An effort to recall the Board of Directors for the private, gated community of Pine Mountain Lake is underway, and ballots arrived in some residents’ mailboxes on Monday.
At the center of the debate backed by more than 375 petition-signing residents is whether the five-member board for Pine Mountain Lake Association’s roughly 3,200 property owners has followed its by-laws correctly, or if spending $2 million to $2.5 million to fix the building that houses The Grill next to Pine Mountain Lake Golf Course should have been put to voters.
The controversy is not taking place in a vacuum. Disagreements over board control of spending and decision-making are part of the fabric of this exclusive Groveland community that includes a public airport, owned and operated by Tuolumne County. Shouts and accusations and sarcasm have been documented at PML board meetings for decades.
“I feel they should definitely be recalled,” Marilyn Deardorff, a property owner in Pine Mountain Lake, said Monday in a phone interview. “The recall and the new board are necessary to protect the homeowners, because the existing Pine Mountain Lake board has violated so many civil code sections of our bylaws. We the homeowners have had no say so in how our HOA fees are being spent.”
Elections of the Board of Directors are not overseen by Tuolumne County’s registrar of voters. Instead, like many other homeowners associations and community associations, Pine Mountain Lake must hire a private elections consultant to run their elections, including recall elections.
In this case, the private elections consultant is The Inspectors of Election, LLC of Carlsbad in San Diego County. Ballots mailed out and received by The Inspectors of Election are labeled “Removal of Entire Board of Directors” and “Removal and Election of Directors.” The official election date is July 27, though most Pine Mountain Lake property owners are expected to vote by mail.
Contacted by phone, Kurtis Peterson with The Inspectors of Election, LLC, of Carlsbad, refused Monday to share copies of the recall ballots. The Union Democrat obtained copies of the recall ballots from both the current board and from recall proponents.
Pauline Turski, a board member who resigned in January, is now distributing statements for replacement candidates. A current PML board member, Karen Hopkins, unanimously appointed to the board in March to replace Turski, says the current recall effort is misguided and unfair to the current board.
“What’s unjust is the board did its due diligence, held public meetings, and sought and received legal counsel indicating that they could go forward and repair The Grill,” Hopkins said Monday in a phone interview.
The rest of the Pine Mountain Lake Board of Directors are Mike Gustafson, Steve Griefer, Nick Stauffacher and Wayne Augsburger.
Proponents of the recall and their lawyers say the PML Association’s bylaws require that any expenditures over $200,000 must be put to PML’s 3,200 voting property owners. But in recent years, according to the current board, other projects that cost more than $200,000 were not put to voters. They include a marina store/cafe building project that cost $575,822, a golf cart barn project that cost $688,950, and a lake-dredging project that cost $1.9 million.
Pine Mountain Lake Association’s general manager, Joe Powell, did not respond Monday to requests for comment.
The current budget for renovating The Grill is $2 million, approved by the PMLA board before Hopkins was appointed to the board, Hopkins said. Mike McEvoy, Deardorff, and other recall proponents disagree with that figure, saying the current cost of renovating The Grill building is already more than $2.5 million, and most of that is already spent.
Both the current Pine Mountain Lake Board of Directors and the recall proponents are paying lawyers to buttress their views.
Darrin M. Menezes, a real estate litigation lawyer with Sacramento-based law firm Weintraub Tobin, said in a June 13 letter, “This firm serves as legal counsel for Pine Mountain Lake Association. As we explained in writing to the attorney for Mike McEvoy and Marilyn Deardorff-Scott in July 2018, the Association sought a legal opinion … as to whether the Board is authorized under the Governing Documents to proceed with the refurbishment of the Country Club, including the building, bar, dining room, deck and kitchen at the Grill restaurant without a membership vote … Association counsel analyzed the issue and determined that a membership vote was not necessary under the Governing Documents.
“As explained to counsel for Mr. McEvoy and Ms. Deardorff-Scott nearly a year ago, Section 9.03 of the Bylaws gives the Association Board discretion to determine what action is necessary or desirable to maintain, protect, or preserve common facilities like the Country Club,” Menezes said in the letter.
Lawyers hired by the recall proponents, from the firm called Clark Hill of San Francisco, said in letters dated June 4 and June 9 that Clark Hill has identified Pine Mountain Lake Association governance-related issues including: the PMLA board failed to conduct proper membership meetings to review The Grill remodel project; the PMLA board failed to conduct a vote of the membership as required under 9.02 and 9.03; the PMLA board usurped PMLA members’ rights by rescheduling the recall vote and recall election for July 27; the PMLA board failed to follow a two-bid policy and failed to read all bids into the PMLA board minutes; the PMLA board failed to ascertain signatures on contracts; and other spending issues.
McEvoy, Deardorff and other recall proponents believe the PMLA board violated bylaws section 9.03 when they failed to vote to authorize more funds totaling about $500,000 to cover what they call current cost overruns.
Each of the roughly 3,200 property-owning voters in Pine Mountain Lake will receive two ballots for the July 27 recall election.
The first ballot created by The Inspectors of Election, LLC of Carlsbad is called Official Ballot #1 and it offers voters three choices: 1) I approve the removal of the entire board of directors; 2) I do not approve the removal of the entire board of directors; 3) Abstain from voting.
The second ballot created by The Inspectors of Election, LLC of Carlsbad is called Official Ballot #2 and it offers voters 13 choices to replace the current board if the recall vote passes. The 13 candidates include the five current board members and the following eight other candidates: David Windrem, Dennis D. Scott, Ben Denson, Steve Perreira, Gus Allegri, Anny Olwin, John R. LLoyd Jr., and Tomas Hernandez.
According to the current PML Board of Directors, the July 27 recall election will cost the 3,200 PML members $30,000 to $45,000, including costs of litigation. This comes directly from the dues Pine Mountain Lake Association property owners are required to pay.
Hopkins says a typical election at Pine Mountain Lake costs $13,000 to $14,000, which is also paid for by Pine Mountain Lake Association property owners’ dues.
A candidate meet-and-greet and question-and-answer event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, July 5, at Pine Mountain Lake Lodge, a building not to be confused with The Grill at the Pine Mountain Lake Golf Course.
Acrimony and finger-pointing come with the territory in Pine Mountain Lake and Groveland. Back in April 2007, this newspaper reported that degrading comments, derogatory gestures and disruptive applause at some Groveland Community Services District meetings caused a nonprofit group to make a call for change.
The Northern Yosemite Corridor Partners Inc. of Groveland publicly asked for more respect to be shown at Groveland CSD meetings. The Pine Mountain Lake Association is a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.