Open Letter to the Board of Trustees of the Community Association Institute
By M.J. Sadler (Moline, Illinois)
|08 - 25 - 2003
An Open Letter to the Board of Trustees From Your Biggest "PIA/Commando" Member
Please allow me to introduce myself and say that I truly hope that this message from my "back porch" somehow finds its way to each of you.
My name is Monica J. Sadler, but you can call me "MJ" (or even "Mud" as that is the "moniker" that some folks in HOA-Hell, as well as the "regulars" on this Message Board know me as.)
In the interest of serving the "greater good" please note that I intend to forward to you a copy of a "Monica Missile" which has just gone out to advocates and elected officials across the nation. Please take the time to read it very carefully, with an open mind and an open heart...
Apparently, many believe that the time has come for me to share my "horror story" with a wider audience, in the sincere hope that it will deter other Associations from making some of the same mistakes that one of ours has.
First of all, I'd like to preface my comments by letting you know that I have had an interest in CIDs since the early 80's -- when we were defrauded by the biggest Savings & Loan in Arkansas -- related to a purchase in a CID in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
That journey into "Legal-Land" ultimately led me to Washington, D.C. -- where a very special Director at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board promised to help... (One person CAN sometimes make a difference.)
Along the way, we stumbled and fumbled, and I even managed to get our family sued for about 33.6 million, for exposing this particular unscrupulous HOA Developer/Savings & Loan via radio and television.
That is also about the same time that a Tulsa County Grand Jury decided to investigate this HOA Developer -- and ultimately issued a scathing report against them -- based, in large part, on the "internal government memo" which disclosed that this Developer had also violated federal laws by falsely advertising to us...
Who knew that one tiny, talkative, tenacious Tulsa housewife could convene a Grand Jury "by petition" -- according to an archaic Oklahoma Statute? This one did...and it turned one nogoodnik Developer on their ear!
As a result, I have spent the last 20 years researching and studying HOA issues -- and community association law, and I have acquired considerable resources through my CAI membership, for which I am eternally grateful.
I have even had the pleasure of meeting some of you personally, at the past five CAI Law Seminars -- and I have been blessed to have been able to afford to hire some of CAI's best and brightest "experts" to help me address and protect homeowner rights. (I'm sure you all recognize their names -- Wayne Hyatt of Atlanta, Georgia and Mark Pearlstein of Chicago, Illinois.)
As an owner of property in a number of common interest communities in states such as Illinois, Arizona and Hawaii, I can assure you that I have seen a myriad of problems in the past 20 years. (My husband served dutifully on one HOA Board for many years.)
Unfortunately, what I have discovered is that there is no place for a housing consumer to turn when these "inherent" problems do eventually manifest themselves (due to the fact that amatuers are usually attempting to run multimillion dollar HOA corporations).
The legal system is not an option for many housing consumers. Even if it is, things can go terribly awry -- as we are dealing with the fact that many Judges (who are "mere mortals") are prone to mistakes -- because they are often "clueless" when it comes to HOA law. Right? (Lest we forget, that there could be other reasons that the legal system doesn't always work the way it is supposed to?)
On August 21, 2003, an attorney for one of the HOAs we own property in (in the State of Illinois) suggested that I needed to take my crusade to Washington, D.C. Perhaps, the time has come for me to return to Washington and lobby for increased consumer protections for those 20 million Americans who live in our nation's 250,000 common interest communities.
From what I gather, we will not be on the "same side" when advocating for these increased protections or some sort of federal oversight?
However, as one of our most important former residents (Lincoln) suggested long, long ago -- we must not ever be deterred to fight for a cause we know to be right and just, because of the probability that we may fail. The lesson I have learned is that persistence DOES eventually pay off -- and "good does prevail over evil."
I'm no Erin Brokovich (or the fictional "Elle Woods") -- but, I owe a huge "thank you" to CAI for helping this one little "PIA" educate herself enough to recognize a legal "circle-jerk" when she sees it -- because some Boards refuse to hire competent legal counsel that is trained in the area of HOA law that they are attempting to practice.
Frankly, when I gave the "fact pattern" of what is going on in one Illinois HOA (during the "Shop Talk" session of the last Law Seminar in New Orleans) there was laughter -- and then the question of "where is this happening?"
Admittedly, it is tough for any HOA Board when some of their members know more about the law than HOA Counsel does...
If problems such as ours, are happening in rural Illinois, they CAN happen anywhere... If parties ARE spending over $1,000,000 on legal fees in cases involving HOAs in rural Illinois, it CAN happen anywhere. Right? What will put an end to the litigation "gravy trains" in some HOAs?
The time has come for some of us to head to Washington, D.C. (again!) Say November for the 30th Annual meeting?
Therefore, I will look forward to hopefully meeting each of you in the near future, as the view from my "back porch" is getting pretty darn ugly. It is so sad that we could not have all worked together for the betterment of communities across our country.
Hopefully, our Legislators will finally listen to what some at CAI have called "disgruntled malcontents" -- when we do make it to Washington -- as has been now been suggested?
God help us all, if they don't...
Regards -- M.J. Sadler (Moline, Illinois)
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