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Great Hill Robbery Act II, Meeting Report, Meet the Candidates this WED 10/5 7PM by Kevin Wine, Oct 04, 2022, 9:59 AM, reply, branch, edit

As expected, the Board made several unanimous motions at their September 29th Special Meeting:

Theft Reduction
The Board voted to reduce the $2,000 special assessment to $1,200. So now they are trying to raise $654,000 ($1,200 x 545) to remove the hill. This is only $104,000 less than their original proposal from A-Tech for $758,000. This is still way more than it should cost! The Board admitted that they still haven't finished the engineering to properly define the scope of work and get a reliable estimate of the cost. After taking a first guess of $1,090,000, without doing the engineering work, they are taking a second guess of $654,000, with engineering work barely started.

After all the advice they have been given from numerous sources, the Board is still struggling to understand how this should work. The normal way is to hire an engineer, who is totally independent of any contractor (or management company) that is or may be performing the construction work, and have that engineer draw up the plans, the scope of work, and the bid documents, and come up with an estimated cost. Instead, this Board is still jumping immediately ahead to approving large special assessments, based entirely off of contractor estimates, with no engineering work behind any of the estimates.

In parallel with whatever engineering work is already underway with Insite Engineering (supposedly hired by the Board last month), they approved a motion to hire a second engineer, for an undisclosed amount, to apparently come up with alternative solutions. It also turns out this second engineering firm, T&M Associates, is connected to one of the Board candidates, Thomas Lopez - a relative of his, Mike Thomas, works for T&M Associates. It also turns out that Mike Thomas is the Board President of a Society Hill at Somerset, which happens to also be managed by Town and Country Management, with Radom & Wetter as their attorney. Nice.

If this board can't remove that hill for less than $200,000, then it's time to consider just leaving it in place and going with the original plan to obtain site plan approval to landscape the hill in place. All the engineering work was already done back in 2017, but this Board stiffed the engineer for several thousand dollars so those plans are not available anymore. In what has become characteristic of this Board, they would rather burn another $100,000 on new engineering work rather than pay what they owe to the last engineer and continue with those plans, since anything I did is considered "contaminated".

Although the $800 reduction is a step in the right direction, it does not erase the fact that the Board just made a $436,000 ($800 x 545) "mistake". I don't think the Board fully understands the gravity of its responsibility. $436,000 is not a trivial "mistake". If all the owners would have just rolled over and paid the $2,000, we would have been taken by $436,000. On top of that, my last base cost estimate of $75,000 to remove the hill is still valid - nothing has changed there. $654,000 is still a total rip-off. A reasonable contractor would charge us $150,000 - maybe $200,000 tops. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. WE ARE STILL BEING ROBBED, BY AT LEAST ANOTHER $400,000!!

Candidate Background Checks
In another move which will guarantee future lawsuits against the association, the Board unanimously passed a motion to require background checks for all candidates running for election. One of the NJ laws governing condominium boards clearly specifies that the only criteria for board candidacy is to be in good-standing - PREDFDA Section 5:26-8.9(l)(1)(ii)(1) "Good standing shall be the sole criterion for the eligibility of a nominee."

As is also characteristic of this Board, they don't seem to care much about what the laws say - they will just do whatever they want, and "if you don't like it, sue us". It is highly unlikely the court would allow the Board to impose additional qualification on board candidacy, beyond what is specified in the legislation whose language is clear - "...the sole criterion...". While it is understandable that there might be some concerns with a board candidate with a criminal history, it is not the role of the Board to be conducting, collecting, and distributing such checks. Not only are they barred from doing this as noted above, public offices requiring background checks conduct those checks after the winners have been elected. The county clerk or election administrators are barred from disqualifying candidates based on any non-legislated criteria. Empowering election administrators to randomly impose additional qualifications could quickly lead to abuse. As an immediate example of such potential abuse, I'm sure this idea was directed towards me.

During the public portion of the meeting, one resident proposed that as long as board candidates are now required to have background checks, shouldn't the existing board members be subjected to background checks as well?? Our Board President Tong Zhou did not like this suggestion (shocker). Also during the public portion I pointed out that it is illegal to impose additional candidate qualifications, and was attacked by Thomas Lopez for "wanting bank robbers on the board". Guess he doesn't care about what the law says either.

It turns out that you can lookup municipal court cases for yourself or anyone else. The site is:

You can search on me to find all the horrible things I have done! But don't get too excited - there is another person with a similar name that comes up. You might want to enter a DOB to narrow the results - 01/11/1967. You can also look up our Board President, but on one of the summons they botched his name so you have to search on "Tong Chou". I wonder if there is anything interesting on any other board members? Hummmm...

Petition Inspectors
As of the special board meeting on the 29th, three weeks had already passed since the petitions were submitted to the Board on September 8th. Finally the Board decided to do something with the petitions - delay them even further! The Board voted to appoint several owners as inspectors to review the petitions to determine their validity. Of course, all or almost all the inspectors are know "Kevin haters", so this will be interesting. The Board failed to specify any timetable or schedule for this inspection to take place, and President Zhou refused to further specify any timetable either.

In the meantime, it was revealed at the meeting by Board candidate Thomas Lopez that he and at least one other candidate that had signed the petition were now "withdrawing" their petition. Mr. Lopez declared that the "petition has served its purpose", and should be stopped. I'm pretty sure that the Board's revised special assessment of $654,000 is based on a proposal submitted by a contractor solicited by Mr. Lopez. Maybe he is just trying to help out but $654,000 is still a total rip-off, as previously mentioned. Mr. Lopez also went after me, for the second meeting now, this time accusing me of "environmental crimes" and requesting that I be prosecuted. He appears to be the new mouthpiece of President Zhou, who I know is working hard behind the scenes to manipulate everyone he can. I will leave it to you to connect the dots here - but it's clear to me what is going on, and I cannot support Mr. Lopez as a Board candidate.

Fortunately, it turns out that once petitions are submitted, they can no longer be revoked. Since this board likes to ignore the law, this might have to be litigated to get them to follow the law. I have now sent the Board two formal "demand letters", demanding that they call both meetings as directed by the petitions. The Board has to resend the "call for nominations" letter, for 6 candidates, and now they will also have to re-send the election mailing. There are specific mailing deadlines they must follow, and as for today, it will be impossible for them to comply with the mailing deadlines for the October 24th Annual Meeting. Therefore, if they honor the petitions, they are going to have to postpone the Annual Meeting. I'm sure this is one of their tactics, as at any meting after October 30th there will likely be hundreds of owners delinquent who refuse to pay even the reduced $1,200 special assessment. We will see how that works out though, as likely the court would intervene at that point since the Board's delays created a situation in which owners are being disqualified from voting in the election they demanded by petition.

The Great Re-roofing Robbery
A few years ago, as a Board member, I requested a copy of the re-roofing contract, but never received it. I'm sure there is some reason they didn't want me to see it. In all probability the Board signed a multi-phase contract to replace every roof, so this year they had do do a few more "building blocks". And sure enough, they approved 3 more buildings for this year. This is not the best time of year to be doing roofs, but they don't care.

Since it keeps coming up, I have to address the ongoing comments by President Zhou that the Association would not be able to get property insurance if the roofs are not fixed. This is total BS. The insurance company doesn't care about the roofs - they care about claims. Roof leaks rarely generate claims. Water damage claims were all from pipe leaks for the 10 years I was involved. However, it makes a great story, and "insurance" is commonly used as a justification to spend large amounts of money on various repairs. I'm not saying the roofs don't have any problems. I'm saying that we are being sold an over-priced re-roofing project (average is over $50,000 per building), by the same bunch of ignorant/arrogant/corrupt clowns that don't know how to handle large projects and just tried to jam a $2,000 special assessment down our throats. They know I know what they are up to, so they attack me relentlessly to prevent interference with their plans. They got away with it - until now.

Covid Forever
The Board voted to contract with Town and Country Management for another year, at a 5% cost increase. They did not disclose the total cost in the motion, but I think the prior re-negotiated contract was for $110,000, so now it would be $115,500. Apparently they negotiated some deal that the price will not increase again for 5 years, as long as we stay with T&C. I assume the contract is still for the "Covid mode" with a manager in the office only 2 times a week. Oddly, their prior contract expired this past April, but the Board did not renew it until just now - 5 months later.

I assume it is no surprise that if the Board is removed, T&C will be removed as well. I hear a lot of complaints about them, and they were also entwined in the $2,000 hill assessment, so in my mind they already shouldn't be here.

The final Board motion was to formally keep the Board meetings in remote format indefinitely. I'm sure they like this format, especially with all the recent controversy, because they can control the audience with the mute button. Of course they don't mute the Board, so Ms. Mincarelli can continue to disrespect the owners with her sidebar comments, while we all have to wait in line for our single turn to speak.

Meet the Candidates
The Board is still declining to host a "Meet the Candidates" night for the current 2-seat election, so once again, some owners are organizing a candidates night by themselves. All the current candidates have been invited as far as I know, and the event is scheduled for this Wednesday, October 5th, at 7PM. The ZOOM link is:


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