Pine Mountain residents clash
Article Courtesy of the Modesto Bee


Posted July 22, 2002

PINE MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Check out this expansive subdivision in Tuolumne County, the 2,700 houses with a lake, a golf course, lodge, tennis courts, parks, trails, and 14 gates to keep out the riffraff.

You wonder what could be more peaceful, what could be more pleasant, what could be 

We interrupt this serene scene to take you to last Monday's packed monthly meeting of the Pine Mountain Lake Association board of directors. An announcement on tennis court construction attracts a smattering of applause.

"Big deal," somebody mumbles from the audience.

But the crowd of about 140 homeowners explodes with war whoops and huzzahs when resident Mike Taylor roars at the board, "I call for all of you to resign for abuse of power!"

It's a board under siege by dissident association members. They accuse the Pine Mountain Lake administration of favoritism, cronyism, arrogance, underhanded politics, mismanagement and censorship.

The board counters by claiming the dissidents have been hornswaggled by an "old guard" that mismanaged the association for years while giving special privileges to an in crowd spoiled by everything from subsidized golf to free firewood.

The critics reject those claims, the same way they say the administration uses the association newsletter to promote itself and rejects their critical letters. (The dissidents have set up their own Web site to air their grievances with one another.)

And they have a litany of grievances. For one, they are incensed over dismissals and resignations among the association's staff, including longtime General Manager John Gray, whose vacancy was filled by board member Ken Lett, a retired accountant.

The board rejected 11 outside applications for the job, then offered it to Lett, who resigned from the board to accept it. He gets $98,000 per year -- or about $30,000 more than his predecessor. 

Of the five people on the board now, three have been appointed instead of elected. The dissidents, claiming that the board picks only people willing to go along with the status quo, want all appointees to go through the next available election, whether their terms are up or not.

"Most of your votes are unanimous," resident Rita Hart told the board at the Monday meeting. "No one thinks anymore. No one listens anymore. Just resign and run again, and there are a couple of you that I'd vote for."

Board members point to association bylaws that mandate the appointments for remaining terms. To board President Louie Dentici, early elections are not a legitimate issue.

Like Dentici, Lett says the administration's opposition is orchestrated by people longing for the looser days of yesteryear.

"Some of these people don't like the fact that we're straightening up the operations," Lett said, adding that the dissidents represent a fraction of Pine Mountain Lake's ownership.

Dentici, a former state prison executive, has been a board member for 4 1/2 years. His term expires next month, and he isn't running for re-election. Instead, he and the board are supporting retired U.S. Treasury investigator Bob Meyer over electrician and former board member Gus Allegri.

Endorsement mailed with ballots

When ballots were mailed last week, Dentici's cover letter included an endorsement of Meyer. And among the campaign fliers on various bulletin boards is one concluding, "We cannot afford three more years of Gus," signed by "The Committee Against Allegri for Director."

While Taylor was railing at the board during Monday's meeting, he demanded to know who makes up that committee.

"That's for us to know and for you to find out," Dentici shot back.

Dentici acknowledged that the comment didn't serve him very well.

"I shouldn't have said that," he said. "That was stupid. I should have said, 'Mr. Taylor, after the meeting let's get together and talk about this, and if the chairman wants to talk to you I'll put you in touch with him.'"

Later in the week, the board mailed all property owners a 13-page rebuttal to points raised at the meeting, along with more campaign material trashing Allegri.

Dissidents, freshly infuriated, say the board is spending association money to campaign against Allegri.

"They don't want Gus elected because he'll want to look at the books," Taylor said.

Lett and Dentici said that on the contrary, the incumbent board has restored fiscal responsibility and employee accountability that were in shambles a few years ago.

Meanwhile, the campaign rages on, each side accusing the other of tearing down posters and harassing campaigners. 

"It's neighbor against neighbor," said Bob Bangs, Allegri's campaign manager. "It's not very pleasant."