KCCA resident seeks to open lines of communication
"Truth in lending," "transparency in accounting," "open meetings," "accountability" and "fiduciary responsibility" are terms we are all familiar with and require determined effort of citizens to maintain.
Those practices are not given to us automatically by those in power – they are the foundation of our quest for living in communities that are fair and just to everyone. KCCA is one of the most grassroots forms of government – an HOA (Home Owners Association). It is also one of the most vulnerable to mismanagement through ignorance of law, lack of ability of officers to set aside personal grievances, exaggerated sense of self-worth, and unwillingness to consider opposing viewpoints.
We can assume that nearly every resident who offers to serve as a director starts with the intention of giving their very best service to their community. But the power of the job can corrupt even the most well-intentioned director.
There is a surprising amount of power vested in an HOA board, especially the president. That can be the case if he/she has gained great loyalty of other directors by heaping praise on them for their tireless work and being dedicated team players. The other directors become extremely reluctant to stand their ground and risk being ostracized.
One of the safeguards in most HOAs is the presence of a fully qualified administrator or a HOA management company that advises the board and guides them through the many, many complex tasks that a large HOA corporation must navigate.
KCCA has about a $2 million budget – it is a large HOA. It has just secured a loan of a little over $1 million to reconstruct its aging indoor pool. The tasks for the board are daunting, and every owner is dependent upon their wisdom, integrity and judgement for protecting their home investment.
One HOA I belonged to conducted an extensive survey every year to be sure that they were paying attention to owners' concerns. We communicated easily with our board.
Herein lies our problem: communication between the KCCA board and the membership. There are two board meeting a month. One is a workshop where the board discusses issues that will be taken up at the regular monthly board meeting one week later. Technically, no resident may speak at a workshop, but there are occasional exceptions. No action can be taken at a workshop. There are no minutes posted from the workshop meeting.
A week later the regular board meeting is held where motions are made and committees make reports. Open forum for members is scheduled at the end of the meeting. All motions and decisions are made before any member has an opportunity to speak to the board. Consequently, if a member didn't attend the workshop, they don't know what the board will be presenting – not that they could contribute to the decisions anyway as all decisions are made before any member may speak.
There are also numerous committee meetings that members may attend as observers. There are bylaws that require the director who chairs the committee to post minutes. However, that bylaw is not enforced now. Since the departure of J. Pat Moore, our past administrator, the production of minutes of any kind has been uncertain at best and at times nonexistent. The recordkeeping of this board is poor, and thus is it extremely difficult for a member to know exactly what is going on or what went on at any time during the past couple of years.
If you want to know what is happening, you must attend meetings and listen. But that is not always possible. Transparency, open meetings? Those are nice sounding terms – but they are not guaranteed here in KCCA. Especially when it comes to money management.
Two of the most important committees, finance and budget, which prior to this board were always open to observers, are now closed. No KCCA member, unless a committee member, can attend. And a quick check of posted minutes on the MyKCCA.com shows that there are minutes for only three financial meetings available for the last year. Those meetings were held in January, July and August 2016.
How are members supposed to know the full picture of our financial condition if there is no access to committee meetings and only limited minutes? To be fair, there is a statement made each month at the board meeting that will satisfy most nonfinancial trained members, but for those who really want complete information, it is next to impossible to get full accounting.
What is to be done? Sadly, most residents don't much care what goes on at the corporate level, or in the office, so long as they don't have to pay much money. Most of them don't attend meetings, vote or probably even read an article like this. In short, until the wheels fall off the wagon and they are hit with a huge assessment, they will ignore pretty much everything.
As a result, because of the difficulty of becoming informed; the difficulty of communicating with the board; the rejection by the board of any input that doesn't feel complimentary to them, and the apathy of many residents, the outlook for our KCCA members' involvement isn't as bright as it could be.
But maybe we can change that. Maybe there is some reason for hope that we can improve our ability to be involved in our community.
Technology has brought us an immediate means of communication – if you will take the trouble to open up a computer, smart phone or electronic tablet and go online. I know many of you will not do that, but for those who are willing to make that effort, we do have an option that can change our ability to pay attention to our KCCA community. Several hundred of KCCA HOA members have already joined Next Door (nextdoor.com), an online place where notices, bulletins and discussion can be posted - in real time.
We can have a conversation with one, or many, of our neighbors without ever leaving home. Those conversations have guidelines of conduct requiring respectful treatment of one another. When important matters develop, we have a means of posting them immediately. Questions can be asked, and proposals and suggestions made, and anyone who is a resident is invited to join the discussion or just follow the dialogs.
All that is required is registering with Next Door as a member. I was a quite hesitant at first about joining. But as I looked at the advantages of quick and easy communication with my neighbors, I changed my mind.
I hope the ability to communicate easily will motivate more people to take an active interest in KCCA. Next Door can be the resource that brings you fresh information and gives you a voice in what is going on. Of course, the best action is to attend all board meetings and committees that are open.
King City resident since 2001