Opening Pine Hollow’s Door to Corruption

Yesterday’s post described how the proposed bylaw amendment could allow an unscrupulous slumlord or corporation, intent only on making a profit, to take over the Pine Hollow HOA and altar our guidelines for its own gain, at the expense of genuine Pine Hollow HOA homeowners.

Maybe it seemed a little far fetched. Bet it seemed a little far-fetched to the members of the Vistana HOA, too – until it happened to them.

To read the review on Yelp, you would think Vistana is a wonderful place. And at one time, it was:

Vistana is one of the most beautiful condo complexes in the Southwest.  It comes equipped with 2 separate pools that provide barbecue pits….  The landscaping is aesthetically pleasing and maintained on a daily basis.  There is an area where you can take your pets to “handle their business” and they even provide you with waste bags.  Security patrols the neighborhood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….  And the most important feature: location, location, location.  Minutes to the 215 freeway, grocery stores and pharmacies, Windmill library and fast food restaurants. There are also plenty of gourmet restaurants nearby if you have a more sophisticated palate.  It’s very quiet and peaceful, the people are very friendly and you’ll enjoy living in this neighborhood. Reference.

It sounds heavenly. Let’s go. Until you hear the rest of the story about what happened to this HOA starting in 2003 when power- and money-hungry interests decided to take control for their own gain…

How about this one:

Federal prosecutors have charged 11 more people in a Vistana HOA scheme to take control of local homeowners’ associations and steer business to a law firm and construction company. Reference.

Or this one:

After six years, more than two dozen guilty plea deals and four untimely deaths among witnesses or participants, the Vistana owners say they have been vindicated in their suspicions that their community association board had been hijacked so that lucrative legal work and repairs involving construction defects would be steered to particular individuals. Reference

Or this:

The conspirators are accused of stacking HOA boards to gain legal and construction defect contracts for themselves. Straw buyers were recruited to purchase condominiums at nearly a dozen developments around town and then elected to the HOA boards through bribery and rigged elections. Reference.

Criminal and civil trials are still pending in this case, so we will avoid passing judgment prematurely here. To be clear, we are not suggesting the current Board is anything like what happened in Vistana. We find the manner in the our current elections and Board appointments are being conducted to be secretive and in conflict with current election guidelines, but it does not rise nearly to the level of what happened to the owners in Vistana.

However, where money is involved – property values, rental incomes, lucrative HOA contracts – there are always those who will look for loopholes they can use to their advantage. In fact, many corporations pay attorneys to do exactly that – crawl through bylaws and codes and regulations to find loopholes to exploit for profit.

The proposed amendment to the Pine Hollow HOA Bylaw opens up exactly this type of loophole for the less scrupulous types to crawl through. And that is dangerous. If you do not think there are major corporations staking out claims in the Pine Hollow HOA, investigate who is behind more and more of the little blue signs around the neighborhood, then tune back in tomorrow to learn more.

And more importantly, mark your calendars and show up at Wednesday annual meeting. It is not too late to prevent the slide toward a non-homeowner controlled HOA Board. So far, only one of the three Board members is a non-homeowner and non-member of the Association. Don’t let it become a majority. Show up on Wednesday and vote.


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