Before starting to cover the items on the agenda, the president of the WHOA created an interesting preamble that couldn’t be ignored and requires a very well-deserved viral moment. He mentioned having emailed everybody about closing certain portions of the meetings. He gave as an example the Woodlands Defense Fund starting a litigation process against the WHOA and then instructed his audience to “keep that in mind”. Continued by saying that the WHOA board of directors is not under the laws of an HOA, that they don’t need to call the public for a monthly meeting and that they only have to call for an annual meeting. Then he said: “considering that, we can close an entire meeting or we can close portions of a meeting, and I only bring it to your concern because some people approached me and said that whatever we talk about is immediately going online, and is supposed to be held in confidence considering that some of it has a financial impact”.
Oh my gosh! does he mean that anything with a financial impact has to be hidden from the homeowners that pay their corresponding HOA dues and that expect this WHOA board, sitting today in front of us, to manage the funds with transparency?
He completed his argument by saying: “I am just asking for your opinion, and can be done, we can close just portions of a meeting but it will only be us”.
It was refreshing to see members of the board push back on the idea of obscuring the meetings. Then the Ambassador’s property manager came to the rescue and added: “the reason why you would close the meeting is if you are in a litigation of some sort, you are talking strategy, and you don’t speak about strategy in front of the person or group that is going after you”.
Spoiler alert: there is no lawsuit against the WHOA. But its president couldn’t just stop there, he had to add: “So what I can say is that the suit is against the city, is not us, but somebody can petition saying that they are an affected party, and that is what 13th Floor did … because they think they are the defendant and they will do the discovery process”.
I asked directly: “How do you know that” and his answer was worst than what I expected: “How do I know that? I am not answering that question”.
Was bad because he openly decided to hide his source. Mayor Gomez came to his rescue saying that the lawsuit is public record but evidently, he didn’t know.
Is the president of the WHOA discussing strategy with 13th Floor Homes?
There was no motion for closing meetings at this point.
The first topic on the agenda was the prelude to the selling of our community for shiny objects, the treasury report. Since last month’s meeting, the WHOA appointed attorney billed for additional 17 hours of negotiations with 13th Floor Homes, bringing the total amount of his fees to about $36.522. “All this money spent for this attorney and he did not represent us in any of the planning and zoning boards, nor in the city commission meeting, and all he’s done”, continuing to quote a Section 2 director, “is sit in his office being on the phone back and forth with 13th Floor’s attorney”. “What did we resolve?”
“If we sign the agreement we will be reimbursed all the money that we have outlaid” responded the treasurer. They were talking about a new agreement from 13th Floor Homes that the Ambassador property manager confirmed “just came today”. But the president of the WHOA didn’t seem willing to read the agreement in front of the public and instead explained what was asked of 13th Floor Homes and their responses. “We asked for density reduction, that didn’t make it. We asked for CDD in Section 9, that went through. We asked for the recreation campus thing, about the $100 monthly membership, that did make it. Then we asked for $4.000 for the planning and use consultant, they don’t want to pay for that!”
The Section 2 director insisted, “could you read the agreement that you’ve got this afternoon?” The president of the WHOA fended off again, “is six pages long, is the same thing that you’ve got but it has got a little more”. “Are only minor changes all to our benefit”.
The Ambassador property manager read a random part of the agreement that I believe shows the total disconnection of the WHOA with the people they have to represent and the total misconception of their leadership role: “This WHOA agreement not to oppose the project lies with the WHOA and WHOA board members acting in their official WHOA board member capacity”.
So, 13th Floor Homes is paying $36.522 to have the WHOA board of directors not to oppose the redevelopment of The Woodlands while they are acting as WHOA board members. I think is ignominious. Now I understand the desire to limit the interaction with the public to once a year.
Finally, the treasurer makes the motion “ that we sign the agreement that was emailed to you today”, the president of the WHOA added, “do you realize that if we don’t vote for this it will be $37.000?”, and I had to say it, “and no membership to the clubhouse”.
None of the Section 8 board members were present, only one member of Section 7 could attend the meeting and the three Section 2 members voted NO. The vote to approve the 13th Floor agreement was YES: 11 and NO: 3. All Sections but 3 and 4 have three WHOA board members. There are also four WHOA directors at large, all the directors at large voted YES. If you are interested in discovering the way that your section board members voted you ought to request the voting record to Ambassador Community Management.
The president of the WHOA requested updates or topics for the September Newsletter, but no mention about communicating the decision of not opposing the 13th Floor redevelopment of The Woodlands.
I think I have exceeded expectations about quickly posting online what they have talked about last night.
One day after this article was published, the WHOA posted in their web site a brief description of the six pages long agreement that they called: “The good faith agreement between 13th Floor Homes and the WHOA”. However, they also added a disclaimer: “Remember that the WHOA is not an HOA (Florida Statute 720). It is a NOT-FOR-PROFIT Corporation operating under Florida Statue 617 and, therefore, does not operate under HOA rules”. They directed us to read Florida Statute 617 and Florida Statute 720 instead of expressing succinctly what they are warning us about. I am not specialized in this field, but as a concerned community member I will give it a try and be provocative so I can influence some knowledgeable parties to help put this in layman’s terms. I think they want to communicate that the WHOA is not subject to the “public disclosure” or “open records” requirements that the real HOAs of the Woodlands are subject to. Therefore, our real HOAs give our money to an organization that is not required to be transparent about it and can decide not to inform the public anything about their operations.
Are you ready to join the Resistance? https://www.woodlandsdefensefund.com