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When a HOA spends $60K on Small Claims Court - Stupid is as Stupid Does?

Posted By CotoBlogzz May 17, 2011

Agoura Hills, CA -
On May 13, 2011 the Morrison Ranch HOA Board mailed a letter (see below)  to all homeowners with what clearly appeared to be an effort to slander and defame me as a result of the many facts I have posted on this website. It seems more important for the Board to mark me as a “bad guy” this year since I am running as a candidate against the incumbents for a seat on the Board.

A HOA Legal Mind - A Terrible Thing to Waste - - WMD in Morrison Ranch

I want everyone to understand that the website Morrison Ranch Neighbors'  only objective is to provide oversight and transparency to the actions of the Board. I have neither a personal agenda nor any personal animosity toward any board member. Evidently, some of the facts appear to have struck a nerve with the Board and they appear to feel they must distribute such a nasty letter about a me because I am working to get a quorum. That being said, I need to defend myself with the truth. The information in their letter regarding the small claims litigation is pretty much a fabrication by the board or a spin from their attorneys to make me look bad.

Response to their Litigation Report
I cannot dispute the Board’s claim of spending in excess of $59,000 to respond to the small claim actions filed against the Board. I can only assume if that’s what they claim they spent, then that must be the amount. I have a question for the Board. Why would you spend over $59,000 to defend small claim actions that were claims for failure to enforce the CC&Rs, non production of records and violation of the CC&Rs? These actions have to carry a small monetary penalty in order to be heard in small claims court. The maximum amount of each penalty for a small claim action is $500. This is the maximum the penalty could be while the judge could set the penalty anywhere between $1 and the maximum. So if we assume, just for the moment, that all six cases were lost by the Board, the maximum exposure to the Association could only be $3,000. The Board members chose to spend over $59,000 to defend cases that ultimately only require the production of records, the compliance by the board of the laws and a total maximum penalty of maybe $3,000. Additionally, the Board brought their attorneys to small claims court in an attempt to have them plead their case. As most people know, and especially attorneys, this is absolutely not allowed in small claims. So the Board’s improper action cost the Associations thousands of dollars when they all knew the court rules. This is ludicrous, fiscally irresponsible and clearly NOT in the best interest of our Association. In my opinion, the Board spent Association money to prevent having to produce documents and abide by the CC&Rs as required by law. To date, the penalties from the small claims actions paid out by the Board have totaled $303.

The Board claims in their letter that of the six cases heard, the Association won all but one case which they only lost on a technicality. The Board makes this statement while knowing it simply in not true. I question the Board’s motives. The truth is that there were 6 cases, three were combined and heard at one hearing on January 19, 2010 and the other three were heard on June 14, 2010, August 23, 2010 and August 30, 2010. Of the first three, I prevailed on one and the other two cases were dismissed without prejudice. (Dismissed without Prejudice: An order to dismiss a case in which the court preserves the plaintiff’s right to sue again on the same cause of action.) It is an absurd assumption that the Board might have made a mistake stating a dismissal without prejudice means they won the case. What makes it more far fetched is that one Board member is an attorney. A case dismissed by the court is neither a win nor a loss by either side. It is obvious to me the Board intentionally stated it wrong to create hostility towards me from the other homeowners.

The remaining three cases heard on June 14, 2010, August 23, 2010 and August 30, 2010 had the outcome of two dismissed by the court (one without prejudice, one with prejudice) and the third with a ruling in favor of the Board that the Board does not owe me any money, which has never been the intent or object of any of my small claims actions. In this action, I was suing to get the money back to the HOA that the Board members took against the rules. Because of the wording on the small claim filing, the judge determined that if he ruled in my favor, he couldn’t be sure where the money would go. Nonetheless, as you can see on the Board’s letter, they have decided to change the policy of awarding $200 to each member for “a job well done” (against the rules) to reimbursing themselves for actual expenses as described in Article III, Section 7 of the CC&Rs. Placing the blame on me that it will cause expenses to increase by 75% is another attempt by the Board to get my fellow homeowners turned against me.

The case dismissed with prejudice was filed against a Board member who absolutely refused to produce documents proving that he was not receiving free gardening services from AMG, the landscaping company employed by the Association. A good part of that $59,000 in legal fees were spent drafting documents to help prevent this Board member and the landscaping company from producing documents. Ultimately, the judge did not allow any of it into evidence. I will be writing a separate article on this case describing the details and facts so be sure to look for it soon.

I must respond to the allegation by the Board that the case I won was on a technicality. They want you to believe I asked for a voluminous amount of documents that had to be produced in 30 days under the law and they missed the deadline by only 12 days. Contrary to what they want to spin, I began asking for documents starting in February 2009 that the Board is required to produce by law in a designated time frame. The Board would not respond to my requests so ultimately to get the documents I had to file a lawsuit. (CLICK HERE TO SEE HISTORY OF DOCUMENT REQUESTS).

The remaining case is crystal clear. Articles governing time limits for serving on the Architectural Committee is a maximum of 6 years in a 10 year period. The Board admits the time has run out but wants the court to believe they have a good reason so that justifies the Board ignoring the CC&Rs. We will see how that works out.

I find the Board’s spinning of the truth and their waste of Association money shameful. The Board’s letter is a clear attempt to convince the homeowner’s that I am the bad guy and in their opinion, you should not vote for me. They are using this letter to advocate my defeat in the election.

This is a violation of Civil Code §1363.04 on Campaign Funding.

(a) Association funds shall not be used for campaign purposes in connection with any association board election.
(b) For the purposes of this section “campaign purposes” include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Expressly advocating the election or defeat of any candidate that is on the association election ballot.

Again, the Board appears to think the rules do not apply to them.

By the Board sending out this litigation report and using my name throughout the entire letter, they clearly wanted to send a message to all homeowners that they will use all association resources if you dare to challenge the Board.

Bottom line, let’s stop the insanity and get out and vote. It’s time for a change!

 Unsuccessful attempt to record annual meeting, as requested by members unable to attend.  

Jan Gerstel

If you would like to make a comment about a specific news article, editorial or commentary and have it considered for publication in the CotoBuzz Journal as a Letter, Photo or Video Clip  to the Editor, please send it to --- or mail to Letters to the Editor, c/o CotoBuzz, P,O. Box 154, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678

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June 2, 2009 GRF Meeting - The Shut Up Rule in Effect
All residents want form Mr. Stuller is a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T - Click here for the rest of the story


Desperate HOA Directors - Your Are Out of Order!


June 2, 2009 Golden Rain Foundation annotated board Meeting - as Board President denigrates fellow director and cancer patient Michael Curtis, while defending property management company's actions  Click here for the rest of the story.. 
Desperate Directors of Laguna Woods - The Facts Behind the Fiction Part Two - Click here for video


If you thought farming subsidies were bad, you should see the Laguna Woods Village nursery subsidies!  Click here for video clip
Keep out! - Nursery is a Dangerous Place...... for Inquiring Min



What we do with your money is none of your business: Click here for  video clip
Do not Ask, PCM Won't Tell: The LWV Accounting System - O




The Antigua Board, PCM, Weapons of Mass Disinformation & Body Language
Monarch Beach, CA - A letter was sent to Antigua homeowners by Naomi Poulson, the Antigua Board of Directors, and the management company PCM, as an actual smear campaign to malign Doug Kirk, and others, who want to run for the board. It is important to note that Poulson and the Board intentionally excluded several homeowners in the mailing of this letter, including Doug Kirk, Jorge and Carol Cordero, and myself. None of us received this letter.

Royal Discrimination in Monarch Beach HOA - Monarch Beach, CA - The problem began right around. 2010, when our newly elected president, Doug Kirk, chose to meet privately with Ryan Phillips of Compass Property Management, and in a closed meeting held without other board members' knowledge or approval, solely signed a contract to hire Compass as our new management company.

From that moment on, the Association has been in serious trouble. Mr. Kirk has quite an ego and a temper and if anyone goes against what he wants, then all 'hell' breaks loose. The police have been called out to our neighborhood many times due to his harassment of residents

Despite what the CAI may Say, Discrimination in CID is Ubiquitous 
Vintage Heights, Lincoln, NE - Gary and I are looking forward to being interviewed by the HUD investigator. Since we have always told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there is nothing to prepare for.

Bigotry and racism have educated themselves; no "N" words, no cross burnings. They blend seamlessly into their neighborhoods. Had Gary and I not had over 10 years of experience with them, we would not have been able to identify this game play, either. For over 20 years we have been actively involved in the creation of, and sales of, covenant compliant affordable homes in the best neighborhoods in Lincoln. That is why they always came after us. FFH Laws are the tools the Federal Gov. have given us to protect our clients housing rights and we routinely use them. Gary has stated for years, once you establish that the homes are covenant compliant the conversation must end. When the neighbor is still "complaining", we immediately start explaining FFH laws. (Gary was able to document one of these conversations by email in 2009, you have it with the files) That is how you expose the bigot/racist. The individual has only two choices. 1) whether they like it or not, comply with Federal law. 2) in frustration the indivudual blurts out "it really isn't about the houses, it's the people that move into those houses I don't want in the neighborhood." Our participation in the conversation

To Recall or No Recall, & The HOA Hall of Shame

The Hen House Guarded by the Fox in Laguna Woods Village's Foster's Farm & the Hall of Shame  - News This Friday at 2:00 PM

Posted by CotoBlogzz  | 06/17/2009 04:00 PM

Laguna Woods Village, CA -Whether the United Board recall is absolutely necessary is debatable.  What is not debatable is the Golden Rain Foundations  board’s behavior during the June 2, 2009.  When all residents wanted was a little respect, board president Erwin Stuller resorted to unnecessary defamatory and personal attacks.  What is more appalling is that the rest of the board failed to step in and apply a modicum of decorum to the proceedings.  Such behavior is not only despicable but calls for an apology and stepping down.  The video clip capturing Mr. Stullers less than despicable behavior during  the proceedings are quickly becoming a rallying cry against abusive HOA directors.

Hoist By Their Own Petard - Fuses get shorter in Laguna Woods Village
Posted by CotoBlogzz | 06/03/2009 05:00 PMLaguna Woods Village, CA -So, exactly what happened during yesterday?s Golden Rain Foundation (GRF) board of directors meeting in Laguna Woods

United Recall Petition Signed Sealed and Delivered - Finance Committee Meeting
Laguna Woods Village, CA - As promised, earlier today United Mutual director Michael Curtis during the Finance Committee Meeting, delivered a petition to recall certain United board boards, with close to 100 verified signatures over an above the required...

United Board Recall In Final Stretch ? 4th of July in June!
Laguna Woods Village, CA - Change is in the air. So is anticipation, excitement, thrill and for some, fear. Fear that their telephones are bugged. Fear of retribution. Fear of the unknown.

Prosecuting Mr. Curtis - or is it Persecuting?
Posted by CotoBlogzz | 05/26/2009 8:30 PMPCM General Manager Milt Johns, taking exception to the coverage by Orange County Register of the recent exile of United Mutual Director Michael Curtis from his own community, documents his displeasure at the..

Laguna Woods Village - United Board on Official Notice
TO: United Board:About a month ago, the official "United Membership List" was provided to me by Bill Hart. I believe it is dated April 29th. This is being used to verify all signatures on the Removal (or recall) Petition, so that the official...

The $5 Million Landscape Budget and Recall Petition
Laguna Woods Village, CA - We have been to Laguna Woods Village. We have seen Laguna Woods Village. The place is nicely kept, but how many gardeners does it take to justify a $5 million/year budget?That is the question residents are asking, as the...


How to recognize a cheater
The traditional cheater is, for example, the crude sneak thief. He is also the small-time bureaucrat or politician on the take. He needs little skill and much gall to extract his living. But he lives in constant danger of being caught in the act and...


Laguna Third Mutual's President Queries Answered
Which wolf will you feed today? Posted by CotoBlogzz | 05/06/2009 9:00 AM | Have you heard the story about an old man who keeps struggling with two constantly fighting wolves? The first wolf represents truth, the second represents evil. When he...



Laguna Woods Village Budget
I keep hearing at all the committee meetings, the capital expenses being approved come out of reserves and will not add anything to our monthly assessments.I beg to differ.


Law?  What Law?  WE are the Law!  Recent find of Original Documents were mailed to each President (GRF, Third Laguna Hills Mutual and United Laguna  Hills Mutual), together with information sheets from OriginalTrust and amendment to the Trust dated Jan. 9, 1969. These documents stated how and why Ross Cortese, the developer of Leisure World Laguna Hills, changed the concept of Leisure World Laguna Hills from a Senior Citizen non-profit Co- operative to a Senior Citizen non-profit Condominium Complex.


New Golden Rain Foundation Rules of Engagement
On the heels of the Golden Rain Foundation?s (of Seal Beach) decision to appeal the recent Court of Appeals decision, on a financial transparency lawsuit, to the state Supreme Court, the embattled GRF HOA board of directors recently decided to enact...


Cynthia Conners Being Asked to Resign    Posted by CotoBlogzz | 2/10/2009 5:40 PM     The Laguna Woods Village Shareholders Committee is asking Third Board director Cynthia Conners to resign her positions on the board for a number of alleged ethical violations.

New Third Laguna Hills Mutual of Laguna Woods Village Board Seated      The Third Laguna Hills Mutual of Laguna Woods Village seated the new board for that housing mutual today. Officers include Carol Moore, President; Stan Feldstein, 1st Vice President; Don Lippert, 2nd Vice President; Kathryn Freshley, Secretary. The voting was done by secret ballot and the anticipation of the members present was that business would proceed without the roadblocks of the past year.

The Devil Made me Do It - Blame it on the Loopholes
During Thursday?s CZ Master Association?s Candidate?s Night designed for Coto de Caza residents to meet the candidates running for two seats on the CZ Master board, the first question mischaracterized our position, asking an either or question: ?Buzz...

The Right LWV Leadership for Such a Time as This?
Is this general manager (Milt Johns) over his head in his management skills? Can someone come out with only experience from the garden to manage a 90 million dollar business without a conflict of interest? When is the last time Mr. Johns lowered our costs.


$2 million Verdict Returned Against Homeowners Association
Conduct constituted malice, oppression, or fraud and committed by one or more officers, directors or managing agents of the HOA - Presiding Juror Earlier this week a jury in a case filed in Superior Court of California Riverside, a jury ruled in favor...


GRF 2009 Budget Review, Be There or Be Out of Luck!
Letter from LWV resident M. Curtis inviting concerned residents: Tomorrow (Tuesday, July 22) at 9AM, in the Community Center Board Room, GRF will have a Special Corporate (all boards) meeting to review next year's budget. See the...


Different Homeowners Association, Same Issues
I assume that you are a member of the Walnut Creek Leisure World Association, or is this another HOA in the area? We have had many comments of similar problems by HOA's who happen to run into our website and I'm glad that you contacted me


The Right LWV Leadership for Such a Time as This?
Is this general manager (Milt Johns) over his head in his management skills? Can someone come out with only experience from the garden to manage a 90 million dollar business without a conflict of interest? When is the last time Mr. Johns lowered our costs...


Working to Serve, Or Serving To Work - Letter to OC Register Columnist
Another good column. I was wondering if there was ever any serious consideration to any non-union government employee for the position of publicly elected Sheriff by either the Register or Supervisors? That is all I see in your Top Five selection and...


To Destroy a Community, or to Destroy the Status Quo?XThat is the Question in this Letter to the Menifee SCCA Board of Directors
First of all I have no intentions or no desire to destroy "our community". However, I must ask you to please define what you think the community is, what it is you think I am threatening to destroy?Secondly, Sun City has been declared a "blighted...


by D. Vanitzian(c) 2007 Donie VanitzianWhen criminal liability is not charged against the "criminals" in an association, then the titleholders become the Human Capital used to fund the criminal activities and wrongdoing.


This ain't no party! This ain't no disco! This ain't no community!


Dare's role in Pastures cost association $100,000
By BRENDAN J. LYONS, Senior writer First published: Sunday, Times Union August 12, 2007. Republished with permissionAugust 12, 2007 ALBANY -- An advocate for the Historic Pastures Homeowners Association, which lost more than $100,000 in...


BLACKMAIL--TAKING CLIENTS HOSTAGE- Q: How can you tell when an attorney is lying? A. His lips are moving.August 10, 2007 If California can place caps on spending and caps on fees of various types of businesses -- then it needs to put caps...


by Donie Vanitzian, JD(c) 2007 D. VanitzianYou can?t have a good old boys and girls club without a little help from friends in high places, of course, a little help from California?s State Bar wouldn?t hurt either. [FN1]Forget for a moment that the term...


Should I stay or should I go - in/from my HOA? X
First was the Delegate?s Corner blasting CZ Master Association board of director?s critics for speaking out against a corrupt delegate system and electoral process in favor of direct elections, consistent with current legislation, and consistent with the...


Casta Courier Coverage of Unhappy Campers at Leisure World
I'd like to comment on the following paragraph that was in your publication "The Casta Courier" on July 19, 2007. The second paragraph reads as follows:

SPENDING OTHER PEOPLE?S MONEY by Donie Vanitzian, JDX(c) 2007 Vanitzian
I mean really! How difficult is it to spend other people?s money? Cheech!! It?s a no brainer, especially with no statutory accountability. "Hey man, it ain't difficult" one board member tells me, he says "no one gives s**t." He proceeds to point to his...

Critics do not attend board meetings - GRF that is!
Critics do not attend Home Owner Association Meetings to learn of actions deemed necessary by their Board!August 6, 2007 Critics are principally individuals who fail to attend Home Owner Association Meetings to learn of actions deemed necessary...

The New Seven, err... Eight Wonders of the World
CZ's definition for leadership is that whenever questions are raised, the canned response is ?Remember the Reserves?! Now CZ Spin Machine has to be the Eight Wonder of the World!- August 6, 2007 The results of the NOWC?s New Seven Wonders of...

Note to the do-gooders whose glasses are corrupted by the half-full half-empty circular-argument nonsense and who want only to hear the good-of-it-all and nothing too depressing, oh, and want only smiley ha-ha journalism: Go grab your teddy bears and...

Lawyer seeking condominiums' business goes over the line
Question: I manage a large condominium project in Los Angeles. Unsolicited, an attorney sent me an invitation to meet with him over lunch. He then phoned me several times, including the day before the lunch, explaining the purpose was to speak only with...


About every two months I get a call, or a client comes in to ask me about condominiums. It usually starts off with, ?I bought this adorable little condo? and then the upstairs neighbor had a flood?. And then the Homeowners Association refused??

Paraphrasing the LA Times on Defeat of SB670 & Wicked Twin Witches of the West - SB 127 & AB-980
Taking a page out of the OC Register?s ?paraphrased reporting?, an article written by LA Times staff writer Diane Weder titled ?Bill to limit transfer fee founders?, published appropriately on May 13, 2007, quotes the president of the statewide Realtors...


Private Transfer Tax - Good for the Common Interest Development (HOA/CID) Industry or Good for the Politicians?
When we received our copy of the report that the California Association of Realtors (CAR) used to Sponsor and help draft transfer fees, we were confused. Given that Vanitzian has become an icon in Sacrament (some say a thorn in the legislature's side),...


Management company's tape-recording tactic puts homeowners at risk
Question: Because our management company has been sued before, it has a policy of recording all incoming and outgoing phone calls. Before a management employee answers the phone, there is an automatic announcement warning callers they are being recorded....


Of Trial Lawyers, the AAJ and the Democratic Party
The National College of Advocacy and AAJ Education maintain two distinct programs that recognize AAJ lawyer member efforts in pursuit of advanced legal learning and professional development?the Achievement Recognition Program and Advanced Studies in Trial...


Laguna Woods Village CC&Rs, What CC&Rs? I Got Your CC&Rs Right Here!
Coto de Caza is not the only place where the board of directors consistently either disregard the civil code, governing documents (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions - CC&Rs) or even the moral code.


What is better in HOA Management? Transparency and Accountability or Feel Good?May 22, 2007
Mostly as a result of the Enron and Worldcom scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002 and commonly called SOX; was enacted to provide business executives with less wiggle...




Two of the Worst & Most Detrimental Laws to Hit California are Sponsored by None Other than: California Association of Realtors (R) The Gold is Gone --No more gold in the Golden State!
Dear Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,
SHATZI! PLEASE REMEMBER YOUR PROMISE TO US. Please listen to the people who support you and look to you to help us! When you first began buying property in California NO ONE told you what you could or could not do...


It apparently does not matter that titleholders with a vested interest in their property cannot get their legislators to carry legislation to help US, but, they can waste taxpayer funds by preventing the bills WE WANT and NEED by CHANGING *ONE* WORD in an...


So THIS is what the Senate calls an "Open Meeting." How many Open Meetings have THEY been to? Obviously not many. ROTFLMAO!


CAN YOU OUTSWIM YOUR HOA SHARKS? or will you drown trying?
Owning, let alone living in an HOA is a tough JOB and requires you be physically fit, possess a certain sophistication of the processes, and have the character let alone stamina, that allows you to be persistent in a manner that indescribable to REAL...


(c) D. Vanitzian
May 16, 2007The Gray Panthers are on record as SUPPORTING A BAD BAD BAD BAD BILL: Senate Bill Number 948. SHAME ON YOU. Where the heck are you getting your information from?


The Law of Unintended Consequences: Legislation and HOA BOD Cause and Effect: Clueless in my CAR Coming off a most improbable but successful campaign to defeat SB 670 author and HOA advocate Vanitizian thanks supporters making a connection between the quality of legislation being passed in Sacramento, and the quality of life in most homeowners...













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