April 2009  

We do not make jokes, we simply watch the LA Times, the Orange County Register and CID/HOA board of directors and report the facts!


The New Lawyer World, an Orgy of Fright

by Donie Vanitzian, JD

copyright 2009, D. Vanitzian

The words “Leisure World” have become synonymous with a few different “communities” but in particular, for the purpose of this opinion piece, reference is to Laguna Woods, or “LW.”  Leaving incompetence aside, it is the quintessential entanglement consisting of a bloated conglomeration of bureaucracies that are over-extended and lost in a swamp of their own importance.  For now, LW appears to have become equivalent to a “Dead Man Squawking.”  Yup, in the opinion of this author, it’s now a quagmire of dead-ends and circular arguments draining vital resources and adversely affecting the residents’ quality of life if not their property values.  It is amazing that in order to accomplish ANYTHING of consequence the residents have to contemplate suing their own community!

The process of politically assassinating the competition is usually experienced in third world countries, but now it seems that third world model amounts to business as usual at the scandal ridden LW.  And make no mistake; there is scandal after scandal, so much so, it could fill reality soaps with enough material to outlast the residents’ life spans.  This third world model takes on a pretty transparent attempt to “shut-up” board directors who actually have the audacity to believe they have a duty to be intelligent and serve the people who elected and/or appointed them to office.  A rare breed indeed.  Pity many of those sitting board directors don’t do the job they were voted-in to do.  But, to be battered while on the job and serving the residents who put you there, well that’s another story.  But then political assassination might be even easier it appears, that is, with the help of legal counsel?  So how hard is it for a board director to perform a simple task of representation without having a water bottle throttle her?  A task of being honest and not succumbing to a position of becoming a pawn for say, law firms or other vendors like, maybe management companies with an intere$t in, let’s say, other objective$?  Apparently, it is a very very hard task.

Interestingly enough, the author of CotoBuzz writes of “questionable transactions that can be ‘erased’ with an early loan payment, thus avoiding an HUD audit.”  Does that erasure appear to address not just the HUD audit but perhaps other potential issues or improprieties as well?  Might the legal ramifications of CotoBuzz’s simple sentence instead amount to a sophisticated type of “ratification” wherein those individuals cum criminals responsible for such actions (”criminals” is used of course “metaphorically”) want to wipe out their dastardly deeds once and for all so no one can, as we say, revisit or look back at them ever again?  Who would advise such a group to do that and why?  Maybe a state ordered forensic audit might better answer that question, and answer it before hundreds of elderly non-suspecting owners are thrown out on the street to the next “LW Tent City;” don’t forget such a City is only for seniors who have run out of money.  After all, this IS all about MONEY isn’t it?  Nothing about “leisure” nothing about “amenities” nothing about “cutting costs” nothing about “quality of life” nothing about “individual rights in their properties” nothing about “protecting one’s assets” nothing about “peace of mind.”  Looks like “LW” now stands for “Lawyer World.”

In explaining “control” over owners of property in a homeowner association, one board director once explained to me how he was so successful in “taking control.”  How so?  He said, “I have the attorney scare the hell outta them.  Works every time.”*  The false sentiment of boards who proclaim they really take their jobs seriously and want what’s best for the association, in too many instances, amounts to nothing more than an “orgy of fright” coupled with restraining orders and threats of suing little old ladies.  At this point even an “intervention” couldn’t help such associations.  One cannot purchase a clear conscience and morality, it’s something you either have or don’t have.  And by the way, a note to all those self-righteous board directors out there:  just because a lawyer told you it was Ok to do what you did, doesn’t make it moral.  In fact it is precisely that kind of arrogance that poisons every life you rule over and ruin.  What did these same LW board directors do BEFORE they had access to free attorneys?  Did they EVER have to make decisions for themselves?  For whatever reason, this cycle of failure seems to perpetuate itself to the extent that each successive round of board directors results in someone getting whacked.  This amounts to little by way of quantifiable accomplishments.

Owners in any HOA need only look to the latest string of closing businesses including law firms, and ex-employees including lawyers looking for jobs to understand that once on a payroll almost anywhere, but especially at any incompetent HOA, is akin to winning the lottery.  A HOA payroll that never quits, its kinda, well, sort of like the “gift that keeps on giving.”  Surprise! A stupid board that knows owners have problems meeting their own debt obligations yet takes advice from vendors such as management companies and yes, even lawyers, to raise dues, specially assess, sell off housing, and do it with impunity could be a goldmine to any struggling law firm or lawyer.  On the last round of LW screw ups I coined the “Shut-Up Rule” to address the silencing of the lambs by wolf board directors.  It’s easy; you don’t like what’s being said?  All you need to do is get the board to make a “Shut-Up Rule” and then–shut the voices up.  That essentially means creating a gag order that subjects innocent homeowners to punitive measures.  Now it appears that the “Shut-Up Rule” has morphed for board usage as the “Get Off The Board Rule.”  Picture this, some errant idiotic board-breaching directors with a collective IQ of Moron-4 led by the nose, decide if you don’t do what we tell you to do we get to kick you off the board.  But not so fast, always remember the magic words, “on advice of counsel . . .”.

*For more information see “Villa Appalling! Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living” (Vanitzian & Glassman).  www.vanitzian.com

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4 Responses to “The New Lawyer World, an Orgy of Fright”

  1. HOAGOV Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Ms. Vanitzian hits the nail right on the head when she mentions the justification by unjust boards for their egregious actions: “on advice of counsel.” This is a political tactic, not an act of good faith, for it (1) scares the homeowner into silence since a lawyer said it, (2) is an effective tactic since most homeowners will not go to court to fight the lawyer’s OPINION, not law, (3) is used freely by lawyers because the state bar (real name: Benevolent & Protective Order of Attorneys) doesn’t do a damn thing for complaints of collusion or false statements of law, and (4) is stoutly defended by lawyers as just doing their job to protect their client, the HOA as separate and distinct from the homeowners.

  2. cotobuzz Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 10:24 am

    There are a couple of bright spots: David Lyons in a classic David Vs. Goliath epic, was able to beat Goliath, also known as Golden Rain Foundation (GRF). Of course, it took persistence, stamina and the good fortune of being a good paralegal. Then, Michael Curtis, continues to be a thorn on the status quo.

  3. kindness3 Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a director say something like “let’s just vote on it and if it turns out to be wrong (or illegal) it will be reversed.” The problem is that no director will ever acknowledge they have done something wrong and so nothing ever gets made right. They all know that residents do not have the will or money to fight things in court. So they are free to break the law whenever they wan















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