Whether paranoia or legitimate fear, proposed changes to the bylaws of the Verde Village Property Owners’ Association have caused more than a minor furor.
Members say the board of directors is being sneaky. The board says the members need to come to the meetings and pay attention.
"The changes are kind of weird – they’re entirely different," said Neil McLeod, an active member of the association. "The board hired a lawyer to write them and only a lawyer can understand them."
The board voted last month to make several changes to the 1994 bylaws. A committee selected by the board wrote the new bylaws and had them reviewed by an attorney. Vice President Kate Riley said the changes were well publicized in the Verde Village Voice before the November meeting.
"If anyone wanted to change this, they should have come to the meeting," said Riley, who publishes the Voice.
Now the association meets Monday at 7 p.m. to officially accept the bylaws. Riley said there probably would be no discussion of the changes, as all of that occurred at the previous meeting.
McLeod estimated there were about 50 people at November meeting. Of the 4,500 lots in the Verde Villages, about 1,000 are dues-paying members.
Members of the property owners’ association pay $20 in annual dues. That has been the set fee since 1983.
Riley said the present bylaws are confusing and the changes clean up the language. McLeod said the board is comparing apples and oranges.
"The bylaws are one thing; the CC&R’s are the governing factor," he said. He also said the new bylaws could force residents to become members and pay dues or a lien would be filed on the property.
Riley said the idea of a lien is "ridiculous" because the association could not afford to go to court for such an action.
Membership, she said, has always been automatic when a person moves into Verde Village – people simply haven’t paid their $20.
"It’s not automatic," McLeod argued. "If it was, they wouldn’t have to change the bylaws. They’re quite emphatic about getting these things through."
He said he would like to see mandatory dues but not forced membership. If all property owners in the villages paid membership dues, the association would have $90,000 per year.
McLeod said the wording of the article about memberships is misleading. Under the definition of a member, the proposed bylaws simply state that "owners of real property in Verde Village are voting members of the Association." The current bylaws state that property owners "are eligible to be" voting members.
Additionally, the bylaws state that "dues for voting memberships are $20 per year."
McLeod thinks the changes are an indirect way to make dues-paying mandatory for all residents.
There are other changes.
Under the current bylaws, each lot has one membership, and families get two votes. Riley said she does not think that is fair even though she herself benefits by the rule as a single mother getting two votes. The new bylaws give one membership per lot and one vote per lot.
Associate members, such as renters, can apply to be voting members if they have been members for three years.
The board president is elected by the membership for two years while the board appoints the other officers (vice president, secretary and treasurer) for one year. The president becomes a director-at-large, and the vice president must also be a director. The secretary and treasurer must be members but do not have to be directors. In that case, they will not be allowed to vote at board meetings.
The new bylaws also outline the specific duties of each officer.
In the article defining standing committees, the long-range planning committee is changed to future focus, and a nominating committee is added. A swim committee was deleted from the bylaws in 1994 and made a "related organization."
The board has contracts with the related organization and is currently reviewing those for the new year. The swim group has not signed a new contract. Vice President Vera Dutner said the group fears the board wants to get rid of them and take over $25,000 in certificates of deposit that are part of the pool funding.
"They think the pool belongs to them," Riley said. "It belongs to the whole property owners’ association. They need to get a grip on life."
Dutner contends that as a related organization, the swim group has always kept the pool open to everyone and has run it as part of the association. She said the group wants amendments to the proposed bylaws to mention the swim group, though no other "related organization" is individually dealt with in the old bylaws.
The swim group is a major fund-raising force and has operated quite independent of the board.
"We’ve always had a fund, and we totally fund the pool," Dutner said.
In the current bylaws, the mention of the swim group is only in the context of moving it into the category of related organization. It is a technicality that could be viewed as a legal redundancy but is of utmost importance to the group.
Among other changes, under rules of order members currently can vote by proxy or absentee ballot. The new bylaws do not mention absentee ballots and specifically outline the way in which proxy votes are prepared.
There are other alterations in language and wording throughout the bylaws because some items simply did not make sense, Riley said.
"I want people to know what these new bylaws are and understand them," McLeod said.
He expects 100 to 150 people to attend Monday’s meeting and is afraid they won’t have a full understanding of the amendments.
"If they want to make the dues mandatory they should change the CC&R’s, then have 75 percent of the people sign the form saying they approved the change," he said.
According to Riley, the changes tighten up the laissez-faire manner in which the association has been run. "Things change," she said.
"This association went into effect in 1972," McLeod said. "They have managed in all those years to keep the thing afloat."