Rigged Elections

The annual process to elect new officers began with a flawed Call for Nominees that excluded new members who had not owned their home for more than a year or had not attended 2 meetings during 2018. Found in our outdated Bylaws, both requirements are illegal, per advice from 3 attorneys; Next Gen was informed in time to mail a corrective notice, yet refused to do so. Eligible members receiving the 10/18/18 notice who had recorded their deed after 11/01/17 or failed to attend 2 meetings were effectively told that they could not run for the Board.

Our November 1st Membership meeting featured Nominations for the 2019 Board. At first, president Moody tried to roll over her 2018 Board by declaring lack of quorum. When Ed Batten presented 33 eligible limited proxies to achieve quorum, she claimed that they were “presented late.” Next Gen accepted and vetted them, so that nominations continued. Homeowners on recorded deeds nominated themselves or were nominated in person. Besides all 5 officers of 2018 who want to continue in their current posts, Ed Batten stood for president, Nikki Cohen and John Chaves for vice-president, Louis Rivera for treasurer, and Julie Brito for corresponding secretary. Treasurer Wyant checked her books to determine if any nominees were past-due on any debts owed o the Association, so that they could pay before Nominations Meeting was adjourned, in order to qualify per FS 720.306 (9-b), which prohibits delinquent nominees. Candidates Batten, Rivera, and Brito were told that each owed modest fee balances.

However, when all 3 offered to pay immediately, Next Gen refused to accept their payments, contrary to the Board officers’ fiduciary responsibility, simply because its staff is “not insured to accept cash.” The decision eliminated campaign competitors for current officers Moody, Wyant, and Badin. Last year, for far larger debts, then treasurer Moody had demanded that Trisha Cogan be given 5 extra days to pay, setting a precedent. Trisha was to be seated unopposed for 2019. Except for vice-president, the other 4 officers were ready to enjoy an engineered roll over.

Unfortunately, the Aged accounts used in good faith by treasurer Wyant are not final. Next Gen’s own accountant closed members’ accounts of October 31, 2018 on Nov 11, after all adjustments. Those closing balances are opening balances for Nov 01, day of Nominations, and showed two rejected nominees with positive balances: Batten for $47 and Brito for $40. When Next Gen charged all of us $64 for November’s maintenance fee on the morning of November 1st, they then owed small sums that would NOT be delinquent until 7 days later. Rather than notify Batten and Brito of the prior error, Next Gen did nothing. Ballot packages were not mailed until Nov 14. Next Gen had 3 days to place these nominees on the ballot to challenge Terry Moody and Maricarmen Badin. As for Trisha Cogan, she was delinquent on $232, but as recording secretary, she was allowed to pay it by check at Next Gen before 4 pm. Julie Brito’s bank showed $30 transfer to Next Gen at the same time, but it was not recognized.

Although members did not vote to adjourn, as required by Roberts’ Rules of Order, the procedure cited by our Bylaws to conduct all meetings, president Moody opened her monthly Board meeting at 7:52 pm, over loud protests from the floor. Clearly, attendees wanted to continue their membership meeting. Next Gen presented a 2019 draft budget that the Board approved 5-0 without input allowed from the floor. Without revealing details to challenger nominees, Board also passed new rules, already discussed at unannounced Special Oct 15 Board meeting for 2018 Elections campaign. Next Gen mailed out absentee ballot packages by Nov 18 without the rules. Annual Election only for vice-president was scheduled for after Board meeting Dec 06.

At its Oct 04 meeting, the Board already had authorized an ad hoc Elections Committee and called for volunteers among homeowners who are NOT running for office, in order to formulate procedures for the 2018 elections. Instead, on Oct 15, the Board itself became the “Elections Committee” and adopted procedures similar to those used last year.

The Board then voted to deny homeowners the right to vote by electronic means, a legal option passed by the 2017 Board to reduce costs and guarantee tamper-proof results. E-voting improves turn-out by absentee owners, those who work at night, caregivers and the chronically ill, who could vote more securely from their own homes. Only 26 homeowners opted-in for the debut month November 2017; of these, 13 or 50% voted, far better than Holly Lake’s 20% general turn-out. However, of these 13, 12 voted for Terry Moody’s opponent.

Quorum is easily achieved with E-voting. Members present can also move to continue the session at another specified time, so that more members can be asked to attend. Terry Moody and Next Gen refused to consider the latter option for Nominations in 2016. Terry tried and failed to stop 2018 Nominations for “lack of quorum.” The same “no quorum” tactic was used at December 06, 2018 Annual meeting to halt vice-president vote count. The Association’s attorney told attendees that only 32 ballots had been received or voted at the meeting, an unbelievably low number. Perhaps, as alleged last year, some absentee ballots were incomplete and the instructions by this same attorney too confusing. Only 37 or 5 % are needed for quorum. Had E-voting been allowed, the needed 5 votes to quorum would have been secured. But the envelopes were never counted in front of the assembly nor examined to determine if Next Gen had conveyed all absentee ballots to the meeting.

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