This is a guest opinion I wrote to the North Coast News:
I recently met with the Ocean Shores Community Club’s manager and attorney to discuss the community club’s stranglehold of mandatory membership in the form of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCR’s) on more than half of the properties in Ocean Shores (brought about by the club’s 1989 bankruptcy).
I also spoke with real estate agents from two of the largest agencies in town. One agent declared that the CCR’s in Ocean Shores were “not important anymore”; the other said they “don’t mean anything”. Real estate agents will remain part of the problem until all of them start practicing FULL disclosure by not only touting the benefits of the club but also informing buyers that if they don’t pay club dues, the club can, will, and has foreclosed on lots/homes.
The other part is the club itself and the obfuscation of the truth and outright lies told by the club in order to keep the status quo. For example, both the manager and the attorney claimed that having to pay for the community club is tantamount to having to pay for the city library. The absurdity of this statement is mind-boggling. Our taxes which support the library, fire, police and all other government agencies are for the common good of the community – not just half of it. We also have the right to vote not to fund them (although no one in their right mind would do so). The key is the right to vote and the concept of the common good. With the community club, we don’t have the right to vote for voluntary membership (no dissent is allowed since dissent is not for the good of the club) nor is the club good for the whole community – it only effects some of the property owners in Ocean Shores.
In Section VIII of the 1989 bankruptcy decree, it takes the first three paragraphs to declare the club’s primary benefit is that the “…Club’s facilities and property enhances the value of a member’s property” (even the club’s attorney used this justification). Doubting the veracity of that statement, I called three property appraisers experienced in Ocean Shores. Not one of them stated that membership in the community club enhances or has any effect in their decision when determining the value of a piece of property. It’s not even a consideration. Somehow the club got the court to believe this lie and the club continues to foment this falsehood to justify its existence.
In 1989 the club mailed out ballots (that almost require an attorney to decipher) to all 12,000 property owners, of which only 6,500 were returned. Failure to return the ballot was deemed tacit approval – the propriety of which I questioned. The club’s attorney said that this was common practice and gave as an example the formation of class action lawsuits – no response meant you were part of the lawsuit. The problem with that (and other examples they gave) is that non-response in those cases do not obligate the non-respondent financially nor did the lack of a response expose them to possible financial loss (from foreclosure).
The club’s attorney claims that allowing voluntary membership would destroy the club. No, it only means that those who use the club would have to pay their fair share and he would lose his foreclosure cash cow. Suppose the club went to voluntary membership and 50% of the current members dropped out. Raising the remaining member’s fees by 100% you would offset the loss of revenue and the fees would still be $14 per month less than the adult member fees charged by the Grays Harbor YMCA! Saying the club can’t survive with voluntary membership is ridiculous.
There are only two ways to get out of this mess. First, the club allows dissent. However, to run for a board position one now has to sign a “loyalty oath” (McCarthyism at its best), thus voluntary membership will never be on any ballot nor brought to a vote. The only other way is for those who do use the club to come to their senses and realize how un-American, embarrassingly pathetic it is to expect others to subsidize their recreation and then take their property when they don’t.
War on Freedom
From Alice, a club member:
Is a community club a nice addition to our city? Yes, and overwhelmingly we can all agree on that, with that out of the way, lets examine it’s principles, philosophy and the little gray cloud that hangs over the club and just won’t go away.
In the late 1980’s the club was sued and lost, the club claimed bankruptcy and went under bankruptcy reorganization and subsequently was allowed to adopt forced, i.e., mandatory membership in the club for all properties with the exception of those who were granted a one time opt out or life time memberships. With some skillfully written rules and By-Laws governing the bankruptcy re-organization the club could now force all property owners to join the club. Age, gender, disabilities, financial ability etc. do not enter into the equation, YOU ARE IN…To further insure that you are locked in to the club a 1st position lien, supported by a subrogation fee is placed on your property. Okay, the club says $10.00 to $15.00 dollars a month isn’t going to hurt anybody and besides a lot of people move here just because of the club, not for the ocean, lakes, canals. The club can now with full control of membership fees and without intervention build a so called non-profit organization with paid employees (no volunteers), own properties, additional swimming pools (out-door), hire a full time activities director, an attorney and maintain a board of trustees who are pledged to abide by the rules and philosophy for the protection of the club. This brief synopsis only gives you a peek at what the club principals say is necessary to keep the club afloat.
Now a small grass roots group of members that grew overnight came to question why the club could not be operated with voluntary membership, why liens against properties were necessary instead of conventional means of collection. Why couldn’t the club divest itself of costly outdoor swimming pools and parks and center it’s operations out of it’s main facility where over 99% of usage and activities take place. Why can’t volunteers be used when we have such a large base of very talented and knowledgeable people eager to volunteer, be used? Why can’t the club Café, be put out to bid to the local restaurant owners to operate? The club has kept their Café open when they have operated in the red for years. Why can’t a more equitable format be put in place to insure a fair election of board members regardless of opposing view points?
With these questions directed to the club came a response unlike anything resembling good judgment, common decency or the right of debate or respect for judicial process. The group of concerned citizens i.e., The C.A.F.E. Society (Citizens Against Forced Enrollment) with over 500 supporters to date were painted with a broad brush by the forced enrollment advocates as enemies of the club, as less than good people, dis-honorable in every aspect, with a “if you don’t like it move” approach. This attitude towards us and our questions and concerns goes to the very roots of the community club’s board of directors, employees and attorney and they are not reluctant about letting everyone know it.
Here’s is a brief picture of the community club meeting held on Saturday the 27th of March 2004. The gymnasium was packed with members, unlike last months meeting where the majority was made of C.A.F.E. advocates. This time the club had done it’s homework and the majority this time fell on the side of forced enrollment supporters. Before officially opening the meeting, Board President, Bill Heinlein, jokingly apologized for his conduct in the last months meeting in response to criticisms he had received as being rude and arrogant. (Several times throughout the meeting he joked at himself being described in this manner). He then proceeded to inform everyone that he had called the police department to have them on standby in the event of any outbreak. He also said any disruptions would not be tolerated and responsible persons would be escorted off the premises.
Following the call to order, normal business was conducted in accordance with the meeting agenda, with one exception. Before the agenda was allowed to be followed, Mr. Heinlein stood up and stated he was stopping the agenda from proceeding to ask the club attorney, Mr. Mike Valdez to take the podium. Mr. Valdez, rather than welcome both groups and set the stage for friendly exchanges, immediately developed an adversarial relationship with the two groups. He opened his remarks stating that the C.A.F.E. Society was a group whose sole purpose was to undermine the by-laws of the club and to bring the club down by advocating voluntary membership. He went on further to say that the C.A.F.E. Society has decided not to take us to court because they know they will lose. This was in response to one members article in the paper. He also stated that in lieu of going to court the C.A.F.E. Society was attempting to get members sympathetic to their cause, elected to the board so they could institute changes that “would not be in the best interest of the club”.
Therefore he proposed an amendment (loyalty oath) that requires that all applicants for positions on the board of trustees to sign and states that they will be required to support and abide by all by-laws, and for what the CLUB deemed is their best interest. In essence the club slammed the door on any candidate with opposing viewpoints to even be considered for a position on the board. He then submitted the amendment to the board of trustees for approval, which they did. One member asked, “isn’t this supposed to be open for discussion?” Board President said “no” its over. Not one member was allowed to speak. The motion was then made and approved without further discussion.
The meeting was then put back on track and the rest of the agenda was followed. The floor was then opened up for questions. The club had completed their mission in setting the stage for a heated and very adversarial exchange of views within the entire audience. To cover the rest of the meeting would take up pages, but here are a few highlights I asked Mr. Heinline and Mr. Valdez who owned the community club and who they answered to. Mr. Valdez said “no one” owns the club, it is simply a non-profit corporation. Mr. Heinline stated “I answer to my wife”. I then asked “aren’t you responsible to the membership, the dues paying members whose money supports the club? There was no response from either Mr. Heinlein or Mr. Valdez. Mr. Valdez at a later time told the audience there is nothing any one of us can do and they “the board” will not or cannot be held accountable for how they spend our money. In essence, “whatever the club wants, the club gets” the board votes (in closed meetings) on All decisions about how they spend our money. We as members are only allowed to vote for appointees to the board and even that is now controlled by the board. The club alone has the power to accept or deny applications by anyone wishing to run for the board. What ever happened to the democratic process?
Dick Mallon, a club member and C.A.F.E. supporter and prospective candidate for the board stated he had asked for the membership listing to mail out his campaign platform, and that under law he had a legal right to it. Mr. Heinlein responded by stating that Mr. Mallon did not have that right, but could not quote exactly what by-law or what section he was referring to. Mr. Mallon’s request quoted RCW 24.03.135, which the State of Washington has enacted to govern all non-profit organization or incorporations. Mr. Mallon was also told that he could not be accepted as a candidate because of his adversarial and opposing viewpoints that are not in the “best interest of the club”. Mr. Mallon then read his platform to the board. He endorsed surveying the membership, orderly meetings, no increase in dues, reduce expenditures in attorney fees, club newspaper, etc., He also supports needed capital improvements of the main clubhouse. He asked for improved administrative management of the club. How can items in his platform be adversarial to any of us who are paying for the club?
The C.A.F.E Mission Statement, does not call for the abolishment of the club. We are not out to destroy the club, but to make it more responsible and accountable to the members. I as a very patriotic person, Marine Corp veteran and civic minded person must repeat what I said to the board and those attending, that I was ashamed of the entire proceeding and actions that had taken place this day. To leave this community clubs actions, unchallenged, is giving them a free ticket to operate as usual and as they (the board) sees fit with less than a democratic agenda without a “majority rules” or any accounting to a fair judicial process.
I am so proud of the C.A.F.E. Society supporters who had the courage without malice or forethought to come forward and express their views and stand up for all that’s right. The C.A.F.E Society spent hundreds of hours into getting viewpoints from “both sides” Won’t you do your part and speak out? It’s your right!
February 9, 2005
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Subject: OCEAN SHORES COMMUNITY CLUB
Two significant events occurred in recent days with very little similarities between the two. The first event was the January 05 meeting of the Ocean Shores Community Club’s Board of Directors. The second event was the fledgling Democracy of Iraqi having their first election where voters could choose candidates of their own choice (and have their votes counted) so unlike OSCC’S June election when approximately 1000 votes were disqualified on the basis of some questionable legal advice of the Club’s Attorney. But getting back to the recent OSCC meeting, it was apparent the President of the Board was not going to allow any dissidents (malcontents) to formerly present their views. Then she made a startling announcement. Mr Valdez would no longer be in attendance at the Board Meetings. He would be only available for legal issues. What a come down for the once ubiquitous attorney now relegated as a voyeur in the OSCC cloak room. As the proceedings continued, Madam President suddenly asked for an adjournment thereby avoiding the Question and Answer which would have been part of their minutes. Obviously, they had learned from their previous experiences when the former President had been in command and things had got out of hand. The word now is mum’s the word – keep your mouth shut and do not incite the masses who are unaware of the ongoing lawsuit. OSCC is pulling in the sidewalks and pulling up the draw bridges. They are deathly afraid the bankruptcy bubble will burst and the OSCC membership will be liberated.Remember, a besieged fortress eventually falls.
In the meantime, it is the duty of the CAFE (Citizens Against Forced Enrollment) Society to keep everyone informed and this will happen by mass mailings in the near future to the 5000 dues paying members who have had very little representation under the present regime. The Ocean Observer, the official publication for the OSCC has made scant mention of the pending law suit. I wonder why? Instead we might see an announcement of a planned trip to the flea market at Copalis Beach. In all fairness to the OSCC, there are certain elements in the new Iraqi Democracy who are also attempting to disrupt the democratic movements as they progress forward whereas the OSCC seems to be going backwards with their ruthless disregard of the by-laws in eliminating the Question and Answer portion of the legal proceedings and suppressing any constructive criticism. These (the Board Members) are very frightened people who have been imbedded in their impregnable fortress so long with the thought it would never fall. But Falstaff and their fortress will collapse. It is inevitable. Justice will prevail regardless of the frivolous legal roadblocks created by their legal counsel…It is with fond hopes that the OSCC and Iraq will observe the niceties of democratic representation and all votes will be counted. At this point, I would have to give Iraq the edge even though there have been some difficulties. Fair and balanced, I still have high hopes for the Ocean Shores Community Club.
February 23, 2005
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Subject: OCEAN SHORES COMMUNITY CLUB
I would like to add to Art M.’s article posted recently. The OSCC has done the unthinkable to it’s members. In the OSCC By-laws there are only two ways for a member to voice their opinion where that concern will be recorded in the OSCC minutes of the Board of Trustee meetings. One reference is to the annual June meeting and the other is order of business of the monthly board meetings. In both places the By-laws allow for discussion and questions during the meetings.
In early 2004, members were restricted to questions only and questions were restricted to 5 minutes. Later on this was changed to 2 minutes. Then at the clubs December 2004 meeting, no formal questions were allowed at all. We as members would be allowed to ask informal questions after the board meeting adjourned. This may not seem too bad, but what has happened now is that no discussions or questions would be a part of their legal minutes and there would be no formal recognition to member concerns.
Minutes of the OSCC board meetings have intentionally left out some member’s questions during their formal time almost every meeting in the year 2004 making their minutes inaccurate every time this was done. The board then approves the minutes as posted in the Ocean Observer. In the July 2004 meeting, there was a threatened suit against the OSCC because of the election process. In September 2004 that suit was officially filed and served on the club. One member, during the formal time, asked about the suit he had heard about and again the Ocean Observer failed to mention it; therefore, it did not get into their minutes, why? Are they hiding things from the membership?
The OSCC’s official newspaper, The Ocean Observer, does not print articles, which have an opposing viewpoint to what the Board of Trustees want you to hear. I thought we lived in America. Freedom of speech and expression is our first amendment. Art M. said something like “are they afraid their bubble is going to burst”? Why are they hiding or keeping so much from the membership? If they ever print the news of the suit, see if both viewpoints are printed.
Their last Ocean Observer paper said the trustees are supposed to represent the membership. Is this all (approx 7,700) members or just the few (approx 700) that use the club? How can the board serve the entire membership when they do not ask them what they like or want the club to do. What are the goals of the OSCC trustees? They serve us, but they do not answer to anyone. Weird!
Now the OSCC is going around town convincing our local merchants that this NON-PROFIT organization (which competes with local restaurants, 3 local newspapers and the city parks department) should give a 10% discount as long as the buyer shows the merchant an active OSCC membership card. About a year ago the manager of the OSCC threatened that they (the club) would boycott any merchant that posted a CAFÉ Society poster in their store. What’s next?