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)