East Linden Estates to hold new election


Article Courtesy of Hernando Today

Published on June 15, 2006


SPRING HILL — A neighborhood divided over a homeowners’ association election seemed to be on its way to a resolution Monday. By Tuesday, however, some residents of East Linden Estates said they would seek to oust the entire board of directors. The upscale community off Linden Boulevard became embroiled in controversy last week when some homeowners alleged that the election for the association’s board was mishandled. 


On Monday, Robert Tankel, an attorney advising the board, recommended that the community hold another election with protocol in place to avoid the issue that caused the president and an election committee member to declare the election null and void. “The people in the community should solve the issue with a fair vote,” Tankel said. 


But East Linden resident Lisa Miner, who initially supported candidate Dave Parker, said she and other homeowners were angered that Parker met with sitting board member Ken Kral and another candidate, George Marvella, to strike the deal without including the neighbors in the discussion. The group violated association bylaws that forbid private meetings and meetings on Sundays, Miner said. “This is a community, not their own private business,” Miner said. “Nobody knew about it, and that’s not right.” Miner said Tuesday that she and other neighbors planned to start collecting signatures from two-thirds of the neighborhood’s roughly 372 homeowners, the figure required to recall the entire seven-member board, according to the association bylaws. “We can have a new election with all new people running,” Miner said. 


Kral said the meeting was not an actual board meeting and didn’t see the need to get input from residents. “We were just trying to find out if we can get the parties to agree on how to run the re-election,” Kral said. “The board’s intent is to have it done the right way.” A second election is not the ideal solution, said Parker, who is convinced that the first election, had the ballots been counted, would show that he won. “Otherwise, there would have been no contesting of the votes,” by the sitting board members, he said. But Parker said another vote is a better, more logical option than a recall or filing for arbitration in the first election, a costly and time-consuming process that he had considered. 


“Do we want to go with the existing board for months?” he said. “I don’t. I think it’s best for the community to have another election. I think it’s fair, and if I lose, I’m going to stand by it.” The first election, held June 5 at Suncoast Elementary School, was for three of the board’s seven seats. 


Three incumbents were challenged by three newcomers, including Parker. One of the incumbents was president Tom Lyons, a former county commissioner. The homeowners’ association mailed proxy ballots to residents. But Miner, Parker and other residents visited many homeowners and several said they either did not receive their proxy form or discarded it. The challengers and their supporters, eager to change the face of the board, rallied residents, going door to door to collect proxy votes. Miner and others provided photocopies, had the homeowner record their vote and brought them to the meeting. 


As the three-member election committee counted the ballots, sitting board member Gary Keller watched the counting over the shoulders of the election committee, according to residents including Miner, who recorded the meeting on audiotape. A few moments later, as the counting continued, Lyons deemed the election null and void, contending that many of the votes were not valid because they were on photocopied proxies. Board member Larry Rosen told Hernando Today last week that the policy disallowing photocopied proxy forms goes back several years, though it is not mentioned in the association bylaws. 


But other residents recall that copied proxies have been allowed in past elections. Parker and others say they suspect Lyons called the election because he saw that the proxy votes were not going in his favor. Lyons has not returned repeated calls requesting comment. The new election is tentatively slated for July 7, Kral said. Residents would again be able to vote in person, but another round of proxy ballots would also be sent to all the homeowners. Residents would select a candidate, sign the form and mail it to the association’s accountant. The accountant would seal the votes to be counted at the July meeting. Parker and Marvella said they are running because of the adversarial stance the board takes to enforce deed restrictions in the community, where home values can approach the half-million dollar mark. 


They also are concerned that the board makes decisions without consulting the membership. Board member Steve Staklinski said even he is often kept out of the loop. “I’m constantly saying, ‘Hey, when was this decided,’ and ‘How did this happen,’” said Staklinski, who also said he suspects the election was voided because sitting members saw they didn’t have the votes for re-election. “I think you have a group of people who have been on the board a long time and they rule according to how they want to rule,” he said. “Now that things didn’t go their way, there’s a big uproar over it.” 


Kral, a board member for six years, said he feels the board has “done a fairly good job” to act in the interests of the community and is doing the same to resolve the election issue. “The most important thing is we have a fair and honest election and that the people who are elected, whoever they are, do a good job,” he said.