- Posted June 7, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Point Blank: Leisure World of Maryland - FAILURE TO RESPECT RESIDENTS
Leisure World of Maryland lacks R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Truthfulness and Advocacy
As more and more residents seek to understand their legal rights under the prevailing State of Maryland Homeowners Association Act, a flood of awareness is arising within the Leisure World of Maryland population. Simply by virtue of being a community member, each deserves "A Seat @ The Table." Each is entitled to respect, expressed truthfulness, ethics, and advocacy by those representing us. Unless there is a valid and comprehensive reason, the answer by "volunteer" governance and paid management staff - should be "YES."
Many times has the mantra "that's the way we do it" been uttered by members of the multi-faceted levels of Leisure World governance. Historically displaying the attitude that by rebuffing the "little old lady", she will just go away and not be heard from again, those afraid to pursue their inquiry or complaint, lend credence to that method of operation. Many Board of Director "elected volunteers" are of the opinion that the overall resident sensibility is: "as long as the lights, tv, water, AC and heat turn on and they don't raise our fees, don't bother me do as you please."
We have received emails and had many conversations with LW residents expressing their dismay, frustration and fear at the way in which they are treated when presenting their opinions and concerns before their Mutual BOD. Many report examples of disrespect, attempts by "volunteer" Board members to have them silenced by while speaking their concerns, and avoidance or refusal to answer their concerns. Some residents express feeling an air of intimidation, causing them to "back off", hence being unable to obtain a satisfactorily resolution.
Documented on YouTube.com,(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH01ZqF3tds) is an extraordinary example of embarrassingly unprofessional conduct displayed last year by the members of the Leisure World Board of Directors. Upon being recognized to speak, a resident made his plea that use of lethal means for population control of deer on our premises be forever stricken from Leisure World of Maryland. When suggesting those who would vote to allow such carnage should bring their children and grandchildren to witness the legacy they would impose upon Leisure World of Maryland, the resident was loudly greeted with loud boos, usually heard only in the British House of Commons. The gentleman accurately responded, "You are all acting like children."
Unlike the majority of examples where little attention is paid to what the resident says, at least he evoked a response rather than being merely considered "a voice in the wind." Being an "elected/selected volunteer" is no excuse for bad behavior and certainly does not preclude the display of dignity and respect towards those whom they are seated to represent.
Perhaps at the root of the problem, is a silent "sin of omission" within this community system of governance, that being the failure to require that all Board members have the necessary prerequisite knowledge and certification before acting in a fiduciary capacity. By example, and most likely due to the large number of senior citizens, the State of Florida has legally mandated "Board Member Education Certification." Each "elected or appointed board member is required to take an approved educational curriculum once elected to qualify for board service." Any director failing to do so, is "suspended from service on the board until he or she complies."
In his 2012 presentation to the Montgomery County Commissioners of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) Maryland Homeowners Association First Vice-President Rand H. Fishbein, Ph.D stated "The Education Imperative: At the heart of the problem is the fact that many, if not most, residents elected to association boards come to the job without any fundamental understanding of best practices or even the requirements of their community’s own governing documents. While Americans expect that everyone from doctors to attorneys and engineers to plumbers will undergo extensive training and certification before being initiated into their respective professions or trades, there are no such requirements when it comes to administering common ownership communities, whose assets may run into the tens of millions of dollars. Fishbein said "they shoulder a fiduciary responsibility to manage their communities in conformance with their governing documents and in compliance with applicable state and local laws. When board members are unschooled in the hierarchy of these codes and the nuances they embody, the stage is often set for conflict."
Each Mutual adopt rules that within 30 days after being elected or appointed to a Board of Directors, each member must certify that they have studied the Mutual Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Rules and Policies, and the State of Maryland Homeowners Association Act. Certification should contain a signed Code of Ethics and a pledge to "faithfully discharge their fiduciary responsibility to the Mutual owners/members." Uncertified directors should not be able to vote on any matter of fiduciary interest. Should there be a failure to do so, the BOD member would be suspended from the Board until completion of the requirement.