Commentary

My Turn: Things are heating up in Serrano

Well, it’s that time again. We’ve got another Serrano Homeowners Association Board of Directors election looming and it’s again shaping up to be a battle for control, with homeowners vying with the developer for control of their HOA. But it’s coupled with a few extra wrinkles: A small claims court action and a major lawsuit filed in El Dorado County Superior Court.

What’s the significance? Perhaps a brief history can help.

Twenty-some-odd years ago, when Serrano was first conceived, Serrano Associates felt the need to maintain control over the fledgling homeowners association for continuity as those first homes were being sold. And at the time, it made sense.

Fast forward to today, with the bulk of Serrano land having been sold to individual homeowners. Yet, due to the practice of sponsoring and backing selected candidates, the developer has continued to keep an iron grip on that same HOA board with at least one, sometimes two employees, on the board as recently as 2015. Several elections have been decided by the developer throwing large blocks of votes behind select candidates, even though independent candidates had actually won the majority of the homeowner vote.

Result? Developer maintains a controlling majority over the HOA Board of Directors. This situation has been described as a homeowners association being run as a profit center for the developer rather than in the best interests of homeowners themselves.

A few voting cycles ago Dean Getz, an independent homeowner with an eye for detail, was elected to the board, tasked to delve into past and present association policies and practices, looking for ways to improve the way business is conducted. He did precisely what he was “hired” to do. And to say he met with resistance would be an understatement. Other employee and developer-aligned board members worked actively to short-circuit his agenda.

Getz was voted out of office (having won the individual homeowner vote, but swamped by controversial developer block votes) after unearthing the fact that the developer was allegedly voting in HOA elections, utilizing ballots issued to undeveloped lots that were not paying dues as prescribed in our CC&Rs. In addition, he also revealed that, absent any record of action on the part of the sitting board at the time, the developer ceased paying its required assessment “subsidy” sometime toward the end of 2005.

With an average yearly obligation of approximately $800,000, that has added up to a significant amount over the years, thus adding to the dues load carried by homeowners. This missing payment was brought to the attention of the current board in mid-2016 and was added as a line item to the association’s financial reports. The board further instructed First Service Management staff to bill the developer for the corresponding amount and to resume assessments on undeveloped lots going forward. Inexplicably, that billing was never resumed.

Which brings us to the current situation. Having completed his term and seeing no board movement on the issue, Getz felt left with no choice but to file for a legal resolution. A small claims court action was filed, seeking records to clarify the voting eligibility of developer-owned undeveloped lots that have apparently not been paying dues — ostensibly a violation of Serrano’s CC&Rs. A $15.7 million lawsuit was also filed, seeking past payments missed and restoration of the developer-paid yearly assessments moving forward.

While a certain segment of the Serrano population loudly sympathizes with the developer, attempting to paint director Getz as a villain, other homeowners consider him a hero and appreciate his efforts to bring serious issues such as these to light. Their hope is that this upcoming HOA election will herald the end of developer-dominated boards and that a new field of candidates will achieve that end.

Time will tell …

Michael Miro is an El Dorado Hills resident.

Special to Village Life

Discussion | 12 comments

  • Merrilee PosnerApril 05, 2017 - 7:16 am

    Thank you Michael Miro for authoring an accurate and objective account of what is happening regarding Serrano. Thank you Mountain Democrat for allowing the defendants to respond. Dean Getz, one man with courage who filed a complaint to benefit the majority of homeowners “Past and Present”. Relief, that is what we seek. Consider the complaint language found here “46. … Defendants Serrano Associates, LLC, and the other Defendant owners of undeveloped Property dominated the Board and enjoyed methods of control that rendered the remainder of the Serrano membership weak or nonexistent…” Assessments are only one example of what really goes on behind the scenes. There are a host of other issues that sorely need resolving. Dean Getz served on the Board of Directors. During that time he discovered much of what is at issue here. He is happy to be off the Board. My understanding is if the lawsuit is resolved in favor of the plaintiff, Dean Getz, homeowners will benefit from a rebate of HOA dues legitimately owed by the developer, and the developer will have to continue to pay assessments into the future on undeveloped lots until those lots are developed (e.g. 2017 estimated to be $800,000).  If the lawsuit fails, Dean Getz is responsible for all legal fees, so the HOA doesn't suffer anything. So dues-paying homeowners really can't lose.  If Getz wins – We all win. If Getz loses, he has to pay the legal fees. Respectfully, Merrilee Posner

    Reply
  • What an ignorant view of the litigationApril 06, 2017 - 1:21 pm

    Of course there is a downside. For instance, what has it cost you and your husband to have your home on the market now for over 12 months? How much will it cost over the next 12? How will buyers view the community now that there is litigation? How will lenders? What if homeowners face assessments to cover legal costs (don't kid yourself that insurance will cover 100%). How much will liability insurance costs increase? 5x? 10x? 20x? What if the case settles and each party is required to cover their own costs and litigants are not allowed to discuss the outcome? You and baker are just repeating getz' nonsense here. There are big downsides to the litigation for all homeowners and they've already begun.

    Reply
  • Serrano OwnerApril 05, 2017 - 10:30 am

    Actually, more homeowners voted for Sacco and Triano last year than voted for Getz. Serrano's HOA uses what is called "cumulative voting." That means homeowners are allowed the same number of votes as there are open seats (two last year, three this). We can allocate those votes in any way We wish, one each for three candidates, two for one candidate and one for another, or three for one candidate. Last year, Getz; supporters overwhelmingly voted their two votes for him (after Shirley Sikes, a Getz supporter, withdrew her candidacy). Sacco and Triano voters split their voters split their votes between the two candidates, one for each. So while it is true Getz cumulatively won more homeowner votes, it is also true that more homeowners cast their votes for Sacco and Triano, one each. The margin was approximately 50% more homeowners voting for Sacco and Triano. Today, no current HOA directors or candidates have any association with Parker Development. It has been convenient for Getz, his supporters, and at least two current board candidates to group all Getz' adversaries into a group that they call "Parker Puppets" and attack them as such on social media. Thus, some of the reason people are tired of Getz' and his crew's tactics of personally attacking anyone who disagrees with him. The letter writer is right that many of us don't appreciate Getz suing the HOA (supposedly on our behalf) and find that provocative action unnecessary at this juncture. We will vote for candidates who will deal with important issues the way we ourselves would: rationally, thoughtfully, cooperatively, and when necessary, in confidence.

    Reply
  • Bill OsgoodApril 05, 2017 - 11:56 am

    Don't believe a word of Miro's post. None of it can be proven with public documents, audited financial statements, and Serrano CC&R provisions. Many homeowners are fed up with Getz antics, bullying, lawsuits, legal expenses and unending drama. Getz had to file a $15 million lawsuit? Really? His claim is bogus as was recently affirmed by the Board's outside counsel. His lawsuit allegations are laughable. Filing a bogus lawsuit against deep pocket defendants he slandered is insane. Let's see how many Getz supporters like Miro fund Getz legal fees and defendant's legal expenses when Getz loses in court. Actually, Mike, you are right about one thing: time will tell ...

    Reply
  • Michael MiroApril 05, 2017 - 2:06 pm

    As if Mr.Osgood's voluminous pile of contentions can be considered proven fact? He knows full-well there's been a trail of accountant and legal opinions leading in opposite directions. Why would the prior board approve billing Serrano Associates for unpaid dues and instruct First Service administrators to resume billing going forward - only to have this current board retreat and try to bury the matter? Finally, this mess is going to be settled - once and for all. Then, maybe, we can move on with an HOA that is truly run "in the light of day" - not under the cover of someone's estimation of "confidence"...

    Reply
  • Wha??April 05, 2017 - 4:54 pm

    The board didn't bury the matter. The board passed a resolution stating that under the advice of outside counsel and accountants, the $9 million + interest claimed due could not be substantiated. All the name calling and class warfare on FB about "cigar smoking, back slapping, country club members" won't change the facts

    Reply
  • Michael MiroApril 06, 2017 - 1:11 am

    "None of it can be proven with public documents, audited financial statements and Serrano CC&R provisions"? Now, that's funny... Isn't that the problem that led us to this issue in the first place? Isn't THAT the reason it took the First Service financial staff so long to come up with decipherable financial statements? Regarding the new board's change in tack, I guess they went through enough lawyers and accountants until they finally found somebody whose answers they liked? Going from a bill for back unpaid dues plus a demand to continue assessing going forward, to hiding the festering issue in a footnote, to denying it altogether? And, bury the issue they did - at least, that was their hope, wasn't it? You see, far too many of us now regularly attend these board meetings. So, time will indeed tell...

    Reply
  • Way to keep to the scriptApril 06, 2017 - 8:49 am

    The conspiracy theory runs a little thin when you have to include facts. But you, higgins, posner, and lawyer keep touting your story all over the internet: parker controls the board, parker controls the attorneys, parker controls the cpa's... coming soon: parker controls the judges. If you understood GAAP accounting principles you would also understand why it is in the homeowners' interest to NOT have the $9mm on the books. But don't let that detract from the script! BTW, love how baker and rolapp have disowned getz in their campaigns after posting their unwavering support for him for the past two years. Who really thinks homeowners are stupid?

    Reply
  • Michael MiroApril 05, 2017 - 1:47 pm

    Nice try, "Serrano Owner" (whoever you are)! While Dean Getz did receive more votes from independent homeowners, we all know whose "cumulative" block votes pushed Mssrs. Sacco and Triano over the top, don't we? And at some point, we homeowners will find out how many of those block votes are legally valid, per our CC&R's...

    Reply
  • Serrano OwnerApril 05, 2017 - 1:55 pm

    Read what I said, Miro. More homeowners voted for Sacco and Triano. That is not in dispute anywhere that I know of. I'm sure you'd love to have my name so you can make personal attacks. Let's stay on subject, though, OK?

    Reply
  • Michael MiroApril 05, 2017 - 2:35 pm

    Does hiding behind a fake "nom de plume" make you feel brave, "Owner"? Makes no diff to me. We all know what this little vote game is all about. And hopefully we'll soon see an end to IT as well. Cheers!

    Reply
  • Bill OsgoodApril 06, 2017 - 11:22 am

    Michael ... have you actually taken the time to research Getz claim? Have you read Exhibit D? Have you read BRE public documents? Have you studied Getz suit against Serrano homeowners and developers and everyone else? Can you find any language in the CC&Rs that supports Getz claim? Have you talked to Bill Parker to get the background on how Serrano was developed? Have you examined the Getz/Badaline spread sheet to see for yourself whether the $9 million was a valid claim? (I'll show you a copy if you are really interested.) Have you requested Jim Parker's 17 page rebuttal to the $9 million Getz/Badaline claim so you have an understanding of both sides of this issue? (I'll provide you a copy if you ask me.) Or are you just spouting the Getz party line?

    Reply

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