by Frank Leeming, July 17, 2019
What is in the air?
One by one, those elected to the POA board slip over to the dark side and embrace the “corporate” way of doing things and the control imposed by CEO Lesley Nalley.
Last year, after campaign promises to the contrary, Nancy Luehring, Buddy Dixon, and Cindi Erickson came out of indoctrination sessions buying the ways of then-board chair Tom Weiss.
This year, after campaign promises to the contrary, Tormey Campagna came out of secret board meetings supporting the ways of Erickson, Dixon, Luehring and Mike Medica.
What is it in the air or the water pushing good people to change their ways?
My guess is it’s the proximity to power and the hope it will rub off.
At today’s board meeting, we saw a series of 4-2 votes (instead of 3-3 with Erickson breaking the tie) as Campagna turned away from fellow newbies, Diana Podawiltz and Dick Garrison.
Again under the watchful eyes of armed police, the board listened to upbeat reports from managers who skillfully avoided mentioning troubling numbers and painted a rosy picture of how well things are being run in Hot Springs Village. If there’s any trouble here in River City, it’s because of all the rain.
Jamie Caperton, Chief Member Experience Officer
A bright note came from the newest member of the management team, Jamie Caperton, just on board as Chief Member Experience Officer. What, you ask, does she manage? Quite a bit, actually: Golf, recreation, food services, lakes, and community marketing.
It was the latter area where she brought a breath of fresh air, promising to take a hard look at the POA’s woeful marketing efforts. Also, her promise to “dig deep” into every department under her direction to make things better had a refreshing ring to it.
Judge Herzfeld could not have been any clearer
The meeting came less than 24 hours after the POA sent out a totally insensitive eblast urging members to be patient while management figures out how to follow Circuit Court Judge Robert Herzfeld’s ruling supporting Cooper Communities’ request to open up Village files.
It could be argued the POA is simply being prudent in asking for time to set up guidelines on how to release sensitive information. That, however, is not what Judge Herzfeld ordered in a ruling which mocked the POA’s defense.
“This is a simple business case,” he wrote.
“There is no criminal statute or penalty at stake, and there are no Constitutional or other fundamental rights implicated.
“In fact, the statute in question is endowing rights upon members of nonprofit corporations.
“Oddly, the Defendant (POA) has chosen to view the statute as limiting its own ‘right’ to keep important information secret from its members.”
“The statute in question…is therefore subject to the lowest possible standard of review with the lowest possible stakes and the Defendant has a heavy burden to demonstrate that the language simply does not work.”
“So, given that standard, is the statute in question – ‘All books and records of a corporation may be inspected by any member for any proper purpose at a reasonable time’ – unconstitutionally vague?”
“In a word: no.”
Judge Herzfeld went on to say, Cooper, a property owner, and his request about contacting other property owners and “investigating the current salaries of organizational employees who are paid from membership dues and assets” is reasonable and proper.
This openness is not limited to Cooper, but to all members of the association, the judge wrote.
Yet in blatant disregard of the ruling, the POA’s eblast Tuesday said the ruling “is specific to CCI and the facts of its specific document request…”
So the POA is wiggling and trying to delay as long as it can access by property owners to Nalley’s contract and other information.
The eblast said the POA is “working with legal counsel to revise record inspection and other policies in a manner that follows Arkansas law while upholding the POA’s purpose of preserving the value of property and promoting the health, safety, and welfare of our residents…”
Sounds to me like the eblast was prepared by the same lawyers who lost so badly before Judge Herzfeld.
The eblast said each request by a property owner to see the secret records ‘must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis under the facts and circumstances that exist at the time of the request,” a contention totally contrary to Judge Herzfeld’s ruling.
“Whether taken in phrases or as a whole, the statutory language has plain meaning and is clear from both the corporate and member perspective.”
“An average person should reasonably understand and predict that these words mean members should have reasonable access to all of the recorded information held by their organization as long as they have some kind of minimal, non-malicious purpose for wanting the information.”
I don’t think the judge could have been any clearer.
Instead of using the court’s ruling as an opportunity to embrace the value of transparency and open government so often voiced by POA leaders, they’re muddying the waters by trying to slide around the judge and set up their own parameters. Not good.
A last note on today’s board meeting
Under new controls imposed by Erickson, anyone who wishes to address the board has to sign up in advance. Today, after four property owners rose and used their three minutes to criticize the board, Erickson adjourned the meeting even as others asked to speak.
This isn’t how we should treat each other.
by Frank Leeming, July 17, 2019
Edited and formatted by Cheryl Dowden