Friday Night Patrol 😏
The Twitter addition may generate another $4-6,000 legal bill to “research” litigation as our board likes to “call my attorney”! The first $6,000 spent for the attorneys to read this blog led to the following “Disclaimer”. The attorney, Mr. Jason Himschoot indicated that the use of the domain name was a trademark infringement (way off on that – should refund VLC for part of the bill) and requested that we identify ourselves as not representing the board. We don’t.
DISCLAIMER: This web blog is the ORIGINAL SOURCE – and – NOW ONLY SOURCE – FOR INFORMATION REGARDING VAN LOON COMMONS and the only apologies made by the owners are to their dear family members for buying a CONDO IN FLORIDA. Statutes are written to be suggestions and “Caveat Emptor” is as true as when buying a “pre-owned” vehicle.
We tried to explain to the board members, Pam Decreane, Brenda Hallihan and (former owner) Rick Aliperti about Domain names and continuity of what a website/blog is. How the registrant owns the rights… Which would be our last property management company who was recently “not renewed”, terminated, whatever about 5 minutes after we obtained information regarding a certain board member having submitted for work performed inside their condo to be reimbursed, 4 months after the work was done. One of the multiple board attorney’s sent us a letter indicating that it had been re-paid by the board member other owners heard complaints about the property management company and their lack of competence in several areas. blah blah… And this is how we came in, same old, same old….
When non-licensed, non-experienced persons are put in charge of significant financial matters and there are no checks and balances. there will be problems. When any owner in a condo association takes an interest in reviewing the finances, and persons on the board spend time going door to door, spreading manure on how THAT COSTS MONEY, there will be problems. And if you own in an association where there are a large number of people who can fall for that kinda crap, you have problems.
The prices at Van Loon have slowly been climbing though we still disagree on what to do with our unit. The unit itself is beautiful and we love the friends we have made in Cape Coral but condo life with a group of people who are retired leads to the pettiness and nosiness in most cases and in the worst cases; the “security camera” voyeurs as we have. We haven’t met anyone from law enforcement backgrounds or not, that finds board members watching other owners to be necessary or normal. It isn’t nor are those who pretend they are looking out for the community.
Keeping busy as always……… Next son getting married this Saturday, 11/11 and another grandson due next month. 4 married so far, 3 more open.
DISCLAIMER: This web blog is the ORIGINAL SOURCE FOR INFORMATION REGARDING VAN LOON COMMONS and the result of extensive research and analysis conducted by its writers AND is not sanctioned by the current BOD at Van Loon Commons Condos (nor would it be of any value if they did) The authors are pre-construction owners and their family members who are invested for the long term and will likely be owners long past any current BOD members.
1st, we have to say that the most recent Board email, suggesting that owners report Violators hit the height of PATHETIC!! How about put the mirror up with your 2 or 3 dogs, the ladder on the side of your building, the power tools that are against insurance regulations and let’s not go there on the rest yet. Otherwise, we congratulate the owners in 1105 who had a party going till 2 am last week with the lanai doors open! People were still showing up at 1am. Retirement! Whooo Hooo!
So Van Loon owners… you want to know about the “troublemakers”? Some owners just call the troublemakers direct. Tomorrow, (01/23/17) the Board is going to put on a presentation and tell you why they are (once again!) terminating a management company or being terminated by a management company. They may tell you about “certain owners” causing problems. Or they may tell you how the accounting records weren’t correct. (An issue that will be developed in due time ). It is always someone else. Remember Jon? And then it was Lucia? Or the Hutton’s?
The election was held on 01/18/17 despite the denial from candidacy of 2 owners who had objections to charges put on their bills in 2016 ( and had both been candidates in 2016) and then Late Fees added that were ILLEGAL, meaning exceeding the Florida statutory limitation.
Both owners were protesting the charges and one sent a written inquiry to Associa’s Christine Corrigan, our 9th our 10th CAM since March 2015. Ms. Kristie Mace, an attorney for the “Legal Team” at GAD, replied that no late fees were posted on such and such date”.. ..That was not the question. It was that the protested amount (put on our account by an unnamed observer of our suspected misdeeds) of $90.10 had grown to about $95 after months of being paid off with our dues check, then interest being added to the remaining unpaid dues, then repeat at the next quarter, and repeat,,, about a whole dollar interest a month.
Then, a $53.25 Late Fees was added on 11/11 and 12/11 bringing the balance to 183.50 for which an attorney letter was sent saying “you are not eligible for the election” and “we held a meeting to remove you from using the amenities”. What did this cost Van Loon? We will let you know when WE PAY to get copies. If you voted for this Board and and don’t check the facts…..not going to say it.
What is the problem with those late fees? Google Florida Chapter 718 limitations on late fees. 25 or 5% of OUTSTANDING BALANCE! We are not A LEGAL TEAM or licensed CAMs but the statutes are easy to understand. Guess who else had them added? (The other former candidate)
The Board does have a Collection policy but it was not followed from Day 1. There is supposed to be a “Did you forget?” letter.
We don’t know whether the Board explained that there were other candidates who were rejected such as the one who was charged $233 for 4 batteries to be changed and refused to pay that amount. See where it says “agreed to $65”. Van Loon – Battery Change
Did you ever take your car for an oil change and then pick it up and have them tell you they replaced the brakes too? Or was it the tires? Or the wires? Would you pay????
There is so much more going on at Van Loon; some that we cannot share at this time and some that we may as time permits. The Board and the “Legal Team” was aware of issues with the election and candidates who were objecting to their removal due to incorrect account statements and chose to withhold response to us until January 12th. On that date, the attorney responded that we were correct (We knew that- why did it take 4 weeks, a denial from the election, 2 attorneys, 1 CAM, 1 meeting to remove our amenities we don’t use and 4 letters sent by regular and certified mail AND email? ) and that all Late Fees were removed from both candidate accounts and interest. Why the interest?
Will there be another Board meeting to tell the owners that the bills were incorrect? (Rhetorical)
2016 DEC 21 – Van Loon Receipt – Late Fees
The above picture was from the “good days”… before the Perv Cams that the Board attorney sent us a letter explaining why Board members need to watch them from time to time. We have discussed the issue with numerous folks who are in security or law enforcement or other professions and haven’t found anyone yet who finds it normal. We would not have bought our condo if we saw those cameras and were told we would be spied on by on. Floats are now outlawed too. The Board is making it better!
Be a responsible owner – study Chapter 718, then the Condo Docs, then the Bylaws. Then read other sources. Don’t be a Bobble Head!
DISCLAIMER: This web blog is the ORIGINAL SOURCE FOR INFORMATION REGARDING VAN LOON COMMONS and the result of extensive research and analysis conducted by the domain owner and writer, AND is not sanctioned by the current BOD at Van Loon Commons Condos (nor would it be of any value if they sanctioned it) The author is an pre-construction owner who is invested for the long term and will likely be an owner long past the current BOD members.
Another example of how the Board treats some owners: james-hutton-2017-candidate-statement You may not see Jim in the election in January as there may not be one… though it is possible there may be one in February.
Many of us can understand why 2 more original owners have their units listed for sale at present for 60k to 70k less than they paid in 2006. One of those who listed were members of the small clique that has formed since 2013 and helped to support the Board in whatever they did. Until now. We’ve been told by another owner that their departing was related to the Board trying to vote in a rule that would super-cede our condo docs (pets – the more the merrier) We don’t know for sure nor care.
To date this year, at least 4 other owners already sold for 100k less than they paid and we’ve heard the Board has voted to go after either one new owner or the sellers, who didn’t go through their “approval process” for the sale. Welcome to Van Loon!
The fines were capped at $1,000 in total but the attorney fees are not. They will be paid either way, definitely by Van Loon and then if they can recover them, maybe repaid. Good luck Van Loon on recovering form either an out of state seller (we bet no way) or from the “innocent” party, who bought unknowingly. Oh well, we aren’t as educated the attorneys so why have any opinions.
Many have believed that Van Loon should be negotiating different rates for different types of legal work and paying one set hourly rate is overpaying. One example is the last charge we saw for the required Estoppel letter for a closing was at $350, to sign off on the account statement prepared by Associa’s accounting department, (Then again, with our account being incorrect, maybe that’s a bargain!)
Below is a picture of our “swale” grasses taken May 2014. These swales were planted in 2009 and had been approved by the City of Cape Coral. Several Board members and their friends complained about their appearance in 2014 and in 2015 and the Board had them removed and replaced with sod. The Board sent a newsletter claiming had been illegal when planted and that the removal was ordered by the City. Since we were present when the City had them planted and we LIKED their appearance and the “habitat” they created, we contacted the City twice and spoke with Zoning, Planning and the Horticulturist. The City had no record of ordering their removal nor contacting the Board. We sent an email to the Board inquiring how this was communicated to them. No response. Transparent?
While we cannot say with 100% certainty, it seems one unfortunate result of removing them and installing sod was an effect to the ecosystem of Van Loon. For the first time in 10 years, we have had major infestations of cockroaches and other insects despite using Bugs R Us exterminator services two times, 4 weeks apart; treating our drains and leaving insect traps all over. The swales used to contain hundreds or maybe thousands of frogs, whose presence was only known during rain. The Board spoke of rats and snakes being in the swales as a reason to remove also. In 10 years here, we have seen 1 harmless black snake sunning by our ELEVATOR during May, a time when Van Loon is nearly empty. We hope our most recent extermination treatment stops the invasion.
Stay tuned……….We cannot let the attorneys bill everything in one week. Who would imagine that anyone could charge for 2 hours at $350-$375 an hour to read a Disclaimer on a Blog? ( I would if I could get that work! ) Or a Board that finds it okay to literally spy on owners, calling it security.
DISCLAIMER: This web blog is the ORIGINAL SOURCE FOR INFORMATION REGARDING VAN LOON COMMONS and the result of extensive research and analysis conducted by the domain owner and writer, AND is not sanctioned by the appointed (not elected for 2015 and extended as you will read) Board of Directors for Van Loon Commons Condos (nor would be of any value if they sanctioned it) The author is an original pre-construction owner, along with her husband and is invested for the long term, or until the condo is worth at least what they paid for it (not likely to occur during natural lives) She has a significant interest in seeing honest and qualified persons serving on the board so she can discontinue having to research and write.
Seeing a pattern here with the movie titles? So many come to mind when I think of all that goes on at our own Peyton Place, Van Loon Commons. It was more like Shangri-La before some less than knowledgeable or less than scrupulous persons decided they wanted to “volunteer” to serve as Directors on the Board. Now? We keep reading how we are “healing emotionally as a community”. What is that? Did we have a mass tragedy?
This year, the annual meeting and election were scheduled for January 27th, 2016, at least 6 months in advance. Interested candidates needed to submit their information by December 18th, 2015 and Jim (my husband) submitted his Letter of Intent with Candidate Statement. On December 26th, we received our package which included Ballot 1, 7 Candidate Statements, a Proxy form advising owners to vote Yes to move 2015 “income” to reserves to avoid taxation (??? – we have assessments, minor interest that is offset by costs, what taxable income???) and Outer envelopes. The Proxy did not provide owners any estimated amount of the “taxable income” nor offer them the other option – to reduce 2016 assessments by the amount.
We immediately noted that Jim was not listed on the ballot and also that the instructions referred to Inner and Outer ballot envelopes; the Inner not being included.
I sent an email to the Board, asking the estimated year end amount, and followed up later with a suggestion that owners should be provided the other option.
2016 Ballot 1 AND Ballot 2… CAN ANYONE SEE WHAT IS WRONG WITH BALLOT #1 and BALLOT #2?
We quickly notified Associa Gulf Coast, copying any remaining personnel we could of the omission of Jim and they addressed the problem immediately on Monday, December 28th, promising to send out a new ballot. I also addressed the issue of the missing Inner ballot envelope and received a response that our association did not require a Secret Ballot election.
I didn’t bother to review our condo docs to find this because it is a simple requirement found on Page 4 of the Florida election guide, along with the requirement TO NOT HAVE A SIGNATURE LINE ON THE ACTUAL BALLOT. A 2nd ballot was received (as above) about 10 days later with the same signature line and again, no Inner envelope. Florida Election Guide – Condos Pgs 4 and 5
Did any of the Board members notice this? The President has been a BOD member since October 2013, the Secretary since January 2014. They are all required to take a class or self-certify within 60 days, I think of their knowledge. It is an ELEMENTARY issue.
On January 12th, 2016 an Autodial, mass voicemail and mass email went out, advising owners to disregard Ballots 1 and 2, Ballot 3 would be prepared and the annual meeting rescheduled for February 24th. Wow.
Our package with a correctly prepared ballot arrived January 30th with the wording “It has been deemed necessary by the Board and with the direction of the Association’s attorney to reschedule….”. Attorney?? Funny wording. The “Board” deemed – the Board clearly did not recognize any problems with Ballot 1 or Ballot 2. See the Pages 4 and 5?
Jim called Associa to ask a few questions about the debacle and who would be responsible for the cost of the 1st two mailings. The Associa employee indicated that Associa would take responsibility for the postage. When Jim inquired about who was responsible for the cost of the attorney, the response was that we did not incur any legal fees because THE MEETING HAD BEEN CANCELED. Oh, so the attorney was scheduled to conduct the annual meeting? In 2014, former president Kisner and current President Decraene met with the attorneys in the 1st week of January and had two of them attend the meeting to “sell” Van Loon owners on the “illegal water amendment” of 2010. The cost for that was in the thousands…2 attorneys at a combined $675 per hour plus the pre-meeting conferences with Pam Decrane and Kisner. 2014 was the 1st time Van Loon ever had attorneys present for the election and 2016 is the 1st time, Van Loon needed them to prepare directions on ballots and envelopes! 2014_Legal_Bill_Election Ridiculous? Just read the Election Guide. It is free from the State!
For those who were told that “Cathy Hutton is costing VLC legal fees” and believed it, shame on you. Ignorance and lack of following statutes, laws, etc, causes legal fees. At the Nov 2015 Budget Meeting, Pam Decraene indicated that huge increase for 2016 Legal Fees was a “buffer”. If the attorneys are being scheduled to attend the annual meeting, the buffer will be buffed.
There can be serious financial consequences for all owners in a condo community from mismanagement by unqualified, unscrupulous and/or dishonest people “volunteering” on the Board. It isn’t a social club – it is a business function.
As for the Proxy question to the Board, no response! Go figure. As Pam Decraene stated to me by telephone in May 2015, “Cathy, we are just going to ignore you”. Pam, as a person that is fine; as a Board President of our Association, you can’t. Seeing what has been done to our property insurance, the fairytales, 3 ballots for 1 election, the lies about the city issuing a mandate to remove the swale grasses, the lie by Jack Canzano in front of at least 50 owners at the Nov 2015 meeting about ” only Pam and I have access to the pool peep cameras on our computers, smartphones”… When I ask to see an insurance policy – it is our right under the law.
If we ask to review the actual finances, or any contract , it is our right. If you wish to waste our dues on the attorney and enlist an army of coffee club or cocktail party friends, to go door to door and blame the HUTTON’s for causing legal fees, that is your right under the gossip policy. We won’t stop you.
To stop the legal fees and for other serious reasons, we hope to see Jim Hutton, Doyle Haglund and Walt Erickson elected for their backgrounds, and Marge Cohan and Bob Barnett as we believe Marge and Bob are not the controlling influences on the Board and should be given a chance to grow.
* Continuation from the last post with the “videos” taken by the Board who installed cameras all over our pool and clubhouse and watch us from their smart phones, laptops without any owner approval, vote for a MAJOR MATERIAL ALTERATION – In the name of IMPROVEMENTS!…. This is not an opinion, it is an accounting that can and will be sworn to and backed up by my husband, son, daughter in law and other owners who were present.
After Brenda and Pam dropped what appeared to be a prop, a “reason” to show up at 9:30, they went directly to what used to be a storage closet, just beyond the pool table. They went inside, fiddling with some monitor, presumably for the security cameras. Our son Rob who is an IT guy, Veteran, super all around intelligent – offered the “ladies”, “Can I help you with anything”. They told him no, that the cameras weren’t working. What cameras? All of them?
After wiggling a mouse around or something, Brenda Hallihan walked to the table where my husband Jim and I were sitting, and the other owners and my daughter in law and said “Funny that you are here Cathy and the cameras aren’t working. If we have to pay to have them fixed, you will be charged for it”. And there it went. It got ugly really fast as I asked how the cameras were even paid for over the past 5-6 months when there was zero budget for them and no vote on them? Brenda said “Your friend Jon spent $12,000 on them before”. 1st, she’s wrong, and 2nd, that has nothing to do with it and it WAS THE BOARD IN 2012 THEN TOO, NOT the property manager.
And the Property Manager, Jon, had the knowledge, decency and ethics to NOT have BOD members accessing the LIVE FEEDS, literally spying on owners without their knowledge or consent. Keeping Van Loon nice? Safe? (Rhetorical)
Pam then hollered from the closet, “Cathy, get a life and get off the Internet”. Haha.. Now THAT is funny, since I do work full time, and Jim and I have 7 adult kids and 3 grandkids under 2 and a half, plus his 2 String-bands, the veteran’s club, his Dad, etc, etc… We will never be signing up for the activity of the day with the same people at any condo, or neighborhood, and no offense to you if you like that, but I would HATE it. I will NEVER retire, God Willing because of what I see it turns people, mostly women in to. Or maybe only people with that tendency before to gossip or be nosy – I prefer intellectuals, not busybodies.
As it progressed, one Board member was told they looked like a red-faced alcoholic, one they looked like a man and you must have stopped buying your Clairol since you have to pay your own water. Yes, it got ugly and we wish it weren’t like this. BUT, these two are OUT OF CONTROL with their DESIRE TO CONTROL.
Pam told me she hoped I liked my 15 votes. WHAT?? I didn’t run in the election, Jim did. We all questioned the results though and we were not provided them. The CAM responded that we could send a certified letter request and review it at the Associa office (and we will at our convenience before the 1 year is up) Some who were present that day questioned the election process due to the CAM Debby Keil counting the ballots in the kitchen of the Clubhouse; a closed off area with zero cameras! It was reported that the attorney, Richard Deboest was present and did not object nor comment. Ballots are to be counted in the presence of the owners but violations of the election laws are like everything else at Van Loon lately.
After enough insults were thrown and names called, Pam and Brenda ran out of the Clubhouse. This was Monday, March 14th and the Board Meeting was the next morning. When we looked at our online account to pay our 2nd quarter dues for April to June, we noticed a charge posted on March 22nd for $90.10 as “Camera Adjustment”. We emailed the CAM, Debby Keil, asking about this charge, was a notice mailed to our condo which was never our mailing address? (Happened before with Associa). 2016 APRIL – VLC ACCOUNT INQUIRY_HUTTON
We received by email, a copy of an Invoice and a letter signed by Ms. Keil. We asked when wasa this sent to us? On April 15th, we received a copy of the letter with the envelope postmarked April 11th. (Yes, we scanned and saved). Read the Letter dated March 18th first (it’s crap) and then the “Job Sheet”. Then, I’ll explain why they are idiotic. (Not name calling – using as an adjective!)
2016 APR 15 – From BOD to Huttons 2016 MAR 17 – Job Sheet to DeCraene Pic – Jim Cathy Rob Brittany and Brad in PEI The Photo of Jim, me, our son Rob, his wife Brittany and another son Brad, is for illustrative purposes. See what a rough crowd we appear? Were Pam Decraene and Brenda Hallihan watching us because they were protecting Van Loon or because they were bored? Who cares why? It’s sick, disgusting and wrong.
The “Letter” signed by CAM Debby Keil – there is NO DATE of the alleged incident and when was it written? Who knows since it was never mailed to us. We asked Associa WHO “witnessed” this so we could confront them. What bathroom was water left on in? Men’s or Women’s? Is there a camera in the bathroom now too?
We “physically moved cameras”? That would infer that we pulled cameras off the ceilings, where they are mounted? For edification, most of the cameras are like Track Lighting – adjustable by turning the direction of them. They can be redirected to the left, right, front back. Rob installed them for us in our condo and has them all over his home in New Jersey and they are accessible anywhere at anytime. Ours cost $72 only each and free installation. As a side note – the March 15th agenda included a BOD vote regarding cameras – after they were already purchased and installed over several months. Pam and Brenda and have done this before.
Empty Pizza “Boxes” were left in a trash can and leftover pizza was taken to our condos. As for scratches on the pool table cover – that is a total lie too. The only players with us that night were experts and they don’t “scratch”. We tried to figure out what was the Letter saying? What is this charge for? Was it sent to anyone else who was with us that evening? Was anyone in the Clubhouse after we left? The only thing that was proven that night was that the BOD members are violating our enjoyment of our condo and our privacy. We questioned whether they may even have the audio feature activated as it is part of our $72 camera.
We have not paid this bogus charge and have not been provided substantiation that it was even pai AND we question the legality of the installation of the cameras and intend to formally challenge them. Having cameras to record and playback in the event of an incident would still be considered a Material Alteration, requiring owner approval (though surely our Legal Team – who didn’t know you can’t charge $150 Transfer Fee?? – must have approved) would be one issue – spying on owners is downright outrageous. It is bad enough having busybodies asking about legally registered vehicles – “is that a stolen car”? How about read the license plate – temp tag. Sigh… And MYOB sometimes.
This BOD is OUT OF CONTROL. The mass calls and emails we receive are pathetic, but somewhat entertaining. Remember to lock your vehicle? A theft? I called to ask what theft occurred after checking the Cape Coral Police Blotter. No Police Calls to Van Loon in that period. I was told by Associa it was “loose change taken from an open vehicle with open windows”.
Remember to be careful on wet sidewalks? They’ve got to go… Enjoy their retirements…….
As always – this Blog is the intellectual property of the owners of a condo in Van Loon since the buildings were built (2005 to 2007) and NOT the current Board of Directors (hereby BOD) who bought for pennies on the dollar. Some of those BOD members, present and past, speak of Van Loon as if it was a dump until they bought here in 2011 to 2013 and began instituting new rules and making life difficult for original owners or “renters”.
Since the 2014 BOD election, member Brenda Hallihan seemed to have an obsession with reactivating the security cameras installed in 2012. The cameras were originally aimed at the front entrance for vehicles and the gate into the pool area. Several interesting emails were exchanged between BOD members regarding quotes and the cost, such as this one:
From: Rick Aliperti <firstname.lastname@example.orgDate: March 30, 2014, 11:40:03 AM EDT
To: Brenda Hallihan <email@example.com>, Lucia Stiles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Cameras
Brenda,I only responded for the benefit of those who will challenge your efforts.Thanks and lets get this in motion.
RickHi RickThis was the only person recommended by the SPECO company who made the cameras. He has the hard drive out of the security system in TampaRegardsBrenda
We definitely need to get this up and running.
Seems pricy but also looks like a good upgrade from what we have. I think we should get a second quote just to confirm this price?
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Fw: Cameras
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:46:05 +0000Hello EveryoneI have just received this quote to get the security cameras up and running. We will have the money to get it fixed so I would like everyone to know the total coat to have the cameras functioning once again.I also want you t know that the keys are now safely in the locked safe, which is bolted to the floor, in the clubhouse.RegardsBrendaNOTE FROM BLOG OWNER: Brenda Hallihan wrote ALLBOD about the cameras; Salesman Ricky responded to all as if he cared about doing the right thing then showed his true colors; In BOLD. He gave a crap response for “those who will challenge”. This is one of many examples of how the BOD here began operating in 2013/14 and Thank You Jesus that he is gone!
In February 2016, we made a long Superbowl weekend visit and noted new cameras installed in the Clubhouse since our January visit. ???? Nothing was budgeted for these purchases in 2015 nor were they voted on by owners. We were already disgusted by the Pool cameras and considering hiring an attorney along with several other owners. We enjoyed an an evening of pool and pizza with one of our sons (Joe) and several other owners and were able to protect our privacy by closing a room divider. It is hard to imagine that BOD would want to sit in front of their computers or smart phones but we are pretty interesting apparently.
We returned in mid- March with our son Rob and his wife Brittany and made plans to meet neighbors again in the Clubhouse for pizza and pool. We all noticed immediately, another new camera that had been installed directly over the pool table area since our last visit. Jim mentioned that it was probably installed since Pam and Brenda (at least) were not able to spy on us during our last visit. He was kidding. But the installation? Hmmm. Curious, or disgusting?
When multiple cameras were installed in Sept/Oct 2015 and aimed at the pool steps, chairs, most of the Clubhouse interior and even the treadmills – we asked a friend who is a retired NYPD borough commander and Chief of Security at a resort on the Sanibel/Captiva Island: Does your resort aim its cameras at the pool? His response was that you never do that, people would be very bothered by it. Women, children. It would be considered perverted. Hmmm. We asked other friends and retired law enforcement for their opinions. All the same.
In November 2015, we asked BOD member Bob Barnett, or Van Loon Bob per a sign in the Clubhouse stating owners could NOT use the wireless internet as it would interfere with the cameras: Who has access to the live feeds of the cameras? BOD member Jack Canzano responded – Pam Decraene and I do. Not true.
Nothing in the budget was included for cameras and in many cases, they are considered “Material Alterations” requiring a majority vote. Surely owners should be told they are being watched – especially in their swimsuits. (NO sign is posted at the pool nor did they tell people “We Are Watching You LIVE”. The camera view can be zoomed in on anyone or any body part and they have the ability to make recordings which can be saved, watched repeatedly or uploaded to the internet as I have done here with 4.
During our March 2016 visit, we discussed the likelihood of being spied on by at least Pam Decraene and Brenda Hallihan. 30 to 35 chairs were set up for a scheduled BOD meeting the next morning.
My daughter in law, Brittany had been to the condo several times in the past but had never seen the library. It isn’t that exciting and we read electronic books but we walked to see what was in there. On the way out, I showed her the ridiculous number of cameras and then gave the 1 fingered salute along with some hand puppets, that I wouldn’t normally do. It was meant to elicit a response from anyone who we assumed would be (a voyeur!) watching.
Within 10 minutes after the clips below, 2 persons came rushing in to the Clubhouse and ran down the hallway to the door seen on the right in Video one. An office, commandeered by Pam Decraene in 2013 and a former owner/BOD president with Zero discussion with owners. Who needs to tell the little people anything! We are making this place better! Haha. I went down the hall to see who came in and found them standing in the office, Brenda Hallihan and Pam, each holding 1 chair. As if they ran in to add one more chair to the many that are pictured above! At 9:50 PM? They could have said we were violating the Clubhouse closing time of 8:00 PM, established by Pam and a really, really bizarre woman who was 2013 president. (Moved after she was not re-elected, Thank You Jesus!) They couldn’t or didn’t as they have weekly card games and other gatherings that exceed that ridiculous curfew. The woman who established it and then moved (former president) had been seen outside by our kids at 4 am, with her husband and dog; indicting that 8PM may have been their bedtime. Many people work and live lives beyond 8PM. (Back to Who Would Buy Here? )
The clips are boring but there is a very important point to posting them. (The gestures were ONLY meant for if THEY were watching us. I am sorry that they proved us right)
So then what happened? Lots….Unbelievable. See the next post named: Brenda and Pam attack the Huttons.
Above is the year end report as posted by Associa., The highlights made were on line items that appeared unusual, including the excessive legal fees. As of June 30, 2015, legal fees were posted as under $4,000 of the $8,000 total amount budgeted. At Dec 31st, they are reported as nearly $20,000. Why?
The Board mailed a Jan 2016 Newsletter “explaining” the legal fees, perhaps in response to the inquiry by an owner at the Nov 2015 Budget meeting. The owner asked for a breakdown of the legal fees, likely since the Board increased the legal expense budget to $20,000 for 2016. The Newsletter describes that $11,375 “went for defending Van Loon”. Defending from what or whom? Did anyone file litigation against Van Loon? Did anyone file an intent to sue?
The Board should show all expenditures, invoices and contracts to any owner who is interested and stop their baloney. Without asking for the actual breakdown, meaning the Detailed General Ledger with check numbers and dates, no one knows if the financial above is correct. Was $13,157 spent on Mulch in December? Was exactly $11,500 spent on Tree Removal in December? Did the total Water/Sewer expense actually come in JUST UNDER budget, when we all had unlimited use for $47 per month? WHERE IS THE MULCH?
The last line of the report indicates that in December, a huge amount of expenditures were made; $102,171 and also shows the Dec expenditures as $47,130 more than a 1/12, budgeted monthly amount. Of course expenses other than management fees or contracted maintenance will vary by season, breakdowns or for other reasons but accounting entries can also be made at year end to, classify expenses as other items, hiding the actual amounts.
The result of the report shows that Van Loon spent $19,073 less than they took in. That may be the “Taxable Income” the Proxy letter is referring to, or the “Taxable Income” may be the $374 of Reserve account interest (which could be offset to zero by costs).
If any of this report is correct, including 100% Collections of Dues – the end result would still not be $19,073 of Dues over Expenses. Why? Because the Budget built in as an expense (rightfully so) a “Bad Debt” Line. It is not a Cash out/Check written Expense. It is an entry that should be based on prior years and current market conditions of what an association may not collect. Florida has Safe Harbor laws for property in foreclosure and the amounts associations can recover have limitations. Therefore, if a property languished in a foreclosure status for a couple years, as they often do now – the back dues and assessments could grow to $10,000. The association would be limited to collecting a 1% of the original mortgage or 1 year’s dues (this is a very simplified explanation and not to be quoted as an exact example – the issues are easy to self search using Google)
So……the Bad Debt amount of $20,837 was not spent; it was simply not used, or realized.
This is one of the reasons the actual financial copies should be made available at the clubhouse, monthly. Owners with financial backgrounds such as mine, would be able to spot immediately when we are “having the wool pulled over the eyes” and keep the Board and the property managers accountable to us.
DISCLAIMER: The above post is not written or approved by the Board of Van Loon, obviously. When the Board of Van Loon includes persons who open the books and records to owners per Chapter 718, the Blog Author will be able to move on to other projects.
This web blog is the result of research AND analysis conducted by the domain owner and writer, AND opinions offered and is not sanctioned by the appointed (not elected for 2015) board of directors of Van Loon Commons Condos. The author is an original pre-construction owner, along with her husband and is invested for the long term, or until the condo is worth at least what they paid for it (not likely to occur during natural lives) and has significant interest in seeing honest and qualified persons serving on the board.
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are having a 2nd one today, as we have such a large family, so we are doubly blessed (or fattened).
Today, (11/27/15) is exactly 2 months from the scheduled, annual owners meeting on January 27, 2016. At the annual meeting, the results of the election of new board members are announced OR if only 5 candidates for the 5 positions submit notices of intent, they are appointed (as long as not disqualified for other exceptions under statutes). This occurred in 2015 with 5 board members being appointed without a ballot process.
The State of Florida has a process for condo elections and it is required that the association send the “first notice” no less than 60 days prior to the Annual Meeting to ALL owners. Board vacancies would be “advertised” with this notice to allow owners to submit their interest in being a candidate, within the prescribed time frames. I have attached a brochure which can be found on Google, as well as many other websites with explanations of the process.
Florida Elections for Condominiums Florida Elections for Condominiums
UPDATE: We just received the “1st Notice” of the Annual Meeting and solicitation for candidates. We are curious when the Canadian owners will be receiving this, which indicates that it was mailed on 11/25/15. Also, the return contact person is C/O CAM Lisa Mason. ???
At the budget meeting on 11/16/15, the Treasurer announced that our CAM, Lisa Mason had been promoted within Associa and would be working on other opportunities. Several owners had tried to contact Ms. Mason during that week and the week of 11/23/15, regarding billing or other issues and did not receive any response. One owner called the corporate office and was told Ms. Mason went to a different association. We emailed a Congratulations on her promotion. Oh well….
Also, we were told that a board meeting was held on 11/23 though no agenda was posted to the portal, nor was it listed on the calendar. Yes, state statute only requires 48 hour posting on the property building. And that is what the board likes to stick to. Bare minimum. There were very few owners present due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Deja vu to the Thanksgiving Eve meeting in 2013 almost.
Jim and I were present for the 11/16/15 Budget meeting which I summarized and emailed to a few owners who are considering candidacy for the board. I will post some thoughts and analysis of this later of budget later. There are several serious issues for concern – the increase from $6k to $20k of Legal. One owner asked why this increase? The response from the Treasurer was that it was only a buffer; they didn’t know that they would spend that amount.
In our opinion, it is not a buffer. To explain, the board switched back to the auditor (Stroemer and Co we’ve been told) recommended by the attorneys, in previous years and provided a hefty increase in his rate for the annual audit; from $4,500 to $6,000. (Has anyone actually shopped for a truly independent CPA? No – that was rhetorical) This is a very expensive audit for the boilerplate report we receive and the 2013 audit, by Stroemer, was signed off on after questioning a Water expense total of $654. The amount was not even close to correct – the actual was closer to $30,000 due to water meter battery failure and board members choosing to not to repair and collect the funds owed to the association. So what are we paying for?
In the years we have owned, the only auditors used have been recommended by the attorneys or management company. The recommendation presented to VLC owners by the auditor, for changing to Pooled Reserves which can be a serious problem. The board voted to adopt it Nov 16th, 2015. I have proposed a volunteer audit committee for the past 2 years as owners can vote to waive the paid audit and VLC has several retired and employed (myself included) degreed accountants and auditors.
As for the projected legal expense increase – is the board planning to pay the 1 or 2 attorneys to attend the Annual Meeting, like the former president did in January 2014? That cost nearly $4,000 for that day alone, at $675 per hour for their attendance to support the “agenda” of the president and run our election. IMHO – pathetic. Is the board anticipating any litigation that owners are not aware of? (Personal injury, water meter failures, ??)
This association has struggled through the crash of the economy, numerous owner foreclosures, and has barely begun to build reserves. An owner vote (not just board members) is required to move the current reserves which are “dedicated”, meaning Roof $$ are for Roof, Painting $$ are for Painting, etc, to the Pool. Pooled, meaning the board members have the flexibility to spend however they decide-not line item savings or a vote to move from one to another. The board has operated without regard to the statutes already – Example: Moving $40,000 of unspent 2014 Special Assessment funds in to operating expenses in 2015 rather than crediting owners for amount or having a vote.
Do board members possess sufficient financial backgrounds/qualifications or have long term commitments to the community? Are their backgrounds checked or their stated qualifications, such as educational degrees verified? The current president’s (president for 2 years) professed “commitment to the community” over and over. His condo is listed as a pending sale after 3 years of ownership, purchasing for 95k and listing it for 144k. The president prior to him (1 year term) owned for about 4 years, purchasing for about 110k, and selling in the mid 130s. And before that, was a 3 year owner who paid in mid 80s and sold for about 109k.
The point? The nature of Florida condos, is short term ownership. The population is older, many come for the winter only or on occasion have invested when the market crashed to make a quick, short term profit while either renting the condo or enjoying it themselves. To give board members complete control over reserves for fixed assets that WILL need to be replaced, repaired, etc who may choose to use the funds for whatever pet projects they deem important, then they sell, take their 20-50k profit, and leave the remaining owners with depleted the reserves is just PLAIN STUPID. Over the years Jim and I have cringed, listening to the different board members and their personal plans, such as filling in the hot tub. There have been changes recently that are not progress – another post, another day.
Pooled reserves are easier for the board but are not good for owners. Be aware that the CPA or attorney who is supporting Pooled Reserves or any issue from the board was also selected and paid by the board.
Google the issue yourself; read and think. Also, check out www.ccfj.net – Jan Bergmann. He is terrific.
Next up: Budget meeting and Perv Cameras, Volunteer Committees and Associa Gulf Coast
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT SANCTIONED BY THE BOARD OF VAN LOON COMMONS and If I were on the board, it would not have happened nor would I need to waste time blogging! Van Loon would have a real website, with all documents available for owners as prescribed by Florida statute.
Over the past 2 years, we have been told that our property insurance costs were decreased. Our leadership, the Board, likes to tell owners at meetings which may include, at most, owners from 40 units during the busiest of seasons. Owners with a bit more education, like us, prefer to see the facts and figures; not listen to sales pitches. Like the 2013 president, Marguerite Kisner, Board President Rick Aliperti (resigned 12/12) and Pam Decraene (Treasurer until 12/12, now President) spent thousands of VLC’s funds to deny people who can read, like myself, from seeing anything of substance. Call HIMSCHOOT! She is asking to see a contract! Go door to door; SHE is the problem here! SHE is causing trouble, costing us legal fees, keeping us from progressing on the meters (April 2014) ! Actually, Ms. Decraene told me personally that I was the only owner who asked to see anything, so I suppose that justified keeping the information between themselves, the financial wizards.
What is the problem this time? One or more of the BOD members contracted for the Association’s property insurance, with a carrier not licensed nor insured in the State of Florida. What does that mean? It means, the company could go bankrupt, declare insolvency in the event of a disaster, such as the 2004 Hurricane Charlie with damage estimated at $15 billion, or thereabouts. The insurance type is “Surplus Lines Insurance” and the State consumer guide and other publications describe it to be used in situations where it is documented that the applicant has been rejected 3 times for Standard insurance; Standard meaning licensed in the State of Florida and insured by the guarantee fund. Yes, this insurance is more expensive because it is regulated and will be there when you (may) need it – the purpose of insurance! AND, it is required that a representative from the the insured sign a clear disclosure statement that they understand the risks.
Was this contract prepared legally? I have sent 2 inquiries to agents Jessica Paulmann, and a Cathy Thomas at the broker’s office of Brown and Brown, and included a copy of an old email to Ms. Paulmann, written after speaking with her by telephone in 2014 and providing her a list of the BOD members Ms. Stiles from Sentry Mgmt, excluded me from all communications regarding the insurance negotiation as with everything else (during the time I was a Board member) and the agent, Ms. Paulmann ceased to return any communication to me. The emails indicated that Mr. Aliperti wanted to handle the new insurance contract negotiation personally which included a presentation by Brown and Brown, and one from Board member Brenda Hallihan’s personal policy agent. Ms. Stiles and the other Board members made a big deal over a Wind Mitigation study and how this could save so much money. Ms. Stiles emailed that our Brown and Brown agent had not suggested the Wind Mitigation study and Ms. Hallihan’s agent did. Ms. Paulmann had told me that due to our new construction and location, it would not likely result in any credits. We concurred.
The Brown and Brown agent had told me that it wouldn’t likely affect our policy based on the age of our construction, location, etcetera. That was a “No Duh” to us. The Board hung on Ms. Stiles advice whose credibility we found questionable from the beginning. (In 2015 they fired Sentry and thus her, of course)
After the insurance presentations, we were told that Ms. Paulmann’s policy bid was $500 less than the agent referred by Brenda Hallihan and the overall policy cost was to decrease (recollecting here – no time to pull out) about 20,000. Sounded good at the time – we wondered how that was achieved since our personal policy covering only $50,000 of contents went up a little but Mr. Aliperti and Ms. Decraene ignored my request to see any documents, even prior to their campaign to remove me from the Board for being “negative”, for the community, which meant telling the truth. (Clearly I was too smart!)
When the “proposed” budget for 2016 included an even further decrease of 33%, RED FLAGS were raised for several owners. One requested the policy from CAM Lisa Mason, who forwarded his request to the insurance office. (No certified letter was demanded by the way). The Fort Myers Brown and Brown office would not provide it to him. I emailed Ms. Mason on 11/13, and copied Board Treasurer Pam Decraene and Director Brenda Hallihan, requesting a copy be available at the 11/16 Budget meeting. None of the 3 acknowledged my email and no copy was available. At the meeting, Ms. Decraene announced that CAM Lisa Mason had escaped from Van Loon…. I mean was promoted and our new CAM, Jim Kennedy was introduced.
Ms. Decraene told a story about the insurance decrease and companies competing for our business due to no hurricanes in the past 10 years, and how our agent worked so hard with the Board blah blah, negotiated. Mr. Aliperti may have said something too. The meeting seemed rehearsed to us and another owner whispered to me that the meeting was a waste of time, the Board did whatever it wanted and voted on the budget before owners were allowed to ask questions or comment. What is the point?
I asked Ms. Decraene how a 33% percent decrease was achieved; that even with the over-capitalization of the insurance carriers, no decreases like that were seen in the market. (Yes, I used the big word because I know that she, the JP Morgan investment banker did not know what it meant or how insurance rates are set-I don’t know a lot, but enough) I asked if we decreased coverage, increased deductibles? No Cathy, we thought the same thing. Board member Bob Barnett backed her up on that, saying it was the same coverage. ( SAME CRAPPY JUNK COVERAGE THAT ALIPERTI NEGOTIATED PRIVATELY LAST YEAR ? )
To obtain copies of the policies, an owner (not us) issued a request for the prior year and current property insurance policies by certified mail, with a Notarized Authorization for us to pick up the documents for him at Associa. The new CAM Jim Kennedy, provided a copy of the current policy to us at 4pm on Weds 12/09/15 but did not have the prior year’s or another contract, as requested. He sent an email to Brown and Brown, requesting the prior year and said he could just email the PDF when received. He then asked us why a certified letter was mailed from Iowa, from a different owner and we, along with another owner/friend picked it up?
We explained the games played by this Board: ignore the Huttons if they ask informally and that we had received an email from the prior CAM, Lisa Mason in June stating that the Board wanted any requests for information from us to be mailed directly to the $350 (unless it went up) per hour Board contracted attorney, Jason Himschoot. We preferred not to ring his cash register or his partner, Richard Deboest. Mr. Kennedy indicated that the attorney could not single us out. We told him we knew that, but it didn’t stop this Board from running up the bills, because it kept them with something to tell the mostly older owners, about a common enemy which they’ve created.
Mr. Kennedy clearly understood the statutes far beyond anyone we have met from Sentry, Associa or from the “legal team” as our Board fondly refers to them. We left with Mr. Kennedy telling us he would email the PDFs when received and wondering how the the Board would bully this man; competent, smart and confident. That he was not going to be told to lie or ignore an owner was obvious.
On Friday, 12/11, the owner who made the request followed up with the CAM on the policy and was told Mr. Kennedy was no longer with Associa. Not surprised. How radical of him to think the Chapter 718 statutes should be followed.
When I received the copy that was available, it took me about 1 minute to see the DISCLAIMER.
Can you miss it? You can see that a MONKEY could see the DISCLAIMER IN BOLD on the front pages, and per the consumer guide, SOMEONE representing VAN LOON was supposed to have signed a disclaimer that they understood the risk. Look up “Surplus Lines Insurance” for State of Florida, under the state website, or Google it Jeff Atwater, the Chief Financial Officer for the State investigates these issues. There is a consumer guide published describing it. It took me 30 minutes to find this, and a Sun Sentinel article published November 5, 2015 about the matter and insurance agents selling this type insurance, improperly.
Associa provided the prior year policy by email and we thank them for the professionalism . It cannot be easy when they have Board members who act as little fiefdoms, disregarding the statutes and calling their “legal team” like they think they are CEO’s with personal representatives.
We sent an email to Brown and Brown; both the signing agent that Mr. Aliperti and whomever else met with last year, and the signing agent this year, and a Cathy Thomas, who provided our certificates for our mortgages, requesting information. We wanted to know who signed the disclosure, who was present for the negotiations; when we received 3 rejections from Standard insurance and on what basis. If Van Loon was rejected due to location, or a weakness in construction or a sinkhole or I have no idea… ALL owners had the right to know. In New Jersey when you sell your home, if you are aware of a defect or even a condition that may affect the future value – like you are on the zoning board and know you are approving a giant shopping mall to be built behind the house you are selling that had undeveloped land. Get it? You have to disclose that. So, if we are not up to par, are high risk, our loan with Navy Federal Credit Union has the right to know. Anyone seeking a mortgage might have a problem. I wouldn’t lend money on an asset, that may not be rebuilt in the event of a disaster, if the insurer goes bankrupt.
Brown and Brown chose not to respond. Whether it is because they were directed by the Board or the deal wasn’t Kosher; it stinks. What I didn’t ask was did anyone from Sentry or anyone else receive any referral fees or commissions. 2 people asked me that today. It hadn’t even crossed my mind because I don’t think it is legal. (hahaha – oh the irony that I would think that would matter)
We will send the matter on to the State’s Chief Financial Office of Jeff Atwater who has the resources to investigate. I seriously HATE all forms of CORRUPTION AND DISHONESTY.
Mr. Aliperti’s condo was scheduled to sell this week. Any information of detrimental conditions known by the Board, and kept quiet, would allow them to sell and leave the rest of us to deal with it. The budget included a 500% increase in General Liability insurance. 5 X Increase?
And the Legal budget went from 6k to 20k? Pam Decraene said the legal was “a buffer”; They didn’t know they would spend it. Think about what makes liability insurance go up like that. I asked my daughter, an attorney. When an incident is reported and a lawsuit is “possible” it will be increased. Only the board would be privileged with this information. Is something brewing?
If another Board member’s condo goes up for sale soon, it will be very interesting.
MY OPINION: The current Board members should resign. Go enjoy their retirements, get off the Web IP watching people at the pool, (and it’s perverted) lay in the sun more, have a few more cocktails, get a pedicure, learn to tap-dance, visit the grandchildren!. Volunteer somewhere else! I am sure there are many organizations that are hungry to be improved like what you have done here. (Only 2 years for water meters LOL.. and we still have a bet the meters won’ t be used!) I think there should be an IQ test, and a reading comprehension and math test to qualify to serve on the Board, as well as a background check.
(Prediction – Before the next Hurricane comes, the BLAME GAME will. This time, it will be Brown and Brown and Rick Aliperti, and Lucia Stiles. Not Pam Decraene! She will have been misled)