Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pam Decraene: 30 Year JP Morgan VP and Crediblity

How do you determine credibility of persons?  Does it matter to you? Experience has taught us that it does. JP Morgan Chase is an impressive corporation and investment bank and my brother, an accountant was a manager in the Wilmington, Delaware Headquarters for 10 years, until early 2007.

When Jim and I first met Ms. Decraene at the VLC pool in Sept 2013, our conversation revolved around her reason for moving with her husband Bob from their hometown in Indiana, her recent retirement after 30 years as a Vice President with JP Morgan and how expensive her water bill was. As stated before, we told her the $30-$35 we were charged for water/sewer each time we stayed for one week, was normal for the area and being a large usage condo, not unexpected (see City of Cape Coral rates-more gallons, higher unit price).  She stated her reason for moving from Indiana to Florida was an insult from a relative in regards to a job move when she waited for a location to open up for her. She did not elaborate on the move but stated the relative said her decision was “stupid”.

We returned to New Jersey and I asked my brother about Ms. Decraene and her being a VP for JP in Indiana. He stated that JP Morgan Chase had not entered the mid-west markets until mid-2000’s, more closely around 2005 when it began buying up smaller banks which then operated under the JP name.  We didn’t give additional thought to her, or her statements on her career until we learned she had been put on the BOD by former pres Kisner sometime in Oct 13. (Learned at the pool of course, no communications needed for mere owners) After becoming aware of the “free” water and sewer being enjoyed by Kisner and attempting to obtain (as all owners are ENTITLED to) copies of the water billings to determine who was not paying; we received the email discussions of the issue, including statements and questions by Decraene.

In none of the emails nor in our Sept 13 discussion, did Decraene mention her bill being ZERO for her unit as was Kisner’s.  Many of the writings did not indicate any financial or accounting background.  (Uploaded to Kisner post)

Water bills to be posted and subsequent payments by Kisner and Decraene, made 1/8/14 after conducting numerous legal meetings (see invoices) regarding “Election Issues”.  How did they think the had the right to spend our $$ to consult on Election Issues?

Decraene entered the election for the 2014 BOD; the CAM’s denied our being allowed to see the water bills (obtained after the election) and the Candidate Statement mailed separately to all owners (as inadvertently omitted by CAM Stiles), for Decraene included one career job and a long list of volunteer work.  2014 01 02_Candidate_Statement_Decraene One owner, who paid high like us and had a background in real estate and insurance spoke with me regarding the 30 year career and stated that it sounded impressive compared to some of the other resumes.  A Google search brought two separate articles from the South Bend Tribune (a local Indiana paper) of 2 different jobs held in 2004,  NOT JP Morgan Chase.

These articles confirmed what my brother had told us and after the election, newly elected BOD member Richard Aliperti wanted to have a phone conversation with me. (to be summarized on Aliperti post). During the “conversation”, I brought up that background checks for BOD members could be added to our bylaws, due to their access to unit keys and ability to control (and destroy) our financial health.  Aliperti became extremely agitated when I used Decraene’s misleading resume as an example (cannot understand why anyone would list one job, 30 volunteer activities except to impress beyond real background) and stated that she had explained to him about this.  He stated she worked for JP Morgan, then left, then came back and it happens often in the corporate world.   (I guess a government accountant must have never worked in the corporate world nor have knowledge of private enterprise practices?? – 🙂 I have worked in private, not for profit and government).

When I stated that JP Morgan was NOT in Indiana in those years, and only bought up smaller banks late in the 2000’s, he yelled that he could not work with anyone like me and would resign! That was the end to our 1st of only a handful of telephone conversations.  We had not at that time (met in person 3/24/14) and based on his writings by email and that one 30 minute phone conversation, I did not consider his resignation to be a loss.   During our “conversation” he admitted knowing nothing about the statutes, condo docs, by laws, nor the water meter debacle, nor the budget or deficit but lectured me, (seemingly without taking a breath) for the first 10 minutes. He ranted that I would destroy the community if I persisted thought did not specify what I couldn’t persist in doing and went on about VLC becoming a Section 8 community.  ?????? More on this to come.

Subsequent to this, Decraene emailed a copy of her last W2 and a glass etched award with 30 years retirement from JP by email, to clear up any questions.  This, Jim and I found “interesting”. After meeting Aliperti  on 3/24, and his bringing the Decraene employment history issue up again;  I sent the 2nd article for a 2nd 2004 employer and asked for further details of the changes. An emailed response from Aliperti stated the BOD was proud of Decraene’s service and that she worked for JP Morgan for her last 18 months (they purchased the bank she worked for and offered her a position 3 hours from her Elkhart, Indiana home).  BOD member Hallihan sent an email with “WHO CARES”!.

It was Aliperti who brought the issue up to me again in March 2014 during a meeting he requested, through Hallihan, which was conducted at our condo. (Yes I advised them that 3 or more was an illegal BOD meeting-we were not aware Hallihan was accompanying him).  I already knew the facts regarding JP and Indiana, and once I know someone has issues with truth, Keep them remain at arms length.  If someone submitted a resume to JP Morgan or any corporation, with overstated or misstated history, they are usually dismissed.

Who Cares?  We do. Credibility always matters.  We are shareholders in a not for profit association and as with buying ownership in a business or stock in a corporation, expect the finances and BOD members to be as reported. VLC may not be Enron but as a percentage of our net worth/wealth, it is important to those of us who own.

Water Meters: Legal, Illegal then Legal. Cost for debacle? Still ticking upward and illegal Again 6/19

For new or prospective owners: What is the” Water Meter Scandal”   The part termed “scandal” in our opinion is due to the 2013 board president, Ms. Marguerite Kisner’s actions and the lack of action by the property manager from Sentry Management, Inc., to repair our VLC owned and purchased unit water meters and issue accurate bills for usage for 3 to 8 months in some cases.

What caused this?  When VLC purchased $50,000 of unit meters from Master Meter (paid from VLC association funds-means they are a common element and board required to repair) , the manufacturer used the wrong (short life) batteries for transmitting readings instead of the 10 year batteries that should have been installed. They were installed mid 2011and failures began to occur sometime around Mar-Apr of 2013.  Persons who would have expected a water bill began receiving only the account billing fee: $4.21.  One owner reported it to the president in late May and began calling in their readings manually. The president was reported to have shown her bill to others, jokingly about “$4.21”.

Those of us who own and visit off and on, or had working and transmitting meters were not aware of the problem. Many of us received an email from the president in June 2013, regarding 14 non working meters and her attempt to speak to the billing company and arrange repair.  Others, who had not provided their email addresses for the “friends” list, knew nothing.

I believe the emails can explain better than i: 2013 06 20 Kisner Email (removed other owner email addresses for privacy).. What is true in this email is that initially, the owner of the billing company was told by manufacturer that owners had to pay repairs or labor to fix. As the failures increased rapidly, and the amount of water being billed to owners less than paid out to City of Cape Coral, it was recognized their was a defect and MM offered to repair all at no cost. This reported the owner took a few months of negotiation.  I spoke with him on several occasions and found him credible and knowledgeable on COAs, meters and who owned his company.

By Nov 2013, owners began to hear of the meter failures and started asking questions about who had $4.21 bills; what was happening.  Unknown to us was the growing deficit as the year progressed. Ms. Kisner and the other board members were aware of it and the majority of them voted to cancel the meter billing contract, have the last reading at 11/7, not issue back bills (meters could still be manually read). Member Paul Weber consulted privately with an attorney who advised that the board was in violation of the existing amendment if they used dues to pay individual expenses.  (Is it any different than paying for everyone’s toilet paper? You use 12 rolls a month, I use 2, we all pay the same!)  The 2013 board prepared the 2014 budget, increasing each unit $47 per month for FREE UNLIMITED WATER!

The estimated amount not billed for 2013? $30,000 or so.  this was in addition to other financial issues such as  overspending on Legal by $16k.

The per unit amount of $47 is GREAT if you are a full timer, have a large family, rent the condo and can include Water in an larger rent. Unless unrestricted, usage goes up and the budgeted amount doesn’t cover. Or, the in residence population changes all the time so using last year’s total may be grossly short for current year.  It also was in violation of the Water Amendment, which called for individual payment by usage.

After owners became aware of the situation Ms. Kisner and newly appointed board member Pamela Decraene began a sort of Public Relations campaign that the amendment was illegal and all blame on the “former property manager” , terminated by Ms. Kisner and 2013 board as of 3/31/13.  Also, that there was a fixed delivery cost per building, every month, even if zero gallons were consumed and only owners with usage paid. The argument was that $21 per month should be allocated to each unit, like the $15 fee for Electric, regardless of usage. Why was none of this discussed by the president, who was on the 2012 board, president since 4/1/13 and discussing the matter for months with other members?  Read on and form your opinion.

As I began asking questions, several owners shared board emails, mostly written by Ms. Kisner and Ms. Decraene discussing the meters and urging “Board Only”. (this continues with the current board)

One email from Ms. Kisner to our property manager, rejected a FREE repair to the meters in Nov 2013.  The CAM assigned by Sentry at the time , Glynnis Lowman, who notified the billing company that VLC would not be able to accompany the technician as the maintenance man was too busy with priority projects.  (he was terminated the next week)

I cannot state what action our CAM should have taken when Ms. Kisner decided to not repair a common element, collect funds owed…..Ms. Lowman demonstrated that she could consult with the attorneys without restriction but appears to have taken direction from the president and not shared the situation with the full ownership. In fact, from April 1 through the Nov 13 budget meter, we received no communications from Sentry.

After hearing rumors at the pool, of an intended Special Assessment and dues increase, we attempted to obtain the truth, including whose water meters were not being billed.  I am employed as an investigator, have been an auditor/investigator and when I hear statements that make no sense from persons elected to represent, not rule us; will continue to seek the truth.

We asked Ms. Decraene who stated “Board Only” business. We sent an email to Ms. Lowman, asking how we could obtain the water bills after reading Chapter 718 of our rights.  One email circulated by Ms. Kisner stated she had ALL the water bills since onset of meters.  Ms. Lowman’s reply was that we needed to send a certified letter of request.  (this is not required – it is required the association produce after receiving unless specifically excepted)  We also asked by email the name of the association attorney so we could learn more about him/her, their credentials and review Lee County court records which list appearances.  Our reply was from Mr. Himschoot himself, and the legal bill obtained later lists charges for both the response on obtaining water bills and his reply to us. For this we were charged nearly $1,000!! Review the Dec 13 bill.  (the Jan 14 is worse)

We were contacted by friends of Ms. Kisner who had been contacted to ask “how do we stop this woman?” and told of her and Ms. Decraene making an appointment with the attorney. One forwarded an email from her requesting what the charge would be. ( yes we saved phone records, emails as I have been told numerous times of the prior and current board seeking to sue me).

We were completely unaware of legal fees being run up by Sentry’s manager and the president as we were denied the information owners should have readily available. At some point, Ms. Kisner took over a room in the clubhouse as an office for board only ( I have not set foot in), without any owner vote, discussion.  This would be a logical place to store all financial records, contracts and other information owners may want to review, if it is going to remain a VLC business office!

The attached legal bills are owner information’ no private thoughts, opinions or attorney client decisions.  The past dictators, I mean directors are listed as meeting with attorneys for  “election and water meter” consulation? Election?  “Candidate statement”? Would that be the singularly mailed Pamela Decraene statement, received 1/2/14 by most and reported as “inadvertantly omitted”?   2014_Legal_Bills_Kisner_Decraene 

Note the charges with “Board Members” plural, “directors” plural for election and water meter issues.  Who other than president Kisner was included?  What discussions on the 1/28/14 election were required?  (another matter entirely- the handling of the election, owners who reported not receiving ballots. Our ballot was rejected by an owner who stated to our neighbor we had voted yesterday. How? We had one ballot, one ballot envelope yet there was a signature in the line for our unit that is not Jim’s or mine.  2014 01 28 Ballot Log

On our next visit, we will request to see “our ballot envelope” as they are required to maintain for one year after the election.

Ms. Kisner and Ms. Decraene began a campaign against our recorded Water Amendment after attention was put on the issue, by owners who want to pay their individual water and sewer; not a joint bill, that it was illegal.  Some of the argument regarded  “seasonals” and “absentee” owners not paying their fair shares. The argument continues to be fueled by them though Ms. Kisner was not re-elected and the legal bills exceeded budget by early April.  As of today, the current president and Ms. Decraene, with support in spreading emails to discredit any analysis or questions by me from Ms. Kisner, continue to argue that the amendment was illegal. Will provide and explain.  Winner? GAD attorney who I can only imagine what amount of legal we have reached and will show you if requested the number of requests made through Mr. Aliperti to obtain for the 3/31 analysis.

Subsequent to the election, I was able to obtain only a few months of the Champion billings despite my certified letter sent.  The response I received from Sentry prior to the 1/28 election, on the advice (per legal bill) of attorney was “Client Privilege” .  ?? . The bills for mid summer showed zero gallons of usage for full time residents Kisner and Decraene whose units had 2 residents each.  Hmmm…..

Subsequent to the election I was also informed that Kisner and Decraene estimated their own back water/sewer and made full payments to cover the multiple months not billed.  Chapter 718 states that board members in arrears to the association are considered vacating the seat. As no bill was issued, it appears their interpretation was that they were not in arrears.  The year end bill lists Decraene not paying the last 3 months of $4.21 to the billing company.  When you vote to not repair, not issue a corrected bill and you yourself weren’t billed……..form your own conclusions.

Ms. Decraene provided substantiation of her payment to the newly elected BOD members: $352 on 1/8/14. Ms. Kisner made a similar payment of just over $300 on 1/8/14 after sending her year end success letters of always paying her and her husband’s bills!

The notice below was posted and two attorneys attended the 1/28/14 annual meeting and election, to explain why our amendment was not legal; therefore no wrong actions by the BOD took place. Many times I asked the question: if it were illegal, and we don’t have to bill for all back water and sewer usage to the failed and failing units; are those of us who paid going to be issued refunds for what we paid illegally?  No response to date on this logical and fair question.

Bulletin_Board_for_Lawyers_Pre_ElectionAfter the election a current BOD member whom I publicly supported in a letter urging owners to return their ballots (how it was learned many did not receive at all), Brenda Hallihan waivered on her stance on the water meters after listening to the attorneys argue illegal.  (at the $675 per hour election meeting).   Knowing that board members have a fiduciary duty to uphold governing documents and any accountant could see our budget was deficient and should be reviewed as first order of business, I sent a position letter to the BOD  (forgive typos-I’m incredibly busy and work full time M-F)  Dear Mr.

Two other attorneys, unrelated had been consulted by Mr. Weber and myself on the legality and I urged the “new” board to find other counsel and separate legal functions of collections from advisory. crazy negativity from me?) .  Instead, the BOD continued to publicly speak of being careful, taking this slowly, etc etc. two BOD members  solicited the 2/20/14 legal opinion below, for presentation to owners at a 2/26 and/0r 2/27 meeting.  (I was not advised of the 2/26 meeting until a guest speaker – billing company sales rep  invited and all owners were notified)

2014_02_20_Legal Opinions

*Note in the legal letter, the suspension of rights for owners who are in arrears for pool, clubhouse, common area.  Anyone know where the BBQ Grill is that they can’t use?  I voted NO on this matter as the units mentioned were familiar to me, including one owner who passed away 14 months prior to this vote; 3 units in foreclosure which I have sympathy for the investor or resident ALL owners for financial information yet will publish the unit numbers without considering personal situations.

To be continued on FREE NO CHARGE post and Deboest’s latest, on not taking rights from non paying owners – can’t find yet in condo docs or bylaws. Was voted on 2/27/14.

_

Surplus at the end of March or underwater?

PaddlingI have prepared an estimate of our financial position at 3/31/14 and requested feedback from the board members and our property manager, Ms. Stiles. (click here) 2014 03 31 Estimated Financial Position.  In evaluating the 2 bank accounts holding VLC funds, it appears we have a 72,000 deficit as of 3/31. From the information used, it seems the security deposits from tenants are not maintained in a separate Escrow account.  I have asked what exception to the laws regarding tenants’ security deposits our Association met, or allowed Sentry to not maintain a separate bank account for Escrow funds. No response has been provided after more than week.

It is not possible to “save” 72k by year; if all past due assessments were received tomorrow the association would remain “in the Red” based on the 3/31 analysis and the current budget.  Commingling of Reserve funds for reserves and operating expenses, I have read, is allowable in Florida when for “investment purposes”. Being underwater does not appear to be investing. The causes can be directly linked to past and present board decisions, poor budgeting, actions and inaction by our property management company and no limitations for spending on legal fees by Bod members or the property management company.

Last month, you may have received a letter dated April 16th (click here ) 2014 04 16 Pres Ltr from the BOD president,  Rick Aliperti, which was postal mailed to all owners and posted to the Sentry Mgmt website.  The letter announced a SURPLUS for March based on an email from Sentry’s Lucia Stiles, our assigned property manager. (click here) 2014_04_16_March_Surplus_Announcment_by_CAM_Stiles .  Despite the good news, no April 1 financial report with details per our bylaws was prepared and sent to owners and Mr. Aliperti responded that the accountants had an extension on preparing the audit report. A draft was received by the bod members and is still under review by the Treasurer, Paul Weber (unless I have not been informed otherwise)  The source for the claim was the attached.  (click here) March 31 2014 Sentry   

Since November 2013, after 7 years of ownership, my husband and I have been attempting to  obtain the facts; the real information regarding our financial status.  Due to the actions of the past and current board, we familiarized ourselves with the Florida statutes applicable to COAs and the governing docs and learned what our rights as owners were for obtaining financial information. Laws and governing docs have not prevented the past and current bod presidents and the management company from spending thousands of our $$ on attorneys, to block this information from being provided.  This continues to occur despite my being “on the board” in name only, though omitted from vital information sharing.

From what I was able to obtain, it was clear the budget was inadequate, the “extra” funds collected in 2014 would be needed for those not collected in 2013 and the overspending on some line items (legal, insurance, water) would result in a year end 2014 shortage.  (Good News? : at least they didn’t spend all the budgeted building cleaning in 2013!)  The primary responsibility of a COA board is to collect assessments for maintenance of common elements, insurance, replacement of fixed assets (roof) and an active property manager who visits more than one  time per week can “manage” landscaping contractors, pool companies, trash removal, allow access when needed, keep unit keys secure, etc. It is what they are licensed for and have had a background check to determine if any criminal history exists for the security of owners.  BOD members are not vital for their presence nor expected to be the cleaning crew, lanai checkers or landscape experts. Any owner or tenant can assist as the eyes and ears for the manager and report breakdowns or issues. Volunteerism is always a good thing to save the association money, but should be limited to certain areas.

From the time of the election, i made numerous attempts to explain the priority of goals for the BOD and  was met with either no response or insults for negativity. My suggestion of establishing a REAL website where all board emails, notices, etc could be posted and an account for meeting videos to be uploaded to did not make the cut for agendas either. Instead, 3 letters from Mr. Aliperti have been added to the Sentry owner payment website where only owners can access and must sign in to find.  From early February, Ms. Stiles ceased to include me when sending information to the “board” and included only the other 4. BOD meetings were scheduled at 1pm during weekdays, as it was stated the only times available for Ms. Stiles. Some meetings, I was not notified of and the 4/15 meeting at 1pm I waited for a Skype call, or phone contact. No call, no contact despite my advising the BOD pres that I would be available.

Many times, I brought the exclusions to the attention of Mr. Aliperti whose response was didn’t direct anyone’s actions.   Subsequently, I obtained an email by Mr. Aliperti,  directing the 4 other board members and Ms. Stiles to include “appropriate” BOD members only in their communication.  As BOD members can be personally held liable for violations of fiduciary duty, resulting in losses to owners, I emailed my objections to the delays in acting on the meters and stressed that we needed new legal representation.  (more on this to come)  ( click here)  Dear Mr

None of the other current board members reported having accounting backgrounds and early on exhibited a reliance on the manager who is a licensed CAM; not an accountant nor financially invested in this community.  I did not see any objections by  the other board members to her omission of me regarding group communications though at times,  Brenda Hallihan and Paul Weber included me for email discussions.  I have not read the Condo Association Manager(CAM) guidelines, available online, but cannot imagine that  this action would be ethically correct,

Consequently, requests for real information; legal invoices to determine why we were again over budget by March; General Ledger detail to review adjusting entries (moving funds from one account to another; reserves) were ignored.  To obtain the necessary information, I was required to issue my 2nd certified letter, travel to Sentry’s office on May 24th (time off work, travel expenses from NJ to FL) and pay $25.40 for document copies. After that appointment, I learned the information had been emailed to the other BOD members.  I have requested a refund of cash paid to Sentry employee Dianne Racine, but no response from Ms. Stiles yet. I may need to send the “board” a request?  I cannot imagine that the owner of Sentry, Mr. James Hart condones business practices such as this. Mr. Aliperti in his recent “Public Notice”  states that I caused legal fees with my request, as they again tried to block providing what we are entitled to according to state statutes and our VLC governing documetns.  The current pres frequently uses the phrase “Open and Honest Communication”  yet requests phone calls to discuss VLC business, with the explanation that it is the best way to get the facts. Emails which are written communications can be “misleading”.  Most people I have spoken with would prefer information in writing as opposed to “whisper down the lane” which is more prone to mistakes and gossip.

Note also the General Ledger including a reserve for Paving, nearly 23k. Interesting as 14.5k was included on the “Special Assessment” we were billed Feb 1.  “Snookered”? “Double dipped”?  (click here) 2014 04 14 GL Sentry Prepared  No explanations have been given.

To close this deficit we need to bill for the water individually used from the date of last reading through the date of repair.  The amount at this time would be nearly the $30k through 12/31/13 (unknown what amount was collected from owners who sold during this period or if it is being tracked) and the water from  Jan – May 19, or date of repair.  Based on payments of water expense, the 2014 amount may be near $32k as of May 19, higher if applying the expense to the date of service, not the date of payment. The current board has not disclosed to me any plan despite my volunteering to calculate, using an Excel formula and a determined rate of water, any plan for this. Some of the board are arguing that water thru 12/31 should be billed; there is no cutoff reading at 12/31 for nearly 130 units.  Others seem to think that owners will feel they were “double dipped” to be billed along with the dues increase.  More coming on this soon.

Many questions remain unanswered: how the 2013 year end Utilities could be reported as under budget when they were projected at 11/2013 on the budget draft to be at least 20k over. (from unbilled water). If you have questions, input, or notice something I may have overlooked in preparing the estimate, feel free to contact me at vanlooncommons@gmail.com . Like the illustration above, I am rowing a rubber raft by myself as we are nearing the 2014 year end (in budgeting) and should be projecting monthly our actual position, not an Accrual report.

Last week, bills could not be paid and our current Treasurer suggested owners pay their July 1 dues early, to pay June bills. This will not solve the overall problem and an explanation by Mr. Aliperti to an owner, of the 24k insurance payment is only a timing issue. We are bleeding out financially and trying to apply a Band-aid when a tourniquet is needed.

Catherine