Unrest buried in Deep Creek

Article Courtesy of  The Port Charlotte Sun-Herald

By Gary Roberts  

Published November 9, 2013  

Deep Creek -- For the first time in its 21-year history, the Deep Creek Section 23 Property Owners association will hold a secret ballot for the election of officers.
However, to the dismay of many of the nearly 200 residents who showed up at Wednesday's annual meeting this secret ballot won't take place until 2014.
For this year's election --- for which the voting was completed and tallied Wednesday -- and every year prior, property owners had waived the state mandate for voter anonymity, POA president Ron Woods announced. This explanation didn't convince everyone, though, reflecting homeowner dissatisfaction over a number of issues that spurred the demand for next year's secret ballot, along with other moves aimed at achieving greater transparency.
The first order of business, which alone lasted 30 minutes of a three-hour-plus meeting, was indicative of the argumentative -- sometimes emotionally charged -- session, including one homeowner escorted out by law enforcement.
Besides charges of voter fraud, other points of contention at the meeting covered everything from billing property owners for a special assessment not yet approved to misappropriation of funds.
Jay Carlson, who has managed Deep Creek Section 23 since its turn-over from the developer in 1993, accepted responsibility for not making clear that a bill issued to more than 3,300 lot owners for a $50 special assessment for drainage improvements did not have to be paid unless the assessment   was approved at this week's annual meeting.

Saying this was inadvertent, Carlson expressed disappointment that he recently had been the subject of several formal complaints charging him with gross misconduct and negligence, along with a federal lawsuit.

That breaks my heart," he said. "We're proud of the service we have provided the association."
The financial issues included the lack of any reserve funds, as well as last year's$188,000 expenditure to Carlson's management company, amounting to 40 percent of the total budget, which paid for an on-site, 3,000-square-foot office and three employees, one of whom is part-time.
Board member Cy Schrage said he had received proposals from other management companies that could provide the same services at a cost savings of more than $80,000 per year.
Consequently, treasurer Andy Kontos introduced a pair of motions, quickly approved by the general membership, to increase oversight of financial matters. The measures called for the board to establish reserve funds, and to authorize an internal audit.
In an earlier interview, Schrage said the association's problems stem from a board were most members have served, off and on, for at least a decade, and are used to running things their own way.
"They just sort of pass the gavel around," he said..
At only his third board meeting after being elected, Schrage said the other members tried to impeach him, and then shunned him for the rest of his term for his minority views. He said his reform efforts were vindicated at the annual meeting.
This new ear of closer scrutiny, however, may be short-lived. Schrage did not win re-election to his seat Wednesday.