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Friday, September 20, 2013

HOA "DISSIDENTS" learn to educate their boards

Center for California Homeowner Association Law is an organization that helps protect the rights of Association members--I have taken several courses with them and follow their work--this is a great article by Marjorie Murray, President--well worth reading:

This copyrighted article is re-printed with the express permission of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law (www.calhomelaw.org)  All rights are reserved.

CCHAL urges its members to launch their own education/outreach projects in their associations – projects that stress the importance of Wittenberg.

Outreach needs to be done to

  • • other homeowners, friends and neighbors
  • • the association board
  • • the property manager, and
  • • the association’s law firm.

 One ORANGE COUNTY owner writes CCHAL that he and his circle of advocates have already “forwarded the CCHAL NewsBrief on Wittenberg to our Board and to HOA attorneys Epstein Grinnell and Howell to make sure that they knew we knew.“  The advocates are facing an uphill election early next year.
 But another LOS ANGELES COUNTY homeowner tells us that the property manager has locked up the plexi-glass bulletin board where the “preferred candidates” (incumbents) for the board election get to post their statements; she has told the other (“non-preferred”) candidates to post them on the public bulletin board.  Every night someone takes down the statements of the “non-preferred” candidates from the public board.

This type of behavior by the property manager calls for education – tactful and cordial – but firm.

Homeowners won’t be starting from “square one” when approaching boards and property managers.

Wittenberg has been a closely-watched case.   Industry law firms – including Adams Kessler and the 24 other firms who supported the petition to the Supreme Court – all know that Wittenberg v Beachwalk is now law.
 Together these firms represent hundreds – more likely thousands – of California associations.  Furthermore, Wittenberg has been the topic of numerous industry blogs.

See, for example, http://www.hoalawblog.com/2013/07/court_holds_that_associations.html and also CAI California’s blog at http://caiclac.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/appeals-court-ensures-equal-access-during-elections/

This is not to say that boards and property managers won’t resist the Appeals Court ruling; homeowners should expect resistance.  One industry blog -- www.hoaleader.com of September 13, 2013 – in describing Wittenberg said the opinion requires “HOAs to Give Equal Time to DISSIDENTS,” though the term DISSIDENT is used nowhere in the opinion. [This term, along with “troublemaker, nuisance, and ringleader” are routinely used to discredit homeowners holding views different from those of the board.]

Nonetheless, homeowners should follow the lead of the Orange County homeowners who said their main objective in forwarding the CCHAL NewsBrief and the Appeals Court ruling was “to make sure that THEY (board, property manager, and law firm) knew that WE knew (about the Wittenberg decision and its ramifications for HOA elections.”)  (Emphasis added.)

So what specifically can homeowners do?

  • • Organize 2 or 3 homeowners to work on this education/outreach project
  • • Read and study the Court’s opinion on Wittenberg
  • • Make a copy of the opinion for each board member, property manager, and HOA attorney (if your HOA has one.)
  • • Include the CCHAL NewsBrief found at http://www.calhomelaw.org/doc.asp?id=1596
  • • Go to the next board meeting and hand deliver the copies during the Open Forum section of the meeting; make a short presentation describing the importance of Wittenberg and its impact on elections in your association
  • • Ask/insist that your presentation and delivery of the documents be recorded in the meeting minutes
  • • Write an article about Wittenberg for the HOA newsletter or website
  • • If your HOA is already in the middle of elections, distribute a copy to each board candidate
  • • Be polite, but firm.
  • • Carry an olive branch – leave the boxing gloves at home.
  • • Come up with other ideas not listed here and let us know what they are

NOTE about the word DISSIDENT used by HOAleader – but used NOWHERE in the Court’s 19-page opinion.  The author of HOAleader will want to know that DISSIDENT has a long and honorable history starting with the religious DISSENTERS, who left England and sailed to the New World to search for freedom in what became America.

Homeowners who get dismissed as DISSENTERS should be honored: they are in some pretty awesome company.   Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Mairead Corrigan, Aung San Suu Kyi and quite a few other DISSENTERS are on the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners....

CCHAL NewsBrief
September 18, 2013
Copyright; all rights reserved
To request permission to republish, email info@calhomelaw.org

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