The Condo Association Wars: Website Purposes & Procurements

20 Feb

autumn

In Autumn At 4707 Connecticut

samplex

At 6:56 AM -0800 2/20/02, Joseph Robinson wrote:

Hi Gabriel—I checked out your Web site again today. I like the new poll. I had class last night, and was unable to attend the meeting. How did the meeting go? How did the board feel about the Web site?

Hey Joe—thanks for popping into the site. I wasn't able to make the meeting last night either, but my wife Sue attended. So you'll have to settle for second hand news, what there is of it. Seems that Bill Tilghman was quite an effective agent of change. He initiated the web site discussion, then championed the site as a positive step in the right direction. In other words, to quote one of the communication committee's finest, he "gets" it.

I can thoroughly appreciate his sensibilities and applaud his efforts in seizing an opportunity to float past the butterfly net. Thank you very much, Bill. You have my strongest respect. First Gloria, now the whole Board! Impressive!

I however, envision the site as something more robust and comprehensive, a vital communication and archival tool or else it's just not worth my time, nor probably anybody else's. And isn't the Board already overworked and overmuscled as it is...
In what I heard was a formidable defense, Bill beat back most of the neutralizing reactions of Diane Ferro, Victor Fried, and Brian Moran, with solid responses. After some discussion the Board eventually voted to have the communications committee write a proposal for the Board to consider at a later date. Victor abstained from this vote.

Frankly, for sake of argument, I'm not at all convinced I am comfortable with the Board CONTROLLING the site at this point, although I feel that ceding the work to the Association one fine day when most of the heavy lifting is finished and the weekly grind is manageable at minimum expense and expertise, is certainly in the cards. But in the meantime, no doubt, we should abide the communications committee, chaired by Laura Baptiste, to organize an effort to articulate the full range of issues impacting a community site, answer them honestly and wholly, and then respectfully suggest that the best solution is defined by what a web site can mean to the association as a whole, and is not simply a mediocre offering existing primarily as yet another flexed muscle of the Board. I however, envision the site as something more robust and comprehensive, a vital communication and archival tool or else it's just not worth my time, nor probably anybody else's.

And isn't the Board already overworked and overmuscled as it is...

Victor Fried voiced poignant concerns about money and site continuity. Diane wants Board control over every document posted. Doesn't it already have that power with every document I have in my possession? Does Diane want proof reading duties? She's more than welcome to that thankless task, I'm sure. I'm not clear as to what Brian Moran questioned about the online delivery of pages that should matter to us each solely as equal members of the association, but I'm sure he's well-intentioned. Ditto ditto on the rest of us. On continuity, if the project eventually dies with me, then so be it. Who's lost anything? Not Victor. Not the Board. Not the Association. Just me and some folly of selling myself far too short for far too long and never thinking far enough ahead in begging to differ.

This shoddy method of governing apologetics simply amounts to a deflection of the inquiry, and while I am sure the Board members may grow weary of explaining what to them is an obvious fact of daily operations, this repeated stonewalling of sincere inquiry seems to indicate possible collusion and willful intent to deceive, which is not fun city. Especially when fact turns to myth when more carefully reviewed.
Two letters, one by Julie Rosenthal and another by Joe Remy, concerning the recent garage assessments were read into the record by Tish Kilpatrick.

The garage assessment bothers me as well, but not in a way that I've heard articulated by anyone else. However, I'll leave the stickier details of that discussion to the paper I had hoped I would have had prepared by last night's meeting, but did not.

The gist however is this, and I must put it bluntly: our Board of Directors is acting ILLEGALLY. It is beyond my comprehensive powers to understand the Board's apparent lack of respect with regards to the seriousness of this legality issue, even as it becomes clear that the vast majority of unit owners are persistently acquiescent, even comfortable with the Board taking these risks. After thoroughly absorbing the specific documentation in the District Code (see below), the 4707 Association's governing documents, and any presumable common sense, or more precisely, any savvy political and financial lucidity I could muster, what I behold as the Board's insistence on pushing through this assessment according to their own lights instead of BY THE BOOK, has left them conceivably open to charges of gross impropriety. And that charge could come from anybody in this building, and in my humble opinion, that charge might very well stick.

Even after certain details are brought to the Board's attention, instead of a well-reasoned response, a series of conflicting explanations, often by the same people within the same retort, are manifested. This shoddy method of governing apologetics simply amounts to a deflection of the inquiry, and while I am sure the Board members may grow weary of explaining what to them is an obvious fact of daily operations, this repeated stonewalling of sincere inquiry seems to indicate possible collusion and willful intent to deceive, which is not fun city. Especially when fact turns to myth when more carefully reviewed.

But I hardly expected the degree of alienation that has swept through some of us who simply feel there is an urgency to be more routinely informed and in charge of our own specific destinies within the greater context of association unity, and to be recognized as allies in these efforts in helping to make this transition a reality.
I am not an attorney, but I do believe I can read at a decent level of comprehension. Specific regulations protect Board members from personal liability when their decisions are rendered honestly, even if mistakenly. The Board is also heavily insured by the Association against untold other species of lawsuits from unit owners, contractors, or other vendors for faults real or imagined. For lack of a better phrase, let me just say I think our Board has taken this protection racket a little too far. Lawsuits are filed every day against associations or their boards nationwide. Interesting case law is being propagated locally (VA), and is worth noting. Not that I'm suggesting a lawsuit. I am most solemnly not. I wish only to encourage a spirit of cooperation and civil discourse on important matters, in this case, with my neighbors and trusted directors, and in the process get a firm grasp on protocols and procedures as we each seek a strong and common foundation. But some things must not be allowed to stand. Bad precedent is bad precedent. Even if this is how things have been done for 20 years.

Yet this Board expects to be given "some leeway" as Tish said to me in passing while we were attending the Community Associations Institute (CAI) seminar ten days ago where every speaker I heard made mention of the association's governing documents as the"only God in town." Their words, not mine. They emphasized, and re-emphasized this quite specific aspect of surviving life in an association. Even the Courts refer to the association's governing documents as the primary source of appropriate action, as noted in article after article in over two years of archived CAI publications I've poured over these past few weeks. It is now my impression that this Board believes that the 4707 CACA is unique, a special case, or in systemic terms, their own special project, and that the rules do not or should not apply to them because they each have good hearts and stellar credentials and are simply doing the right thing. While I continually beat a dead horse, it is no surprise that decent, smart, affluent, hardworking people can be dead wrong too. That includes me. That includes you.

This rather unsettling feeling as to the Board's procedural nature has only recently been settled upon me.

The legitimacy here I think is signaled in the fact there there should be little or zero difference with regards to what the web site can produce equally for all three parties, and that is a closer-knit community where each of the three groups contribute and earn respect for each other's contributions and perspectives within the association.
Last November when another resident who is now selling her unit in protest rather than organize the fight as she originally tried to do among a small group of would-be dissenters (I refused to go, reading details only later), I cavalierly dismissed her description of the Board, as inflammatory and surely unfounded. But her description unfortunately now seems all too fitting in the couple of months I have vigorously chased the idea of becoming better informed.

The assessment value cap per annum whereby the Board must officially consult with the rest of the association in a vote of the whole body is being resolutely ignored. And that misstep is just the tip of the iceberg I believe.

This is a rather sad and difficult situation for me. My position on those matters is further complicated by the unfortunate politics of trying to invigorate the web site in this new era of controversy with the same gratifying community spirit I had in mind when I believed there was no extenuating hassle immediately at hand.

I began the web site as a measure of self-ordering. The idea of public service to the association at large wasn't too remote of course, since this is what I do (communication via publication), even knowing that without fail some tenacious controversy would arise. But I hardly expected the degree of alienation that has swept through some of us who simply feel there is an urgency to be more routinely informed and in charge of our own specific destinies within the greater context of association unity, and to be recognized as allies in these efforts in helping to make this transition a reality. Not treated as intruders, know-nothings, corrupters of the code, or worse.

As you know, there is a lot of work already in place, and so much more that should be encouraged.

After several declarations as to not knowing enough about the proposed site (although every board member was made privy to passwords and ID last November) my wife last night offered to answer any questions any of the Board members might have concerning what I've started. Not a single person accepted her offer. They each turned to her to stare silently, and then, just as quickly resumed discussion among themselves.
So a legitimate line of questioning is indeed, what's in it for the vendor, what's in it for the association at large, and what's in it for the Board of Directors? And again, what are the downsides for each group? The legitimacy here I think is signaled in the fact there there should be little or zero difference with regards to what the web site can produce equally for all three parties, and that is a closer-knit community where each of the three groups contribute and earn respect for each other's contributions and perspectives within the association.

It's called: GETTING TO KNOW YA....

Pardon my pessimism, but to have the Board suddenly co-opt or stunt ongoing efforts to creatively archive the immense body of papered documentation that owners should read, file at home, and recall on demand, with non-compensatory bureaucratic hoopla is mundanely counterproductive, even as I concede that the Board might simply be running this project through the same gristmill as any other professional project under its formidable wings, and are simply seeking similar assurances from any web vendor, whomever that happens to be, based on its own well-honed formalities in conducting business for the Association.

Yes. But of course, why would ANYBODY volunteer to do all this work for free unless there is an ulterior motive? Call it a creative passion to organize. Call it just looking for something to do. Call it community spirit. Call it ridiculous. But don't call it ridiculous, wage war on it, and then expect a happy volunteer next year when the shadows shift...

After several declarations as to not knowing enough about the proposed site (although every board member was made privy to passwords and ID last November) my wife last night offered to answer any questions any of the Board members might have concerning what I've started. Not a single person accepted her offer. They each turned to her to stare silently, and then, just as quickly resumed discussion among themselves.

Strange. It's as though I can't figure out if I'm too close or too far away from the situation to effectively make a difference. In the end, keen perspective doesn't matter I suppose, if all it means is one spends far more time standing in somebody else's shoes than in one's own, and don't even have a clean footprint to show for it. Apologies for the length of my doubts...
It was at this point Bill suggested that the communications committee work up something for later consideration. And since, I truly do not wish to involve myself in a dogfight in a formidably rigged match...

I sigh. Volunteerism is only as good as the spirit in which it's received...

Since accountability is a two-way street I grant that there should probably be some "legal postulate to protect all parties in place" for the web site to operate as a highly functional yet volunteer project and still hope for anything close to certified Board sanction, nor did I ever think otherwise. I for one would like to think the PRIVACY POLICY, once composed, and then ratified by the Board of Directors should amply satisfy all but the most domineering of critics, but I could be wrong.

So Joe, since you are already equipped with a positive take on the web idea, perhaps you'd like to contribute to the communications committee's newest mission in helping to formalize that postulate. Strange. It's as though I can't figure out if I'm too close or too far away from the situation to effectively make a difference. In the end, keen perspective doesn't matter I suppose, if all it means is one spends far more time standing in somebody else's shoes than in one's own, and don't even have a clean footprint to show for it.

Apologies for the length of my doubts,

Gabriel

© 2002 - 2013, Gabriel Thy. All rights reserved.

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