point. They had a market share of just under 5%. With the advantage of the location within Town Hall plus promotion on the official Providence Point website, Bain’s market share climbed to over 50% during the 2016 calendar year.

 

During the 2016 calendar year, Bain real estate paid rent and bonus payments to Providence Point totaling approximately $30,000 while they generated approximately $1.2 million in gross commission income solely on listings and sales within our community.

 

There are at least 5 brokerages within 5 miles of Town Hall that would likely bid on the privilege of being designated our on-site real estate company. Providence Point could realistically expect to receive two to four times the current rate, possibly more if additional brokerages were invited to submit proposals. That would be somewhere between $60,000 and $120,000 per year instead of the approximately $30,000 we received in 2016.

 

As a resident of Providence Point, I want to see our resources used in such a way as to bring the highest and best benefit to residents. As Umbrella Board members, I am certain that you want the same.

 

I hereby notify the Umbrella Board leadership and representatives that any attempt to extend the agreement with the current tenant, or to execute an agreement with a new entity without requesting proposals from the many highly qualified brokerages in our area, will be viewed as a breach of your duty of ordinary and reasonable care. (RCW 64.34.308)

 

This time, let’s all work together to secure an agreement that benefits the owners and residents of Providence Point.

 

Sincerely,

Steve Davis

Highland Village, Providence Point

This is the response, in part, from board VP Fay Helmon:

“…a review of the negotiation of the Lease between Providence Point Umbrella Association and Coldwell Banker Bain, clearly shows that the Association involved appropriate professionals, including an outside third party, in the research and development of the Lease. This careful research demonstrates that the 2012 Umbrella Board did, in fact, meet the ordinary and reasonable care standard required by RCW 64.34.”

Notice the difference,  I stated that PP was unrepresented in the lease contract. That is a fact that is actually stated in the lease.

Fay responded that PP had outside help for research. True, but it doesn’t contradict my statement. Research help is NOT representation.

Note again, I stated that future activities should include reaching out to other nearby real estate companies for proposals to maximize the benefit to PP rather than simply extending the current lease–and to NOT do so would be a breach of duty for the current board.

Fay responded that the 2012 board did not breach their duty.

I never claimed that they did. But I really doubt that Fay Helmon is a qualified arbiter to determine that a review “clearly shows that the Association involved appropriate professionals…”, especially if PP was unrepresented in the actual lease.

Just another example of how our current UB leadership is lacking. They ignore the facts and create their own straw-man argument. They claim to answer a complaint that was never made, and they seem totally unconcerned about improving business agreements that affect your monthly dues. Coldwell Banker Bain may end up being our on-site company, but it should be the result of a competitive process that benefits the membership, not just a simple extension.

For residents who care about responsible spending and lowering our monthly dues, we don’t think it is too much to ask.

 

I need some volunteer help

I need two volunteers from each village to help out from home on a project. You need to have internet access and be willing to help by going online for a few minutes each day or so. We will need to meet as a group once at my place at the Edinburg, next to the North community building/library.

If you are able to help, please call or email me– stevenjdavis@gmail.com or 425.606.6090 home or 913.299.4200 cell.

This is NOT a time sensitive task–you do not have to be online at any certain time. If you can spare 15-20 minutes a few times a week for just a week or two, that’s all I need. In return, you will be able to help form the “next big thing” for Providence Point.

Thanks!

-Steve

Just to be Clear…

In the interest of FULL disclosure, rather than selective information, there is something you should know.

Despite the email sent out to all residents exclaiming that FEMA does NOT cover Providence Point, the truth is something other than what they are insinuating.

In the event of an emergency, FEMA absolutely DOES provide assistance to individuals–including those living in Providence Point. What FEMA does NOT do is provide assistance to the business entity that is the Association. We have buildings that are NOT residential and our streets are, in effect, private and are treated similarly to a private driveway. Those are not eligible.

Why would you want them to be eligible? Imagine if you found out that FEMA was spending taxpayer money to repair backyard swimming pools of individual homeowners or to clear their private driveway of downed trees? I’m sure that those homeowners with long, private driveways and wonderful backyard pools would love for the government to pay for possible damage. You may even agree with that viewpoint. But you shouldn’t be fooled about what you are being asked to endorse–the spending of taxpayer money for private drives and amenities.

Residents of Providence Point are PERSONALLY ELIGIBLE for FEMA assistance for temporary housing in the event of a disaster, but FEMA is not currently in the business of helping private businesses (and that is what a condo association is) recover from a disaster. Websites that explain it clearly include  www.communityassociations.net and www.habitatmag.com

Under the disaster planning and management section they write, “Co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners are covered under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Only co-op and condo boards and common areas aren’t. Why? Because FEMA’s primary aim is giving homeowners and renters alike temporary shelter and supplies after a disaster, and no one lives in a building’s common-area hallways and lobbies.”

I just thought you should know the full story behind what the Board President is asking you to support…and that the sky is NOT falling. Providence Point residents currently qualify for FEMA assistance and no alarming email will change that fact.

 

What others are saying

I have invited others to post on this blog but I consistently get the response that, although they have thoughts they would like to share, they fear possible retaliation. I understand.

Our society has engineered robust consequences for squeaky wheels…One of the subtlest and most pervasive is social ostracism… Coolness is a fierce disciplinarian. –Lindy West, columnist, NYTimes July 12, 2017

Instead, I have chosen to share a few of their comments anonymously, including one letter in its entirety.

I wish I wasn’t still in the working world and had time to participate in the community and meetings.  I’d be rallying with you. -PP resident that is part of the 15% of residents in PP that still work full or part time.

The UB has a big problem, a lot of it with communication with their constituency. As you know, many people do not participate in the governing of PP and that is why it’s so easy for the UB to do what they choose. -long time PP resident

There was once scheduled an employee appreciation day that sounded like it was going to cost a lot of money. For a nonprofit like PP to wildly spend money was not appropriate.   I was told that if I didn’t want to appreciate the employees I had the right to move. -long time PP resident

Finally, I received this email the other day.

How NOT to Spend $1,100 of OUR Money!

When I moved to Providence Point a few years ago I thought our monthly fees would be spent wisely.  But since a new Community Manager arrived and a new Umbrella President took office, I no longer believe they are spending our money wisely or prudently.

For now, let’s just point out legal fees, which I believe are out of control due to general mismanagement.  The most egregious violation was spending our money to develop the rant that Jen Gray and Pat Rooney put in “To the Point”.

Are residents aware that Jen Gray called an emergency meeting and invited the Association attorney to attend specifically for the purpose of developing the rant?

Are residents aware that the attorney charges $300 per hour, and the meeting lasted 3 hours?  Plus, there is printing cost.

What are our Umbrella representatives thinking to approve this cost to support Jen Gray’s personal vendetta, or were they even asked?

I’ve been told that those people that signed the rant did so under duress.  How would you feel if the Community Manager stood behind you until you signed the document?  That’s what happened!  Isn’t that harassment, and isn’t that a violation of the Code of Ethics?

Is this what we expect from a Community Manager that earns a 6-figure salary?  Sure, he probably has to do what Jen tells him to do if he wants to keep his job.

Still, it’s not what I expect, and I believe the Umbrella Board should ask Jen Gray and Pat Rooney to personally reimburse the Association for this unwise expense.  If they won’t do that, then I agree that Pat Rooney should be fired and Jen Gray should resign.

I’ve seen how residents that challenge them may suffer retaliation, so for that reason, I have left my name off this post.  Let’s just say I’m a conscientious resident that sees the need for change.

These are just some of the responses I get on a regular basis. The writers are upset and vent via email to me but none agreed to be publicly identified. I’m not saying that every opinion presented is fact or that every memory is perfect. It just seems that, based on the level of frustration I see in my email inbox, there is definitely room for improvement.

My Top 10 List (with a little help from YOU!)

  1. Imagine election of the Umbrella Board Officers being done by popular vote of all residents of Providence Point.

Currently, our UB officers are elected solely by the 9 village representatives. (This would take an amendment to the Declaration and By-laws to change.)

 

  1. Imagine only spending legal fees and consulting legal counsel when approved by a majority of the Umbrella Board in an open meeting with the votes recorded.

Our UB has spent more on legal fees in the last 12 months than any previous 12-month period in the last 5 years. Most of those expenses were incurred on the approval of only 3 individuals—one or two at any given time.

 

  1. Imagine ALL meetings being open to the membership. Executive sessions would be limited to personnel issues where the subject of the meeting requested privacy or for legal issues with non-residents.

Our Board currently uses executive session, emergency meetings and closed meetings to hide their activities from the residents instead of limiting them to approved uses.

 

  1. Imagine the Umbrella Board handling complaints by inviting the complaining resident to attend the meeting to discuss their complaint and being allowed to speak and ask questions.

This does not happen with the current Umbrella Board.

 

  1. Imagine the Umbrella Board actually participating in any arbitration with a resident.

No current member of the Umbrella Board attended the only arbitration held during their tenure. They sent their attorney, hid truthful, relevant evidence under attorney-client privilege, and prevailed only by successfully hiding evidence of what their actions were. If the Board was so certain of the correctness of their position, why did they need the attorney and why did they try to dismiss the case on a technicality in two instances? The actions of the UB cost the membership at least $1800 in excess legal fees that the arbitrator would NOT award.

 

  1. Imagine board members and committee members not being subjected to a gag rule under the guise of an “ethics” policy.

The current leadership has proposed a rule in which a dissenting member of a board or committee could not speak about the dissent in public after a decision was reached. Seriously.

 

  1. Imagine Umbrella Board meetings being held at 6:30pm during the week and 10am on Saturdays so that residents who still work full-time could attend and participate.

We overlook a great wealth of talent with our current schedule of meetings held during business hours.

 

  1. Imagine meetings held without PMO employees present to read their reports.

PMO employees now attend virtually every village, umbrella and committee meeting at an average cost of over “$40 per hour”. For some meetings, 3 or 4 PMO employees are present. During a typical year, that is tens of thousands of dollars for someone to read a report out loud.

 

  1. Imagine a PMO staff that strives to find a way to say “yes” to a resident request the first time it is made.

My email inbox is full of examples of residents experiencing needless aggravation because the default answer seems often to be “no”—Some staff members have an attitude of service. We need to cultivate that in all of our employees. When possible, try to delight the customer. At Providence Point, the residents are our customer, employer and neighbor.

 

Okay, that’s only 9. Do you have some suggestions you would like to share? Post a comment on this topic OR email me directly and include permission for me to print your suggestions. Also, tell me if you want your name mentioned or not.

Does this look true to you?

Rooney affidavit

I won’t even begin to explain the issue of utilities and moving truck street use. It is a small amount and doesn’t really pass the laugh test. However, if you believe Mr. Rooney, the PMO staff spends 8 hours of preparation and presentation time for every new set of residents of a SINGLE unit.

Why not put the briefing on video?

Why does the PMO staff need prep time for each briefing? Don’t they save the common information? Are they really that unproficient at their jobs? You would think that after 50 or 100 briefings they would have the basics down, right? Not according to their boss. He signed a sworn statement that the staff spends 8 hours doing a repetitive task.

Not a fair critique, you say? Maybe you’re right. Maybe he didn’t really mean it.

In that case, you have a property manager who provided a false statement under penalty of perjury. Let that sink in. Then recall that the Umbrella Association President is responsible for direct supervision of Mr. Rooney and that the entire Umbrella Board of Directors has the sole ability to remove Mr. Rooney from his position. Of course, if the leadership or other members of the board asked Mr. Rooney to provide such a statement, knowing that it was false, that would be an entirely different matter.

The truth is that we will probably never know. We have one of the least transparent UBs that many long-time residents can ever recall. They have spent thousands of dollars on legal opinions trying to keep information away from the membership. They have held more executive sessions than any board in recent memory, and they caused a committee meeting to be closed to the membership for the first time in Providence Point history. All of it done to hide their actions from the members who pay the bills.

What is the SPDC trying to hide?

I went to the unannounced Strategic Planning and Development Committee meeting today–it was at 9am in the upstairs Umbrella conference room. The first order of business was for Chair Bruce Eder to declare that the meeting was a “closed” meeting and that I was excused.

I explained that unless they were willing to put that in writing, I was going nowhere.

Bruce wrote out a single sentence and signed it, so I left the room…and sat down in the chair next to the coat rack immediately outside the conference room!

I spent the next hour diligently taking notes–well, actually, I started at 9:07 and I decided to go home at 10 o’clock when the discussion moved on to the details of the shuttle bus service.

So, why do they not announce these meetings? Why don’t they publish the meeting minutes without first having extensive debates on what information to include in those minutes? And most importantly, when our governing documents state that ALL meetings are open to the membership unless held in executive session (this one was NOT, they insisted), what are they hiding from the membership?

It is amazing what you can learn just by sitting quietly in the hallway…