Petition Update, LAWSUIT!!, Election, Hill Cost by Kevin Wine, Oct 15, 2022, 7:24 PM, reply, branch, edit
To no surprise, the Board's partisan petition inspectors have found ways to reject the petition to call for the special election to remove the Board. Notice was sent via email at 4:21 PM on Friday. In case you missed it:
This letter is to update all members on the status of the Petition One, which was received by the HOA office on September 12, 2022.
President (and/or Secretary) along with the appointed judges have completed their review and validation of the foresaid petitions received. The findings are as follows:
- 288 petitions received;
- 49 petitions, out of total 59, are on delinquent status before the Special Assessment;
- 19 petitions are disqualified as duplicates, withdrawals, and petitioners who are not members.
As a result, the quorum of a Special Meeting to remove trustees has not been met. Therefore, the request of the Special Meeting to remove trustees will not occur in conjunction with the Annual Election Meeting scheduled on October 24, 2022.
The good news is that they were unable to reject enough petitions calling for the special meeting to amend the Bylaws! They rejected 68 petitions, but the threshold for Petition Two was 182, and 279 were submitted, so we have more than enough for Petition Two. However, and again to no surprise, no mention in the inspectors letter about that petition, and no mention from the Board about calling the special meeting to amend the Bylaws.
It is amazing how much trouble this Board has with following the law. With an attorney on retainer and a "professional" management company they should not be making such mistakes. They are not allowed to disqualify delinquent members from Petition One, as per N.J.A.C. 5.26-8.11(d):
(d) Association members may initiate removal of a board member who was elected by the unit owners by submitting to the board a petition signed by 51 percent of association members for removal of that board member.
1. A special election of the association membership shall be held within 60 days of receipt of the petition.
2. When the annual meeting of the association membership is scheduled to occur within 60 days of the submission of the petition, then the election shall be held at the annual meeting.
The language clearly says "...a petition signed by 51 percent of association members for the removal...". It does NOT say "...a petition signed by 51 percent of association members IN GOOD STANDING for the removal...". There are multiple other clauses in N.J.A.C. 5:36 in which the NJ legislature qualifies association members with the suffix "in good standing", but this is not one of them! If the legislature intended to exclude delinquent owners from signing the petition, they would have said so.
Allowing petitioners to withdraw their petitions after they were submitted on September 8, 2022 is also not allowed. There is case law in NJ on this matter for public office petitions, which should be applicable here as well. One such case is Mocco v. Picone, 203 N.J. Super. 443 (App. Div. 1985), in which the court said:
While there is no statutory provision in this State for the withdrawing of a signature from a recall petition, it is beyond dispute that case law has established such a right providing it is exercised prior to filing. See Bachman v. Phillipsburg, 68 N.J.L. 552, 555 (Sup.Ct. 1902); Ford v. Gilbert, 89 N.J.L. 482, 485-86 (Sup.Ct. 1916).
Adoption of Appellant's position could serve to protract unduly the entire recall process by permitting systematic and planned obstruction of the petition process through the soliciting of withdrawals by personal confrontation or even coercion of the signators to the filed petitions. Such a result would be unfair to both the general electorate and the individual signers of the recall petitions. The recall campaign is best directed to obtaining votes which can be exercised freely in the secrecy of the voting booth. We have not been made aware of any public policy which would favor allowing withdrawals at all stages of the recall process. We are convinced that the democratic process of free election is best served by limiting withdrawals to the period prior to the filing of the recall petitions. The trial judge was correct in his ruling on this issue. He has not defeated the rights of those parties desiring to change their position on recalling any incumbent as such persons can both campaign and vote as they choose at the recall election.
Even if the Board is allowed to let members withdraw their petitions after submission, the Court would likely agree that in fairness to all parties, new petitioners would have to be allowed to sign. Over the course of a few weeks I'm sure we could find another 11 people to sign the petitions (I already have 8 more here that arrived shortly after September 8), so really what is the point of playing this game?
On Thursday morning, September 13th, I filed yet another lawsuit against the Association, to force the Board to honor both petitions and call the special election and the special meeting. There is still an on-going effort amongst dozens of owners to obtain legal counsel and sue the Association over the same matter. That effort is still very important as the stakes are high in this litigation and help from an attorney may be needed very soon. In the meantime, and out of principle, there is no way I could let this Board ignore the very clear message from nearly 300 owners who signed the petitions. Ignoring the petitions and then finally rejecting them for invalid reasons is mad disrespectful to us owners. Add to this all the resistance we encountered when trying to get the Board to properly administer the Hill removal project, which is STILL not being handled properly, and we have a Board that shouldn't be left in power for even one more day.
About 2 hours after filing the lawsuit, I receive a call from the Court. Due to the extent of the relief I requested, and the Thanksgiving holiday, the best we could do for the hearing in front of the Judge is December 1st. The Association has to be given 35 days to respond to the complaint (November 17th), and then I have to be given a week to respond to the response, if necessary, so that gets us to December 1st.
The case is MID-C-123-22, which can be looked up on NJCourts:
Even though the lawsuit was filed before the Board sent the petition inspection results, I already knew what games they were going to play so the lawsuit was written to already address all the possible reasons for petition rejection. This Board is very predictable, although I'm sure their paranoia will be kicking in.
Now for the 4th year in a row, we are AGAIN hearing from several owners claiming they didn't receive the election mailing. This just keeps happening - ever single year. We also have a lot of owners who are delinquent and didn't even realize it. It also seems some delinquent owners weren't even sent the election mailing in the first place - this is ILLEGAL - the Board must send the election mailing to all owners, regardless of status (PREDFDA 5:26-8.9(l)(1)(iii)).
If anyone still didn't get the election mailing, which was supposedly mailed out on September 23rd, please respond to this email and let me know. Also, if you didn't get the mailing and had to request it, let me know too, even if it eventually arrived. Also let me know if you are delinquent and you didn't receive the election mailing - that will really get the Board in trouble. We urgently need to document all these situations for the litigation, because I am trying to get the court to order that the special election be conducted by an outside, unaffiliated, third-party.
If anyone is delinquent keep in mind you can request "Alternate Dispute Resolution" or ADR, to dispute your delinquency with the Board. I have already been contacted by multiple owners who have found discrepancies in the Board's accounting of their unit's fees. Once you have requested ADR, and while you are in ADR, they have to let you vote!
Even if you are not currently delinquent, we should all keep this in mind because at some point, a lot of owners what refuse to pay (myself included) the $1,200 extortion fee to this Board, are going to be flagged as delinquent and thus disqualified from voting! If it comes to that, you can formally request ADR. And by the way, it IS ALLOWED to request ADR to dispute a special assessment. Town & Country Management will deny you ADR claiming you can't dispute special assessments, but they are WRONG, again! Where is the Board's attorney and her $12,000/year retainer she is paid to catch these things??. See Glens at Pompton Plains Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Van Kleeff, No. A-0418-13T4 (App. Div. May 7, 2015).
As far as the current 2-seat election is concerned, I am sitting this one out, which it seems is what some people wanted me to do anyway. I am confident it is going to get cancelled and replaced by the 6-seat election. If you do vote I would NOT suggest voting for Tom Lopez (very hostile towards me lately) or Mary Thomas (in way over her head and fully supported the $2,000 assessment). I'm sure these are going to be President Zhou's and his wife's and management's suggested candidates. Mohammed Sharif withdrew from the election (but late - so he is still on the ballot), so don't bother voting for him. Pick 2 from the remaining 3 I guess..
It might also be a good idea to appoint a proxy holder (put someone you trust in the second blank at the top), in case other matters come up at the annual meeting, and the Board so graciously decides to allow us to exercise our legislated right to vote on motions at our annual meeting (that's another violation of our rights the Board should be sued over too).
Front-Steps Maintenance Fees
I don't know how many of you are logging in to Front-Steps, the Town & Country homeowner fee payment portal. Many people have pointed out that their accounts still indicate a balance due of $2,000. It has not been reduced to $1,200, as voted by the Board at the September 29th special meeting, 17 days ago. The T&C payment portal has a note saying that the data is current as of October 5th, which is 10 days ago, and 6 days since the September 29th special meeting. I see for my account in particular, my October maintenance fee payment has still not posted, even though my bank shows the check was processed on October 6th. I guess our "professional management company" is having trouble updating their website. Hummmm....
I can only speculate - I would guess that the special assessment, the (illegal) early-payment discounts, and then the change in the special assessment, have broken the property management software used by Town & Country. The system we had before would not have had this problem, because I would have fixed it on September 30th. They seem to be making a lot of mistakes, from the phone calls I have been receiving, so if anything is odd on you maintenance fee bill, you might want to investigate it. Ask T&C for a copy of your account history.
Even though the special assessment has been reduced by $800, the estimated cost to remove the Hill has only dropped by $104,000, from $758,000 to $654,000. WE ARE STILL BEING RIPPED OFF!!! My base cost calculations for the removal of the Hill from months ago hasn't changed:
Exact Hill volume still unknown, but from my measurements I'll give them 3,000 tons (one-third of their original over-estimate)
Disposal of soil at MCUA Edgeboro landfill, at $11/ton = $33,000
Each truckload is about 25 tons, so that's 120 truckloads.
Edgeboro is 10 miles away, so figure 5 round trips per day so that's 24 days.
Truck and driver is $100/hr (confirmed - KLK Trucking), so that's 24 x 8 x $100 = $19,200
Large excavator rental is probably around $12,000/month (would be less with multiple dump trucks working)
Need someone to operate the excavator for 24 days. $45/hr (overheads incl.) is $8,600 (less if multiple dump trucks)
Need silt fence and other erosion control measures, and installation - $2,000 (we did this for the pond dredging - no big deal)
Have to plant grass when it's all done - $1,000
Dirt work sub-total is $33,000 + $19,200 + $12,000 + $8,600 + $2,000 + $1,000 = $75,800
Even if the engineering and permit cost gets up to $20,000 or $30,000, WE ARE STILL ONLY AROUND $100,000 IN BASE COST!!!
$654,000 is WAY MORE than we should pay, and we are still being taken for around HALF A MILLION DOLLARS!!
This is why they are attacking me - because I know what this work should cost, and they don't like that because then they can't rob us. This is also why Board candidate Tom Lopez was attacking me at the prior ZOOM meetings - because he is behind the revised Hill removal estimate of $654,000, and I am interfering with the second attempted theft.
It is not time to throw in the towel and let them have your money, especially since most of it will just go in the pockets of a different over-priced contractor. I realize there will always be some level of corruption in the management company and contractor configuration, but this is still way over the top. They already got away with robbing us on the walkway repairs in 2019, then the roofs, and now the Hill. The pattern should be obvious, and if they aren't stopped, they will keep doing this again and again for bigger and bigger amounts. This is way beyond what anyone should be willing to accept as "the cost of doing business".
Amongst the several bad things the Board did at the September 29th special meeting, they decided it would be a good idea to mandate background checks on all Board candidates going forward. Again, they don't care a bit about what the law says, they are just going to do whatever they want.
After multiple inquires from one of the Board candidates, Town & Country finally responded with the statement that the new background checks for Board candidates is "under legal review". LOL I guess our $12,000/year attorney on retainer finally came to her senses so that's the end of that, for now.
I don't know if there are going to be any ZOOM meetings this week. In case there are, the same weekly links should still work. The Tuesday at 7PM link is:
And the Wednesday at 6PM link is: