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WCA Board Ties on Tennis Tournament; Takes No Action on Sunshine Policy

For the first time in many years the number of people attending a Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors meeting on Oct. 11 was so large, they didn’t fit in the meeting room.

Many waited in the reception area and some on the sidewalk outside the office. For several it was the first time they’d attended a WCA meeting.

During the resident forum West Park Village (WPV) Voting member Mary Griffin asked the board for assistance with cars speeding down Cavendish Drive. Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chair Rick Goldstein told her that new board member Michele Del Sordo would be meeting with West Park’s VMs and that he would discuss the matter with county officials when he met with them.

Griffin also asked the board to consider having a WCA Facebook page or presence so that they could address some of the negative comments being posted on social media. At the end of the four-hour meeting, directors discussed the issue and Del Sordo volunteered to develop a communication plan for the association and to oversee its implementation. Stamford resident Carl Longnecker told the board that he would suggest they consult a social media expert and that he was happy to help them with the technical aspects. 

At the board’s request, Jon Ellis with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, the WCA’s legal counsel, attended the meeting to tell them about the legal specifics of the Sunshine Laws and what it would mean to the board if they were to follow them. He said that all HOAs in Florida had to follow the Florida Statutes, Chapter 720, and so the Sunshine Laws could be in addition to those. Under the 720 rules Ellis said, “Board members may use emails as communication but not to vote and a meeting occurs whenever a quorum meets to discuss board business,” which in the case of the WCA is four board members. He added, “Meetings must be open to all members and they must have 48 hours notice.” Ellis said residents could request the WCA records and financial information. 

Ellis said that the Sunshine Laws, which apply to government entities but not HOAs, state that no two members of a body can get together to discuss something that is going to be voted on unless it is actually at a meeting that the public can attend so if a board member was absent from a meeting, another board member could not tell them what happened at the meeting and that board members could not phone, text, or have any communication with each other outside of public meetings. He said the laws, if completely adopted, would then also apply to any committees or other entities under the WCA. Ellis said they would have to pay for a court reporter to attend and document meetings and that as a result of not being able to discuss and make decisions outside of monthly meetings, much of the decision making would fall to WCA staff. “You have not been created like a government agency to work under Sunshine Laws.”

“The Sunshine Laws have specific requirements. If you don’t comply the number one is it is a criminal offense . . . Even if you didn’t realize you were in violation, you are still held liable.”

WOW Publisher Chris Barrett, however, said, “If you look at my emails, I never called for the Sunshine Law, just for operating more in the sunshine. My goal is to stop the tendency of some boards to conduct business in private that should be conducted out in the open. If the board is conducting business outside of the meeting, hiring vendors, discussing contracts, those should be conducted in the open.”

Ellis conceded that the board, “ought to consider what Chris has said. The board should be mindful of what the VMs and homeowners want.”

WCA President Ruben Collazo asked directors what they thought. Goldstein said it sounded very complicated. Director Keith Heinemann said that when he was on the CDD, he found the Sunshine Laws frustrating and thought that overall the board worked very well together. Del Sordo said, “I’m all about transparency, inclusion and acceptance but I’m not good with being part on anything that could bring criminal charges against me.”

Griffin suggested that the board change the by-laws to state that two or more board members could not discuss business outside of meetings. Harbor Links resident Dale Sells suggested adopting operating procedures regarding communications. Ellis asked, “Yes, but what are the consequences if they don’t follow?”

Next Jon Stein, president of the WOW Board, read a WOW board statement. “There were some issues involving the WOW that were raised at the WCA’s recent annual meeting, which we are happy to address,” he read.

Stein added regarding questions raised about the WOW Board handled its audit, “As the sole member of the WOW the WCA has the authority to appoint the members of the WOW Board. The current WOW Member is Keith Heinemann, who has held that position for the past several years. The WOW Board is and has been fully transparent to the WOW member and through that relationship is and has been fully transparent to the WCA Board.”

Addressing a former WCA director’s charges that WOW had inappropriately handled its audit, Stein added that the problematic audit was actually rejected by the WOW Board and WOW declined to pay for it.

In the statement Stein also pointed out that the WOW was fully funded by advertising dollars and did not receive any financial compensation from the WCA and regularly donated money to local schools and non-profit organizations.

Stating he wanted clarification about the relationship between the WCA and WOW Board, WCA Treasurer Shawn Yesner said, “Assume WOW lost all advertising or some future treasurer absconds all the money. Who makes up for the shortfall?”

Ellis responded, “WOW would then be out of business and could file for bankruptcy.”

Yesner then asked if the WOW should be submitting audited statements. Stein replied, “We were audited by the WCA’s auditor for years and paid separately,” but that the WCA’s new firm, Dwight Darby had said that because of their non-profit status, WOW did not have to be audited. Stein added that at their next meeting the WOW board would be discussing when, if and how often to have an outside financial review.

Turning to other matters, all WCA directors voted in favor of appointing Tania Baumhover, Yelena Maloney, Diane McDonough, and Ann Parker to the newly formed Swim Program Due Diligence Committee with Goldstein serving as chair.

All voted in favor of Del Sordo’s motion to not impose the fine for a Lightner Bridge homeowner because the violation had been corrected.

Representatives from Pipeline Swimming asked the board for permission to change the hours of practices for the swim team. After their request, Maloney, whose children are on the team, said that the hours had already been changed and that Pipeline had reduced practice time by 45 minutes. Ultimately directors tabled the request and asked Pipeline to have a parent meeting to discuss the matter before next month.

During a lengthy discussion about the Westchase Open Tennis Tournament, a fundraising event that raised money for the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) at the beginning of the year, Goldstein said that he had always been for the tennis tournament but thought they should look at having a different organizers because one of the organizers had violent outbursts, another mistreated and belittled employees and a third had done nefarious things. Director Wait asked, “If you had so many issues with the organizers, why did you approve it in the first place and praise it afterwards?”

Eric Pogue, one of the organizers of the event, said, “I will do whatever I can to change my delivery. It is highly unfortunate that this has become divisive.”

Wait said, “The people who don’t want to be involved, don’t have to be involved,” and made a motion to allow the WCF to hold and benefit from the tennis tournament with her as the board liaison. Under the motion, Pogue would give the trademark for the event to the WCF. Heineman amended the motion to include a deadline for when the trademark should be handed over. Yesner amended the motion that the trademark be terminated. Collazo added the event could use the Westchase logo on banners, in print and on shirts and apparel, but not on cosmetics. Goldstein added that the WCF get all required insurance and have volunteers sign required waivers. The ultimate vote on the motion was a tie, causing it to fail. Yesner, Heinemann and Goldstein cast the dissenting votes with Collazo, Wait and Del Sordo voting in support.

Following the meeting, Pogue announced he would transfer the trademark and step aside to ensure the WCF could work with the WCA on the tennis tournament.

By Marcy Sanford

Posted Oct. 14, 2018

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