Ex-Rotonda manager fires back

Julie A. Pittman, former manager of Rotonda West Association, accused her former employers of micromanagement, illegal meetings, bid fixing and unethical accounting practices.


Article Courtesy of The Charlotte Sun


Published October 23, 2007

Micromanagement. Illegal meetings. Bid fixing. Unethical accounting practices.

These were the stinging criticisms former manager Julie A. Pittman aimed at Rotonda West Association's board of directors following her recent departure, after just two and a half months into the $60,000-a-year job.

"The tragedy is over," Pittman said. "They said I resigned. I didn't actually resign."

Pittman maintained she was forced to either submit a letter of resignation -- which would insure her a 30-day severance package -- or get fired and get nothing.

"To do this job you have to have a strong personality," Pittman said.

Pittman said problems with the association -- and particularly with Vice President Claudette Romano -- sprouted almost from the beginning.

"She was in there every day, standing over my shoulder, pointing her finger," Pittman said. "But within a few weeks I started correcting her on mistakes, such as how minutes are recorded. She was very overbearing, demanding. She dominated my day. If I told her I'd have to get back to her on a particular problem, I'd get the dirty look and the door slam. She would not let me do my job."

"I don't know where she's coming up with any of this," Romano said, when she learned of Pittman's remarks.

"The board of directors was holding meetings that were not legal," Pittman said. "Meetings must be posted 24 hours in advance. They were showing up on a daily basis, sitting around a table, talking about a budget. That's illegal."

Association President Nick Gizzi defended the practice.

"We discussed this with our attorney," Gizzi said. "The advice was when four or more of our seven-member board are there for a non-official meeting, we can be considered 'concerned citizens.'"

Pittman asserted the association's bidding policies were jaded.

"There's a certain gentleman who works for RWA named John Eisele -- a vendor who gets every side job there is. All jobs costing over $5,000 must be bid out. I asked where the other bids were for the jobs he was getting. 'I don't know' was the answer I got."

"We do put (jobs) out to bid," Gizzi said. "Eisele may come in with lower bids."

"Eisele is Claudette Romano's best friend," Pittman said. "Why wouldn't you be best friends with someone throwing you an extra $50,000-80,000 a year for sitting on a lawnmower?"

Romano said none of that is true.

Eisele could not be reached for comment today.

According to Pittman, the association's most harrowing practice was in its accounting procedures.

"Presently, the large bank account that holds about 50 percent of the association's money is about $313,000 off balance," Pittman said. "The board asked me if I could fix the mistakes. I tried to, but could not. Then I found out their own CPA Geoff Lorah refused to do it, saying it was impossible."

Lorah could not be reached at his Punta Gorda office today.

Gizzi said Pittman's assertions were incorrect.

"The accounting system we have does have problems," Gizzi admitted. "It's not suited to our association and not user-friendly. When there's an error in the system, it's difficult to erase. But we know where our monies are."

Despite the accusations, allegations and assertions, one fact remains -- the manager position at the association is difficult to sustain. Pittman's predecessor Tom Madsen was fired just six months into his three-year, $80,000 per year contract. Madsen has since filed a $244,800 lawsuit against the association for breach of contract. Pittman has threatened to follow suit.

"She would be foolish to do that," Gizzi said, declining to elaborate. "We are currently reviewing applicants and should have a new manager soon."