Politics and Homeowner Associations can seem to have more than a few things in common at times. Still, I expect that those serving on the Board of Directors and the Property Management Company to be completely open and transparent, especially when it comes to preserving and protecting the property values of communities they serve. After all, that is what the Homeowner Association (HOA) is there for. But that is not what we always get here at the Caton Ridge Sub-Division in Joliet. And recent events have some homeowner's scratching their heads. So much so that they are now asking: Did the Caton Ridge HOA Board of Directors Cross a Line?
The reason people are asking that question (and believe me quite a few neighbors who have called me to discuss it) is because the President of the Caton Ridge Homeowner Association, Lawrence "Larry" Bennett, passed away on January 14, 2016 and neither the Remaining Board Members nor the Property Manager, Foster-Premier felt it important enough to (1) mention that fact in the Annual Meeting Mailing we received via U.S. Mail (with a Revocable Proxy and Board Nominating Sheet enclosed no less) or (2) bother to post it on the Caton Ridge Homeowner Association Website!
Both options, of course, would have been simple and economical enough (as well as being appreciated) given the trouble we have had in the past in securing a Quorum to have a proper Public Meeting. As I told our current Property Manager, Tracy Suntken, "this is part of the reason people skip coming to our public meetings - there is a general displeasure of not being kept up to date and homeowners just don't like that."
Now I am not 100% certain, but I would think homeowners would realize that this latest development (the passing of our HOA President) would make people realize that this next meeting might just be pretty darn important you know?
But homeowners need to be told of that fact!
Tracy, unfortunately, didn't like the tone of my last comment and decided she needed to hang up (despite avoiding giving me a call back to the original message(s) I had left for her but hey this hasn't been the first time nor do I think it will the last time as I just have “that kind of a voice.” Then again given my recent recovery from throat surgery I really don’t think I could have changed that tone to satisfy her or anyone else for that matter.
Naturally this wasn't my first time trying to get information about the goings on in Caton Ridge as I emailed Tracy at Foster Premier on December 13th to inquire (1) why only Board President Larry Bennett’s signature was present on recent HOA Resolutions that were mailed us and (2) if the HOA had purchased two “golf karts” for board members to do their inspections with?
I didn’t get an immediate answer but did finally receive a response on December 29th stating that she was sorry but hadn’t been able to research my inquiry yet.
Then on January 4, 2016 (10 days before Mr. Bennett passed away) we finally received an email from Tracy Suntken regarding the signatory issue that my wife had discovered previously and were told that she in fact had the “document originals” and they all had the required signatures but couldn’t explain why homeowners received paperwork with only one official signature on them.
But getting timely information or answers in the Caton Ridge hasn’t always been easy!
But to be fair though - most Homeowners haven’t exactly embraced the concept of the Caton Ridge Homeowner Association either. And that is a real shame. Still many will say that they are well justified in avoiding going to the Open Meetings and that that had started long before the current Board of Directors and Foster-Premier started running things.
Matter of fact, this goes back to when the sub-division was being built by Neumann Homes (who according to the Chicago Tribune have resurfaced in the Chicago Area in 2012 as "Greenscape" after previously having declared bankruptcy) and Vanguard as Property Manager. But I can recall attending those early day meetings and hearing the early board of directors (stacked with Neumann people) telling the homeowners that "this wasn't the time nor the place to discuss other matters." Naturally people would ask "well if this isn't the time nor place - when in the hell will it be?"
And then there was silence! Then someone muttered out “well when we are fully built out and a new Board takes over - that's when it will be the time.” And that's when I heard more than a few people say "well screw this crap and if they don't give a hoot then neither do I.” Needless to say the Caton Ridge Homeowners Association continues to have a difficult time in reaching the necessary quorum to conduct an Open Meeting to this very day.
And that literally means by having people physically show up or by submitting proxies. And quite frankly, I don't blame people for not wanting to send in a Revocable Proxy to the Property Manager Foster-Premier as instructed on the form when there is so little information available and after one particular neighbor told me they had been that told that all proxies had to be sent into Foster-Premier in order to be valid.
Well I knew that that was wrong and told them that would more than likely be in violation of the (765 ILCS 160/) Common Interest Community Association Act (CICA) as the Management Company simply cannot control the proxy process! Any owner may attend the annual meeting and any homeowner can solicit proxies. I also told my neighbor that whether or not our Bylaws and Covenants specifically have the same language or if it is missing - the CICA is the governing document and our Bylaws must be consistent with that document, especially Section 18 and its sub-sections.
Now the one area where I believe that we have a problem is if the remaining 2 Caton Ridge Board Members try and conduct "new" business at the scheduled April 21st meeting given our Bylaws specifically calling for a "3 Person Minimum to be on the Board of Directors." Now I do believe that their 2 person majority would allow them to meet and discuss "old business and/or contracts under Roberts Rules of Order - but I can't see their authority going much beyond that.
I mean how do they get around that very specific 3 person minimum which is required to have a legally constituted board of directors?
Then again I am just as confused (or understand but very curious) as to why an Emergency Meeting (as permitted by CICA) just wasn't called by them immediately after the death of Mister Bennett or why provisions weren't made if they were made aware of his illness? Especially since one board member lived next door to him and would have known if the President was able to fulfill his duties as President?
So there are quite a few questions that need to be asked but I think homeowners should be asking the most important questions first.
And as to the biggest question - "Can the remaining 2 board members even conduct a valid meeting given the 3 person minimum?"
Well I don't think so but hey I am not an attorney (and certainly don’t know all the answers when it comes to legalese) but that is why I felt compelled to file an Official Protest with the Property Manager and Board of Directors via email. At least, until Homeowners can all get some better clarification as to how these issues will abide with our Bylaws and Covenants and the requirements of the Common Interest Community Association Act?
I also have other questions such as why our website wasn't used to convey any news regarding this and/or other issues such as to why the website is woefully out-of-date despite the fact that that is the most cost effective way to convey information to homeowners. But as I have said before - "getting information hasn't always been easy" but I certainly don't think it right that the Caton Ridge Homeowners Association Website has been pretty much ignored by the Board of Directors and the Property Manager as a means of Open and Transparent Communication.
I am particularly disappointed that our website does not even contain up-to-date financial summaries and/or budgets. The last revisions to our By-Laws, Covenants or Declarations go back to 2009 and Homeowners have no apparent means to review their account information or find out if they are even current with their assessments or fines. So let's face it - incomplete information is as bad as having no information at all!
And if that isn't disconcerting enough - nowhere on our website is there information as to WHO are serving as the Board of Directors or the many Committees. And that goes back well before the death of Larry Bennett. And aside from Mister Bennett being the President of our HOA Board that was only because he was somehow allowed to do so for much longer than our Bylaws and Term Limits stipulated - and still don't really know who the Treasurer or Secretary is by way of the website? Or better yet those serving on the Architectural Committee since that is the one which seems to generate the most revenue by way of fines (and gets the ire of homeowners) if changes are made to one’s property without the proper forms and approval?
So again - what good or use is a website without Names, Numbers and/or other Pertinent Information? So to say that the Caton Ridge Homeowners Association has (and had) problems - well that would be an understatement. But we now have the ability to correct many of those shortfalls if enough homeowners come together to have a quorum for an Election to select a new President, Treasurer and Secretary.
So it is my hope and desire that the residents of the Caton Ridge Homeowners Association come out to establish a properly constituted Board of Directors on April 21st. And I also expect us to honor and respect the original term limits as specified by our By-Laws and the CICA. But in order to get on the right track we must first have the required quorum!
If we can do that, well then I will back whomever my fellow homeowners decide upon so long as they agree to be 100% open and transparent as well as be willing to listen to the issues deemed important to those belonging to the Caton Ridge Homeowners Association. I also expect that our Website be kept in tip-top shape and up-to-date because that should be the first and most convenient means in which homeowners can communicate with the Board of Directors, the Property Management Company and hopefully other residents of the community.
So come on folks, we need a change - so let's get this done!
On April 21st I was advised by the Caton Ridge Homeowners Association Property Manager (and per their attorney's input to them) that citing the Illinois Condominium Property Act would have no bearing on my protest, as such (and with the help of Google) have substituted the word "Illinois Condominium Property Act" with "COMMON INTEREST COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION ACT" and as such have revised and resubmitted my protest. It should be pointed out that the Illinois Condominium Property Act and Illinois Law (765 ILCS 160/) Common Interest Community Association Act are nearly identical especially within Section 18 and its sub-sections. CICA became effective after being signed into law on July 29th, 2010.
It should also be pointed out that the email received from the Property Manager only alluded to the fact that ICPA was not the proper citation to my protest. No effort was made on their part to have me amend the original citation or to offer up the correct Illinois Act to expedite my request - so much for we are all in this together but that's okay and if I were on the board would have gladly offered up any information a resident wanted. It should also be pointed out that the email denying my initial request shows it was sent at 9:34am - I did not receive it until 4pm (despite all my other emails being received in real time all day long - hmmm?). Never the less, the protest was immediately revised and resubmitted.
Still, My Sincere Apologies To My Readers For Citing The Incorrect Act!
(Revised April 21st 2016)
Tags: Caton Ridge HOA Board of Directors, Caton Ridge Homeowner Association, Caton Ridge Homeowner Association Website, Caton Ridge Homeowners Association By-Laws, Caton Ridge Sub-Division, Caton Ridge Sub-Division in Joliet, COMMON INTEREST COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION ACT, Foster-Premier, HOA, Homeowner Association, ICPA, Illinois Condominium Property Act, Neumann Homes, Politics, Politics and Homeowner Associations