An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published March 5, 2011


We always hear that annual meetings of homeowners' associations don't attract many owners, nobody wants to run for the board and many meetings don't even achieve a quorum. 


But what if the crowd is waiting, hoping to get answers from a board that has -- according to many owners -- played some underhanded games and filed an amendment that some owners claim never had the necessary vote of approval and many owners are claiming they were deceived into signing a JOINDER that really didn't do what they were told it will be doing? 


A JOINDER that turned into an amendment advantageous to the neighboring golf course 

-- a totally separate entity. For a reader's better understanding it's important to know that all board members have connections to the golf course. Some are even -- according to homeowners -- on the payroll of the golf course owner.

Many owners attended the annual meeting of the Marcus Pointe Homeowners' Association in Pensacola.



What if the crowd is waiting in expectation of electing some new board, only to be told that only one seat is up for election -- all other 4 board members' terms are not up yet?


Can you imagine that the owners were up in arms when they found out that they are not getting answers and no election takes place?


There are often reasons why owners don't want to go to these association meetings. They are often a waste of time, nothing gets achieved and the board doesn't want to hear what the owners have to say anyway. Especially HOA annual meetings with elections become more and more unpopular. The lack of proper election rules and lack of possible enforcement of the few rules in existence discouraged many owners. Add the fact that in many HOAs the high number of non-paying owners makes it difficult to achieve a quorum anyway.



Board President Carol Wilson set the tone for that meeting, when she tried to lay the ground rules, hoping to squash any challenges. She explained that a lot of ground needs to be covered and "we only have the church until 7:30 p.m.


Then Wilson even tried to postpone public input only to the end of the meeting: "If there are people who wish to make a statement, I will give them the opportunity to do that in open forum." 


It was obvious that many of these owners didn't just come to listen to the financial report and other pretty boring issues. They wanted answers, answers the board obviously wasn't willing to give.


The tension was growing because the owners

Carol Wilson: "If there are people who wish to make a statement, I will give them the opportunity to do that in open forum."                [VIDEO]

present felt more and more uncomfortable with the made-up rules that would seriously impair their right to speak -- one of the main reasons for them to attend this meeting. 


The rules about owners' input continued with: "The board will only answer question that pertain to the covenants, issues the board has control over. The board will not get into any negative discussion over the golf course etc.." The audience took all these statements in stride, until Wilson continued with: "We will not answer any questions that are negative, you know -- that are outside this meeting."


That finally caused Barbara Little, a homeowner who happens to be an attorney, to speak up and explain to Carol Wilson that there are Florida statutes that have to be followed [FS 720.306(6)]. That chapter of the statutes is headlined: RIGHT TO SPEAK.  [VIDEO]


After lengthy discussions about nominations from the floor, which clearly showed that the board was absolutely unprepared -- and incompetent -- to deal with these issues. Questions from the floor suggested that 4 seats should be up for election. Elected for 3-year terms is obviously too hard to figure out -- maybe some folks can't count to three, like 1-2-3? Neither the INVITATION nor the AGENDA to the annual meeting specifies procedures for the election of the board of directors or the number of seats open for election.


The big question: "How many slots are there?" Response President Carol Wilson: "We have not verified it. If it isn't there it will be corrected." Solution of the board: Retreat! Election postponed. Shouldn't that all be sorted out BEFORE the invitation for the annual meeting with election is mailed out instead of wasting everybody's time? [Watch the VIDEO]


It took some reminders by Barbara Little to finally get the microphone and say what many of the owners in attendance had in mind.  


A homeowners' association is bound by Florida statutes and its own deed-restrictions and bylaws. If the board managing the business of the association fails to follow the rules it will finally come to an uprising of the people -- similar to what we see in other countries in the world in the moment. 


In Little's opinion the board breached its fiduciary duty when securing the votes for the JOINDER of the Marcus Pointe homeowners to amend the Covenants and Declarations to allow financing of the privately held golf course through an annual $480 assessment.

My attention was piqued, I shall say, by what transpired by the controversy over the golf course.



If the board fails to inform the owners about simple rules, like expiration terms of board members, or identifying the number of open seats before asking for nominations, any meeting has to end in disaster. Looking at the faces of the board members after her speech?


Let's say the board members were  definitely speechless.


But before the board was able to close down the meeting -- without anything really achieved -- homeowner John Aubert was able to make his voice heard. He clearly challenged the validity of the vote regarding the joinder.  With some documents in his hands, clearly proof that things were not "kosher", he made some good points why the vote was "rigged."


Some lame attempts by Carol Wilson to explain the obvious discrepancies fell way short of any reasonable explanation.


This confrontation was long forthcoming, considering that many homeowners claimed that the filed AMENDMENT didn't get the necessary vote of approval to pass.

Homeowner John Aubert: "His vote was a 'NO'-Vote. So I'm challenging the validity of this vote. How many miscounts were there?" [VIDEO]


Answer to some very hard questions: "The meeting is adjourned!" [VIDEO]


Another evening wasted due to the incompetence of a homeowners' association board. Why should homeowners attend useless annual meetings that waste everybody's time and money?