Will real Alta Sierra leadership please stand up?
November 9, 2013
Despite two "elected" boards currently claiming to serve as the South County community's leadership, confusion is all that reigns in Alta Sierra over who's in charge.
Both sides of this controversy own responsibility in creating confusion for the constituents they claim to represent.
"The confused majority doesn't understand what is happening," Alta Sierra resident Ronald Horne told The Union.
What is happening was first made public in May, when a group of residents raised concern over the board's intention to change association membership from voluntary to mandatory, meaning all of the 3,000-plus homes in Alta Sierra would be required to pay annual dues.
Kathy Monteiro, an Alta Sierra resident, said the ASPOA had operated as a "casual organization" since its inception in the early 1970s and that the currently configured board wants to change that "into an organization filled with rules and regulations that has the ability to fine people. … They want to rewrite CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions that are placed on a group of homes by a developer) to give themselves the authority to fine, levy liens against properties and turn it into a (homeowners association) … They want to turn it into Lake of the Pines or Lake Wildwood."
Paul Hoefler, president of the ASPOA board, said at the time the board simply wanted to give teeth to regulations already on the books.
"We want to be able to enforce the deed restrictions," Hoefler told The Union.
Alta Sierra is a neighborhood directly south of Grass Valley comprised of more than 3,000 different properties, of which about 1,600 pay voluntary dues. Hoefler said residents not paying dues benefit from beautification programs, social activities and the neighborhood watch programs.
Monteiro's recall group said ASPOA funds were used to retain an attorney tasked with studying the changes to the CC&Rs. The two parties disagree on how much was spent (Monteiro said $11,000, while Hoefler maintains it was closer to $6,000). Hoefler pledged at the time the board would be "very transparent" about the changes it was contemplating and would look to build consensus in the neighborhood, and after a series of open meetings, the board would put the proposed changes to a vote in the neighborhood.
In August, it became apparent that the majority of those who completed a survey were against a mandatory membership and/or a revision to neighborhood CC&Rs with 75 percent reportedly saying no to a mandatory homeowners association and with most respondents voting against CC&R revisions. The board acceded to the majority's will, but Monteiro's group pushed forward with the recall effort, saying the board deliberately hid its plans from constituents for more than a year and no longer deserved community trust.
The ASPOA board in October sought a temporary restraining order to prevent an Oct. 19 recall election, calling the process flawed and against the organization's bylaws. Nevada County Superior Court Judge Tom Anderson ruled against the restraining order, allowing the recall election to move forward but said he would rule on its validity at a later date.
The recall vote reportedly resulted in an average of 92 percent of voters ousting the board members. Monteiro said the election, which was presided over by Churchwell Tax & Business Services of Auburn, included about 140 voters — a quorum according to the ASPOA bylaws, she said.
But with the recall results still hinging on whether the judge rules the election as valid, the recall group misguidedly pressed on to another election, a Nov. 2 vote to replace the recalled board members — who still claim to be the directors in charge at Alta Sierra. The ensuing election resulted in 180 people voting to seat a new nine-member board.
To make things even more confusing, the regularly scheduled election of ASPOA board members, with three seats up for grabs, is slated for Dec. 2.
Horne says the poor turnout of the elections indicates only one thing.
"This disenfranchised group represents about 80 percent of the community … (and) it is permeated with widespread confusion and frightening uncertainty caused by the rapid-fire rhetoric and rushed, confusing elections," Horne said. "Statistically, they embody a very vocal but borderline insignificant number. They clearly do not represent the majority view of the community."
In moving forward with the Nov. 2 election, the recall group has gone to the expense of hosting two elections that might be ruled invalid by the judge, meaning the money spent would be all for naught. If the elections are ruled invalid, the recall effort would be back to square one, meaning more money to host two more elections. Let's not forget the original impetus for the recall was based in what Monteiro's group deemed to be a wasteful expense of ASPOA funding, used to investigate the legality of implementing mandatory membership.
If the recall effort has to start all over, who is wasting membership money now?
In an email message sent Friday by Monteiro to those who voted, she stated she is "relieved to be finished. It's been a very long haul. If the board continues fighting this, it will be up to the attorneys, and no one will benefit more than they will, while the treasury plummets."
Clearly, with the judge's ruling still to come, the chaos has not yet come to an end.
The recall group should have waited for the judge's ruling on the recall vote before pressing on with an election to replace the recalled members. And the original board, if it is ruled to be the board of record, should consider a lesson learned in the need to provide transparency in the decisions it makes that impact its members — as well as those who would have been forced to join ASPOA through the implementation of a mandatory membership — which might have helped avoid the ongoing feud from the beginning.
Whichever board is ruled as the legitimate leadership of Alta Sierra, it's time to set aside personal attacks and ego-driven arguments to serve the best interests of Alta Sierra residents — the stated purpose behind the ASPOA, which seems to have been missing from key decisions made by both groups in recent months.
Our View represents the opinions of The Union editorial board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.