Contact 13 Investigates
HOA recall election fails
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A homeowners association board president who screams and curses; board meetings so contentious that the YMCA threatened to kick them out; and neighbors mailing death threats to other neighbors.
"After I received the letter I was a little shocked that that's how low they stooped to try to go after somebody."
Steve Adams, a board member who received the threats, says the people of Appaloosa Canyon/Quarterhorse Falls have been afraid to stand up.
But after we inducted their community into our HOA Hall of Shame, many banded together to recall husband and wife board members Patti and Roger Deschaine.
"And it snowballed," Steve told Contact 13 in June. "And we had 43 signatures within two days. Every single solitary person that signed that recall had a story about why they're signing it."
Reasons like in-equal enforcement of violations by the Deschaines and preferential treatment for their friends.
"But also, the notion of a husband and wife being president and vice president -- would one ever vote against the other on a complex issue? I mean, it's just not good governance," says homeowner and former board member Jim Melsek.
Neighbors sought advice from their community management company and held a recall election in August. But after the votes were counted, they learned the recall failed.
"I think we've done something, we're gonna change our community, we're gonna get our neighborhood back," Jim says, "And someone swings and knocks the chair out from under you."
Melsek says it was a change in the law that no one was notified of until after the election that caused the recall effort to fall short.
"Why weren't we told when the ballots were mailed out, members, here are the rules?"
In January, NRS 116 -- Nevada's HOA law -- changed to make it harder to remove members of an association's executive board.
Ken Richardson, Program Training Officer for the Nevada Real Estate Division Ombudsman's Office explains, "Before January, the recall election required 35% of homeowner participation, and a majority of that 35% voting for the recall."
But pay close attention, because this is where the law gets complicated. Now, along with the majority requirement, you have to have 35% of homeowners not just voting, but voting in favor of the recall... Setting the standard higher and making a recall harder to pull off.
That's a big disconnect in the law considering there are no requirements to vote someone onto an HOA board.
"I hope, maybe, a legislator or someone in government can explain what the reasoning was to make it harder to remove people?!" Melsek exclaims.
Attorney Michael Buckley was chairman of Nevada's Commission for Common Interest Communities. He's worked on HOA legislation since 1991 and says the issue of removing board members has changed three times in nine years.
"Like a lot of these things, it kinda goes back and forth trying to find the happy number."
A number of people in Appaloosa Canyon are unhappy and want answers.
Darcy Spears: "When we're in a climate where we know there is widespread corruption, where we know there is fraud and stacking of boards in HOAs, and we know there's abuse of power, why in that climate make it harder to get rid of board members?"
Michael Buckley: "I think part of the thinking here is that even though it's harder to get somebody removed, you shouldn't allow just a small group to be able to do that."
But a small group is often all the votes being cast, because many homeowners simply don't vote.
In addition to apathy, another part of the problem with the state setting the standard so high is that a lot of homeowners no longer live in their homes, and renters aren't eligible to vote on HOA issues.
After the recall fell short, the Deschaines were given the option to resign from the board at the association's August meeting.
"If they would have stepped aside at that meeting, which I did not attend, I think they would have gotten a standing ovation," Melsek said.
We called the Deschaines to ask about that, but Patti had no comment.
As of now, they're both staying put until the next election in April, 2013.
Situations like this and others that we've featured in our HOA Hall of Shame have officials and lawmakers re-thinking the law once again. We're told it may change for the fourth time in the 2013 session.