March 5, 2010
That is a continuing question raised after the St. Augustine Shores Town Hall meeting held on Thursday, March 4, 2010.
Over 150 homeowners attended the meeting that almost wasn't. Concerns were raised with regards to the existing use of the Riverview Club and resulting property tax reclassification concerns, commercial leases of boat storage compound property, association fee collection amounts and the current lien and foreclosure policy.
What was revealed early on was the fact that the Service Corporation Board of Directors, through its President, Jerry Zinn, had attempted to thwart the attempt to hold the meeting in order to prevent the issues raised from reaching the homeowners. In a complete 180 degree turn, President Zinn stated to a reporter with the St. Augustine Record that the meeting was positive and that he would like to see such meetings continue. Is this just another political maneuver by Zinn or does he really intend to seek reconciliation with the community?
Numerous attempts have been made to address the issues raised at the Town Hall meeting with Zinn as well as other members of his Board of Directors and management team. Homeowners stated that they have been rebuffed, ignored and/or ridiculed. As a result, homeowner apathy has resulted in less than 30 people attending Board of Director meetings.
What has changed to make Zinn see the light?
Is it the fact that Zinn is up for reelection and is concerned that homeowners have had enough of his deceit and the actions of his current Board? Only time will tell. More than one participant in attendance stated that the entire Board must go and be replaced with individuals that want to represent the homeowners. Such comments were met with continuous rounds of applause.
Various homeowners spoke about their own personal issues and experiences in dealing with the management and Board of Directors. Most of the comments were less than favorable. In fact, Mr. Kevin Dunne, moderator of the Town Hall meeting, stated, "If I had to give them a report card, it definitely wouldn't be an A."
Douglas Burnett, Managing Partner with the St. John's Law Group, was in attendance to field homeowner questions regarding the legal issues and try to gauge the feelings of the community members.
Burnett, although an attorney, made reference throughout the meeting that it was best to resolve than litigate and continuously stated that the most positive way to avoid litigation was to elect Board members willing to serve the best interest of the community.
As Zinn's 180 degree spin mentioned earlier on, Burnett's approach to problem solving is in direct contradiction to the current St. Augustine Shores Law firm, Clayton & McCulloh's methods. Based on past homeowner comments, letters shared and comments made at the Town Hall meeting, it is apparent that our current philosophy is to sue first and ask questions later. Below are two cases on point as reported in the St. Augustine Record this morning;
Robert Hartsoe bought a home on Shores Boulevard, then had to go up to North Carolina and deal with the death of three family members. Before he left, he put up a board fence to protect his property.
When he returned, he said, he found out the board was suing him over the fence.
"I didn't even get a warning letter," he said. "I'm a developer. Since I've moved here I've already run into more controversy than I had in all my life.
"The board is there to represent the homeowner. They're not there to do whatever they want to. It's time to put somebody in there who represents homeowners."
Another resident, Chris Berman, said that, when he bought in The Greens, a condo complex in the Shores, his title only mentioned one fee he had to pay, and that was to the Greens itself. He was never told or even knew about the Shores' $27.50 monthly fee.
"We got a formal legal notice from (the board's) attorney. We contacted them and faxed them a copy of our title," Berman said. "We got stuck for $930 in legal fees and had a lien on our property.
"The board was totally unresponsive and argumentative. I want my money back."
Zinn commented that the Board doesn't need lawsuits yet this same individual, as Board President, is causing or creating most of the legal actions. Remember, he is the President of our Board! He oversees the rest of the Board of Directors, management and Corporate attorney. Zinn's continued answer to conflict resolution has been the following statement, "Sue Me".
Based on statements and events of the past, it is hard to believe that our elected Board will change their position regarding any issue raised at the Town Hall meeting or elsewhere. The same events will continue as long as we allow it.
A positive note is more homeowners have taken the time to attend the meeting, share their stories and become willing to rectify the concerns raised. This must continue.
It is important that each homeowner that attended this meeting pass the word to their friends and neighbors and gain their support and assistance in taking back our community. Future meetings will be held and a growing attendance is key to creating positive change.
The most positive and immediate change that can be made is to elect new blood to our Board of Directors. Those individuals must truly want to serve the community. The torch has been passed, it is now up to all of you.