Gateway Sun

Yesterday the Gateway Sun received an email from Denise Vezina, the president of the Waterford Village HOA.

She began her letter by saying “until last night, I did not know who you are or what you do” (she does now) and went on to both blast our article and explain her reasoning behind rejecting an audit of the association’s finances.

I also got an email from Paul Wingard who, despite being one of the smartest people in Gateway, also agreed to become a member of the Waterford Village HOA board.

Both of those HOA board members independently attempted to convince me that the reason they don’t agree with financial audits is because they’re too expensive.

In his email, Wingard said that an audit would be “$5,000 or $6,000, maybe.”

So I pulled up the leepa.org website and counted 109 homes in Waterford Village. (I only counted once. So if the real number is 111 or something, I apologize.)

But suppose you wanted to have an audit performed every three years, and we split Wingard’s number right down the middle and say it’s $5,500, maybe.

According to our abacus, that would be about 17 bucks per home owner per year.

Now we’ve had this argument before over other things. 17 bucks is 17 bucks. You take 20 bucks here, 12 bucks there, and 17 for an audit, it starts to add up.

We all get that.

But when one HOA board member is concerned that maybe the taxes aren’t in order, and they request an audit be done, is $17 really enough for the rest of the HOA board to slam on the breaks?

Windgard thinks it is.

As Wingard mentioned more than once, “the decision is a Board decision”.

Vezina separately agreed, telling the Sun that “the decision would be up to a quorum of the Board”.

But the problem is that the Waterford Village HOA board consists of 3 elected members, and two people that were appointed after other members quit.

When there’s a vacancy on an HOA board, usually the remaining board members get to select the replacement board members.

And guess who ususally heads up the process of selecting the new board members? That’s right. It’s normally the HOA board president.

Considering that the Waterford Village HOA board has 5 members – one being the president… and two being appointees – that puts the president in a position to stack the board and control vote outcomes.

So when questions arise involving the association’s money, the default position should be to go over and above to make sure that those trying to hold the HOA board accountable are accommodated.

In this case, that means the homeowners spending $17 each per year and getting the books audited every once in awhile.

And for agreeing with that concept, Vezina blasted the Sun, saying: “I am very sorry to see that you have chosen to participate in this scheme that has been created by two people ,who are trying desperately to manipulate the truth for their own personal gain.”

Ah yes… Quite the “dastardly scheme”, I replied to Vezina.

Rogue homeowners wanting to have … an audit performed.

That’s conspiracy-filled, out-to-get-the-HOA, crazy-talk stuff if I’ve ever heard it.

Anyway there is some good news, maybe.

Vezina promised that the residents would be allowed to vote on whether the association audits their books or not during their next election. We inquired to see whether the voting rules were a simple majority (ie: if only 31 people turn in ballots do they only need 16?) or whether they would need to meet the 50%+1 threshold.

It’s an important question because in most communities less than half of all HOA proxy votes are ever cast. So setting the 50%+1 of all homeowners standard would guarantee a specific outcome.

But in all reality, if the board wasn’t stacked with multiple appointees, they could be performing an audit anyway.

We will update this story once we receive a response to our inquiry about the voting rules.

break-line

Many people who read the Gateway Sun will immediately roll their eyes after they finish reading an article.

To more than a few people, and especially the elected officials and HOA board members, I’m not very well liked.

I get that.

But the same is also true of many HOA board members. The difference is that they don’t know it.

Oh sure, every board member thinks they have 1 or 2 enemies plotting against them. But by and large they waltz around their communities truly believing that everyone thinks they’re just these wonderful people, when the reality is that half the residents can’t stand them — if they even know who they are.

So when articles like this one are written, calling out things like a stacked board and calling in to question their decision-making, the board members don’t know how to handle it. They just don’t know what to do. As far as they’re concerned they’ve done a great job and everyone just loves them to pieces… and the Sun has obviously been manipulated by their crazy enemy in the community who’s out to get them.

But the reality is we will always side with the residents over the HOA, or over the GSCDD.

In this case, there are some people who think something isn’t quite right in Waterford Village, and they reached out for help. They’re not asking me to lobby on their behalf for new exercise bikes or patio furniture for the pool. They want an audit.

And yeah they probably plan to try and change up the board next time they get a chance, like Vezina said in her email… but it’s literally the main reason these boards are elected: to hold them accountable.

Do you know what else holds board members accountable? Audits.

Anyway, as long as the vote that will be held is a straight-up “majority rules” vote on whether or not to do an audit, then that’s all we can ask for. If the majority of the homeowners who vote do not want money to be spent on an audit, so be it.

But at least now they know this issue is out there… and they can choose to look in to the situation or not… and make whatever decision they feel is best.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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