21 October 2009

Dear Good Old Boys' Club and the Bus Stop Gossips:

Yeah, it's long. If you have time, read it and give me your opinion of this extreme rough draft. If you don't have time, I understand. Names have been changed to protect those who don't deserve protecting. Jodi is truly Jodi. Thanks.

I’m not quite sure where to begin. I’ve stared at the blinking cursor on my computer screen for the past hour, wondering how to begin this letter to you, where to bring you in, and how to tell you all that you need to know.

The first thing I want to say is that I am fully aware of what occurred during the protracted meeting on Wednesday, October 14. My husband, Ty-man, was gracious enough to attend in my stead, to speak for me when I could not. From what I understand, the meeting was drama-filled and the discussion heated. What I am asking from you, no…begging really, is for civility to reign. Much of my credibility has been damaged by one man and by a lot of gossip, assumptions, and heresy. Turning our community into a pitchfork-wielding mob will not exactly help this situation and it certainly won’t help answer your questions. Let’s not get carried away in the moment. You may disagree with me, even after you finish reading this. That’s fine. I’m not here to please every one; I’m here to do the business of this community. In the midst of all this high emotion, let us try our best to not resort to name-calling and ugliness. Passion does not have to equate disrespect.*

I have attended every HOA Board meeting since coming on-board on January 7, 2009. In fact, I attended the annual Board/Community meeting on February 4, 2009, my husband’s 37th birthday. While I took minutes and counted proxies, he stayed at home with kids. I get that serving on this Board is a sacrifice of time and sanity. What I had no idea is that serving on this Board would also mean a loss of dignity and ten solid months of being bullied and treated as less-than-human.

Jodi was an acquaintance in November, 2008, when she asked me to serve on the Board as its fifth member. I came onto the Board knowing no one. I don’t socialize in the community because I’m pretty much a hermit. In fact, I attended Jodi’s New Years party spending most of the evening with a spinning head, trying to keep names and faces straight. I didn’t know my fellow Board members and I would find over the next four months that one member in particular takes it personally when anyone disagrees with him. He gets ugly, nasty, and hits way below the belt, something I never thought to experience in my adult life. I guess I’m naive that way.

Since the re-hiring of Property Management this year, Larry’s attitude toward Jodi has gone from positive to negative. Around that time, everything Jodi said to Larry, any direction she gave him, he took it badly and lashed out at her. I saw Jodi doing her job as a Director of the Community and as President of the Board. Larry saw her as the enemy and began treating her as such. I cannot stand to see someone being treated as Jodi was being treated by Larry, and I did what I always do in those situations, I stood up for Jodi, I stood up for the office of President, and I stood up for a fellow Director. I told Larry that he was being a bully. Since then, Larry has treated me poorly as well and has managed to tarnish whatever name I have in this community. Me, a person you don’t even know. A person you’ve probably never even met.

There are two sides to every story and I present the other side to you now in the form of e-mail exchanges between Larry, Jodi, and myself (please refer to Attachment 1**). I will never apologize for what I’ve said to Larry. I’ve always been truthful and I hope these e-mails will speak for themselves. What these e-mails say is that this Board is extremely dysfunctional. Larry, Jodi, Stacey, and myself are all a part of this dysfunction. We’ve all had a hand in it and to say that one person has had less of a part to play than the others is incorrect.

I wouldn’t wish this situation on my worst enemy. For the past six months, my blood pressure rises, my heart thumps, and my mind races each and every time I open my Inbox. I dread Board meetings like I dread trips to the dentist. It is that painful for me and I wouldn’t wish this experience on any of you. Not at all. And that is why I voted Nay in regards to the motion for Mr. D to fill the fifth Directorship left vacant by Mr. B's illness. I will continue to vote Nay regarding any volunteer who steps forward to fill this position. I refuse to vote for anyone whom I don’t know. I don’t know how any of you will react to this situation and none of you needs to jump into the middle of this ridiculousness. At this point, the Board is extremely volatile. Larry refuses to listen to either Jodi or myself regarding anything. Jodi, Stacey, and I are ready and willing to do the work that needs to be done to move this community forward to the annual homeowners’ meeting in February. We have a budget to approve, we have a clubhouse in need of drastic repair, we have a pool that needs to be resurfaced, and we have an HVAC system that needs to be replaced. In the midst of a struggling economy with some of our homeowners losing their jobs and many of us tightening our belts, we’re looking at the need for a dues increase. That is what the four Board members need to be focused on, not on the question of why a volunteer was voted for or against. Larry is continuing to push this issue to the point that he is declaring my filling of this particular Directorship illegal and without merit. This has become personal for him as it never was for me and that is something that is a detriment to this community and in no way helpful to the business at hand.

The second question/problem many of you had was with the October 14th meeting itself. You all showed up to a meeting, wanting to ask questions and receive answers, only finding that quorum was not met and two directors missing. Larry made it seem as though we didn’t show up at the last minute, that he had no idea as to why we were absent. Actually, Larry knew on Monday, October 12th, that quorum would not be met (please see Attachment 2***). To be precise, he knew sometime between 7:35 AM and 8:04 AM that morning. Jodi had stated the week before that she would not be attending. She asked Larry to reschedule and he refused. She then stated that she would turn her voting proxy over to me. On Monday morning, October 12th, Larry sent an e-mail stating that, according to Property Management and our lawyer, Director proxies were illegal and if we were to be absent from meetings that we could not give proxies to other Directors to vote on our behalf. This meant that during an important discussion of the 2010 budget, one of our members would be absent with no ability to vote or to have a say. After reading that e-mail Monday morning, I knew I could not attend because I could not allow this discussion to occur without all members present. I stated that I would not attend in order to protect the integrity of this community and force a lack of quorum. The other reason I did not attend is that I was truly sick with a cold. I fought illness all summer and with this year’s flu season upon us, I didn’t want to push myself or possibly make my fellow Board members ill. Those are the reasons why I didn’t attend the meeting. As you can see in the attached e-mails, even after knowing he would not have quorum for the meeting, Larry continued to state that the meeting was scheduled for October 14th and that it would go forward on October 14th without us, with no warning or notice to the community. That is a disservice to you and to the business that needs to be done and I want you to truly know why you were not alerted.

Translate this letter as you will. Absorb it, please. Read it a few times. What I want you to take away from this is that I’m a real person, with real feelings, real emotions, and a passion to do what is right, not what feels good. And what is right is that this community needs to go forward without drama, without second-hand gossip, and with integrity. Larry is all about drama, he’s all about gossip, and he lacks the integrity necessary to properly serve you as a Director and to serve the Board as its President. If it were up to me, I would collect the signatures necessary to schedule a Special Association Meeting and then collect the bodies and proxies necessary to hold a vote to remove ALL FOUR Board members (yes, me included) and start this community fresh, but I don’t have the time. Between caring for my children, home, and husband, working from home, and taking care of myself, I can’t do it. But that is what I feel would truly get our community back on a healthy track for 2010 and beyond. Not to argue about a volunteer being turned away. Not to get upset about a meeting that should have been rescheduled. But to start fresh.

If any of you have questions, please feel free to call me, e-mail me, or stop by my home. My number and e-mail address have always been available on our Web site as is the contact information for every Board member. Please remember, in the future, that the President or Secretary is typically the first point of contact in the Board chain, but they aren’t the only contacts. If you truly want to know about the health of your volunteer leadership, you need to talk to all of us, come to meetings, find out about each person, because we are ultimately the people who decide how to spend each of your $585 (or more) and if you can’t trust us with that, then you need to do something about it. I hope I’ve answered your questions and cleared up any misconceptions.

Sincerely, Heather

*Loralee, your post inspired me and I pretty much lifted those lines from your blog. Thank you and I hope this serves as a proper citation for your original work. You're a wonder with the words and now even my community knows it!

** Said attachment isn't here. If I included all the e-mails, this post would stretch to the Moon and back.

*** Ditto.


HEATHER said...

Wow!! I can not imagine having to live in this environment. Is there not anyway that you and the others can force Larry out?
I hope the whole matter can be resolved peacefully.

Irrational Dad said...

Geez. All this high-school drama. I hope things work out (keep us informed), and soon. Nothing productive can come from so much hostility. Ugh. I don't even know what to say.

But, I just can't shake the image of the town gathering for a meeting, like on the Gilmore Girls (don't judge me).

Molly's Mom said...

Larry sounds like he'd fit right in on the Detroit City Council (read up on that drama if you're ever in need of a laugh). I can't believe there isn't a way to get that asshat out of there - do people actually like him?!?!

Look back in your email. There's one from me and if you need to, call...

Ginny said...

This makes me want to find a yurt. And then, move into that yurt. And never talk to humans again.

I'm so sorry.

sybil law said...

Makes perfect sense to me. Well written, to the point and no drama involved. Good job!
Now let's hope someone throws out that douchebag Larry.

Michael from dadcation.com said...

Again, move to the 'hood, and there are no HOAs! No one told our neighbors they couldn't have a green house (or red, as my other neighbors have done), and when I finished my basement without a permit, no one said anything! It's great!

Lynda said...

The only change I would make is to take out "I don’t socialize in the community because I’m pretty much a hermit."

Right after, you talk about going to a party. Hermit.

You could say, "I haven't socialized much in the community." They don't need to know why.

What a terrible situation you are in. That really sucks. Sounds like my old HOA in a way. The president had a power trip.

Shelli said...

Utterly ridiculous, that adults behave like middle schoolers. I'm sorry you have to deal with this. I hope you that you don't have to for much longer.

PS. I'm sad that I am not going to be at Avitween. :(

VBW said...

Wow. Just wow. I'm thinking of buying a condo and you may have given me some pause!

Your writing is stellar, and I've always found that high-roaded well-written truth-telling is the best defense against small people. Or people who are acting smally. You know what I mean.

I think you misspelled heresay. I think that's how it's spelled, at least.

I would also cut the first 'graph - it weakens the overall message -- we get that you're at the end of your rope without it.