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WCA Directors Deadlocked on Board Vacancy

On May 14 the majority of Westchase Community Association (WCA) Directors agreed that Washingtonia palms should be pruned in the spring and fall but could not come to a consensus about appointing a director to fill a vacancy on their board.

During the May 14 meeting, directors had to repeatedly refer to “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the Florida Statutes for HOAs, and the WCA Bylaws to determine the steps and proper procedures for appointing a new director. The board vacancy was created when Director Kathy Carlsen passed away in March.

Four people responded to the board’s request for volunteers to serve the remainder of Carlsen’s term: former WCA President Nancy Sells of Harbor Links, Shires VM and former board president Ruben Collazo, Berkeley Square resident Brittany Riefler, and Fords resident Forrest Baumhover. Sells, Collazo, and Riefler were present at the meeting.

During the open forum, which preceded the formal board meeting, Fords resident Mark Bayer asked directors if there were picture guidelines for how Washingtonia palms should look when they are trimmed properly. Bayer said that he had received notices that his Washingtonia palms needed to be trimmed. He told the board that previously when he had trimmed his palms after receiving a notice, one of the palms had died. Several people at the meeting told him that the palms should be trimmed in the spring and fall and suggested maybe he had them trimmed at the wrong time of year.

Bayer said he would like clear, concise guidelines for how the palms should look and pointed out that the palms at Westchase Elementary were in bad shape. Director Brian Ross told Bayer that the WCA hires a professional management company to handle violations and does not have control over the elementary school’s palm trees. He suggested Bayer talk to the WCA community association manager. Bayer said he had and that she had suggested he come to the board meeting. Treasurer Dyan Pithers said that the voting members (VMs) would be the ones to determine specific guidelines for the Washingtonia palms. It was also suggested that Bayer contact the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) for guidance or suggestions for certified tree trimmers.

Bayer also wanted to know what the process was for getting speed bumps installed in a neighborhood. Directors suggested he talk to Government Affairs Committee Chair Joe Odda.

Opening the official board meeting, WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga presented Jovanna Hoagland with a medallion and thanked her for her years of service to the Westchase community. Hoagland recently stepped down from the Modifications Committee because she has moved out of Westchase. Arrillaga said, “Jovanna has served the Westchase community more than anyone I know.”

Hoagland said that she had enjoyed serving the community and that Westchase’s residents were always her number one priority.

Percy Legendre of Bashor & Legendre presented the 2014 audit of the WCA’s finances. “The WCA Board has been very diligent throughout the years,” said Legendre. “I think this board is very prudent and has been doing a great job.”

Arrillaga told board members about changes to Westchase’s middle school zones. The proposed changes, to be voted on by the school board on June 9, may result in two areas that were previously zoned for Farnell Middle School to now be zoned for Davidsen Middle School. He asked the board if they thought the board should take a position. WCA Director Ken Blair said he thought this was a PTA group issue not something the WCA should be involved with. All board members agreed.

All directors voted in favor of Modifications Committee Chair Dale Sells’ recommendation to nominate Fords resident Forrest Baumhover to serve as an alternate member for the committee. The appointment largely removed Baumhover, who had also expressed interest in the board vacancy, from directors’ consideration for that position. (Sells stated he had informed Baumhover that, if appointed as a Modifications alternate, he couldn’t also serve on the board; however, the board’s later review of governing documents clarified that a homeowner can serve concurrently on the Modifications Committee and board.)

Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz reported that construction had begun on the cabana at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center. She said that they were waiting to hear back from Hillsborough County before starting construction on the QuickStart tennis courts.

Directors reviewed a written appeal from a Bennington resident. The resident said they had not been able to put in new sod when they received the original notice due to financial reasons but had replaced the sod now. Directors voted 5-1 in favor of Ross’ motion to suspend $681 of the fine as long as long as the resident pays $319 and does not repeat the violation within 12 months. Board secretary Keith Heinemann cast the dissenting vote.

Turning to the board vacancy, Blair made a motion to nominate Nancy Sells. Blair stated, “In the last election, she was the next in line with the most votes.”

Blair was referring to the board election in September 2014 when Sells finished in fourth place of the five candidates running for three open board seats. That election saw the defeat of two sitting directors, Sells and former Director Darrick Sams, and the election of Ross, Carlsen and Odda.

Odda seconded the motion but Ross said that if they took a vote on Blair’s motion, he felt they were about to go down a path that would cause some ill will. He asked if there was another way directors could cast votes.

Pithers made a substitute motion that voting be done by written ballot in order of preference. The board consulted “Robert’s Rules of Order” to determine what to do in the instance of a substitute motion. Collazo told the board that he thought that if the board president recognized the motion, it took precedence over the original motion and became the one the board voted on. While Sainz was looking for the rule, directors decided to continue business.
 
Arrillaga informed the board that since the volleyball court at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center was going to be turned into a QuickStart court, there would not be a gated outside area to take campers attending the Westchase Summer Day Camp. He said the suggestion had been made to use the area behind Tennis Courts 5 and 6 and he presented directors with estimates to clear the area of trees and brush and install a fence.

Ross said the WCA’s Master Plan Committee had worked hard to develop a master plan and that he did not remember them suggesting this change. He said that it seemed wrong to circumvent them and make the decision. He said he felt like the decision needed to be vetted more and possibly brought before the VMs.

Arrillaga said that he understood where Ross was coming from but that the WCA had taken away the area from camp and had not given them any outside area in return. He said that since camp started June 8, there was not time to take it to the VMs meeting and that without this area there wouldn’t be any outside areas for the campers to use.

No directors made a motion, however, so no action was taken.

Arrillaga then told the board that in the plans for the Tennis Cabana, its adjacent fence was a chain link fence. He said that he had talked to Pithers and that they had agreed that an aluminum fence similar to the one surrounding the pool area would look better. The contractor agreed to credit the cost of the chain link fence and Arrillaga presented the board with estimates for an aluminum fence. All board members voted in favor of Pithers’ motion to change the fence from chain link to aluminum and to use Smith Fence for the work.

Returning to the appointment of a new director, Sainz read information from “Robert’s Rules of Order” that seemed to indicate that the substitute motion was the one directors should vote on. Blair, however, pulled his original motion and directors agreed to conduct the vote by written ballot by writing down their choices in order of preference.

In order to elect a new board director, a majority of directors must support a candidate within a formal motion. The written vote that resulted, however, was Sells 3, Riefler 2, and Collazo 1. Ross then made a motion that the vote be tabled until next month. Arrillaga said that if they did that the decision would go to the VMs, a point that Manager Debbie Sainz was asked to research. While Ross’ motion died because it was not seconded, Sainz continued to consult “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the WCA Bylaws, and Florida statutes for HOAs to determine the next step.

Meanwhile, Arrillaga reported that a lifeguard at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center found an Enclave resident and friend skinny-dipping in the pool one morning when the staff member went to open the pool up for the master swim class. All directors agreed to suspend the resident’s use of WCA facilities for one year.

Directors decided to vote again on the board vacancy by written ballot. Instead of writing three choices in order of preference, they elected to only write one choice on the ballot. The returning vote showed a shift in one vote, resulting in Sells 3, Collazo 2, Riefler 1.

Ross asked what was the harm in sending the decision to the VMs. Blair said that he felt that filling the vacancy was a board responsibility.

Ross asked, “Isn’t this like any other motion? We didn’t get a majority, now we move on?”

Blair instead made a motion that directors vote on the two highest nominees from the first round ballots. The motion was not seconded.

Ross made a motion that the meeting be adjourned and the vote tabled to the next meeting. The motion was not seconded.

Ross made a motion to appoint Collazo to the position. The motion was not seconded.

Blair made a motion to appoint Sells to the position, which Odda seconded. The motion failed 3-3 with Pithers, Ross, and Heinemann casting the dissenting votes.

Pithers made a motion to appoint Riefler to the position. The motion was not seconded.

Ross made another motion to adjourn the meeting.

Sainz reported that while the VMs do appoint directors in the case when a director has been removed from the board, in the case of a resignation or death it is up to the board to appoint a new director.

Nancy Sells’ husband Dale, present at the meeting, said he felt sorry for the people who had to watch the meeting and that the directors should have set a procedure for nominating a new director before the meeting.

Arrillaga apologized to all the candidates and the board appointment was tabled until next month.

All voted in favor of Ross’ motion to adjourn the meeting.

The WCA Board meetings are open to the public. The next one is scheduled for June 11 at 7 p.m. at the WCA offices at 10049 Parley Dr.

By Marcy Sanford

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