HOAs deny opposition free speech

This morning on CNN Michael Smerconish discussed the question of free speech with respect to disagreeing with a position.  In this highly sensitive environment too often a disagreement with a position evokes an angry demand to remove or not publish the statement. That is not free speech but, as Smerconish said, “my-speech.”  It is not asking for agreement but free speech – let the other person have his say. Let a dialogue ensue which is a must for a healthy democracy.

In the culture of the HOA-Land Nation, any opposition to, or criticism of, the HOA or its board of directors is too often met with angry condemnation, character assassination, ostracization, and the non-publishing of the opposition voice. Some HOAs give the appearance of concern but  only provide token  Q & A dialogues with no real exchange of the issues. This open opposition to free speech is endemic to the HOA-Land culture and reflects an undemocratic, authoritarian cult-like environment.

Problems with HOAs, as we are all aware of, cannot be resolved when member criticism and opposition is squelched as a matter of policy.  Until the members say, “enough is enough” and demand constitutional reforms the problems will continue unresolved.

Goldwater Institute ignores HOA unconstitutionality

Reading through the highly respected Christina Sandefur’s paper in the Harvard Law Journal,[1] I was deeply disturbed by the absence of any discussion of similar conduct by homeowners associations (HOAs). Her paper criticized city ordinance prohibitions on short-term home rentals. “These cities treat home sharing itself as the crime.” It is a dangerous proposition that government . . . [to] be able to criminalize violations of that judgment” [“on how to use their properties”].

Yet, in her one single sentence, Sanderfur holds HOAs harmless that, by means of the governing documents, use their “police powers” to prohibit short-term rentals and from criminalizing such acts by their members. While that may be the role of a homeowner association when people contract to determine to how to use their properties, a city government should not have that power.”

Sanderfur’s arguments against government statutory prohibitions, include in part,

  • “Cities look at this as a way to increase revenues” by imposition of fines,
  • “They get to outlaw the activity,”
  • Intimidate residents [of the city] into giving up their property rights”,
  • “This is not only abhorrent public policy, and
  • “It is also unconstitutional”.

It seems that these arguments apply to HOAs also, but it appears that nobody is listening. I do not understand and cannot understand this blindness to the constitutional issues surrounding HOAs, especially from the prestigious, defending the Constitution, public interest Goldwater Institute.

What is the rationale behind this blindness when there is substantial legal authority in support of unconstitutionality, from the basic outlaw government of independent principalities that reject the US Constitution,[2] to placing the doctrine of equitable servitudes property law over constitutional law and contract law;[3] to gross misrepresentation in the selling and marketing of HOAs that invalidate and thought of a bona fide consent to be bound.[4]

When will Goldwater question the constitutionality of the HOA model of government? Why is Goldwater viewing an HOA just as a real estate subdivision package of amenities, landscaping, homes and not as a distinct form of local government[5] functioning outside the laws of the land as an outlaw government.

The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.” (George K. Staropoli).

 CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.[6]

There is no compelling and necessary justification for HOA special treatment. It’s time to end these outlaw private governments that violate even the most liberal home rule, self-governing provisions of state laws and constitutions.[7]

I do not see Goldwater’s name on the list of Arizona’s Request to Speak positions on SB 1412,[8] a bill prohibiting HOAs from restricting the political free speech rights of homeowners in regard to political issues within the HOA community. California just passed SB 323, a progressive bill supporting homeowner rights, and Florida has SB 623 in the works also seeking homeowner rights and freedoms within the HOA legal structure.[9] This a very good time for Goldwater to speak out on this bill and HOA member rights, freedoms and privileges and immunities as US citizens.

 

The Goldwater Institute, including Sanderfur, has been on my distribution list for some time as well as Victor Riches, President & CEO, whom I met and discussed HOA problems as far back as the early 2000s when he was an Arizona legislative staff analyst. I also met with and discussed HOAs with Clint Bolick, now AZ Supreme Court Justice, who in 2013 accepted my request for legal assistance to sue the State of Arizona. He was preempted by Tim Hogan of ACLPI.[10] It was with Nick Dranias that I had a pleasant Arizona Capital Times exchange on HOA issues.[11] He offered, privately, some advice that I have incorporated into my Truth In HOAs position and Homeowner Declaration.

 

Notes

[1] Christina Sandefur, “Turning Entrepreneurs into Outlaws,” p. 45 et seq., Harv. J.L. & Policy, Winter 2020. Sanderfur is an Exec. VP, Goldwater Institute.

[2] See The HOA Principality (2005); HOA-Land: the product of the decline in democratic institutions in America. (2018).

[3] The Restatement advises judges — and is regarded as precedent — that its collection of laws known as HOA law dominates all others.   Section 6.13, comment a, states: “The question whether a servitude unreasonably burdens a fundamental constitutional right is determined as a matter of property law, and not constitutional law”. Section 3.1, comment h, states: “in the event of a conflict between servitudes law and the law applicable to the association form, servitudes law should control.” See CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government (2015).

[4] See HOA consent to agree vs. “the will of the majority”. (2019).

[5] The four recognized types of local government are : commission, and council-manager, the most prevalent. See in general, Roger L. Kemp, “Forms of Governance,” Managing America’s Cities: A Handbook for Local Government Productivity, McFarland & Co., (2007).

[6] Evan McKenzie, Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Governments, Yale Univ. Press, 1994.

[7] See in general, HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments, concluding paragraph. (2014).

[8] AZ RTS positions as of today, March 4, 2020.

[9] See Toward a democratic HOA subject to the Constitution (2020).

[10] See AZ Attorney General admits SB 1454 HOA to be invalid and without effect (2013).

[11] See Goldwater Institute: regulating HOAs “stands Constitution on its head” (2008).

Restructuring HOAs: “CAI School and member benefits” pt. 2

Mentoring: “CAI School of HOA Governance”

Part 2 addresses the heavy influence of the CAI and its affiliated, shill, organizations functioning as supporters of HOAs and the questionable claim of also supporting homeowners.

CAI heavy influence

Several HOA attorneys have maintained that the expression of the common interest of all the members is found 1) in the Declaration that they all agreed to be bound by and 2) because the members still remain a resident and a member of the HOA. It is through the Declaration itself that provides their benefits and the BOD is not derelict in its duties and obligations to the members. And that’s all there is to it!

However, herein and in my intents and purposes paper[1] I argued that the BOD’s mission statement, vision and values are one-sided and heavily influenced by the mindset created by the CAI School of HOA Governance[2] that neglects constitutional protections for the members. The alleged benefits for the members as contained in the CC&Rs do very little to provide the benefits of a democratic government. In fact, they restrict or deny the application of constitutional rights and freedoms, and the privileges and immunities of citizens of this country and their state.[3]

The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.”

In order to correct these serious defects in the HOA legal model the HOA must be restructured to conform to and be subject to the Constitution and laws of the land. It must begin with a declaration of citizenship to be made a covenant in all declarations, charters, bylaws and other governing HOA documents. State laws and CC&Rs must be amended according as proposed in my HOA Member Declaration shown in part below:

Therefore, the members of the association, having not waived or surrendered their rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities as citizens of the United States under Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and as citizens of the state within which they reside, the CC&Rs or Declaration for any planned community, condominium or homeowners association shall state that, or be amended to comply . . . .”[4]

In order for this revision to become a reality the BOD and HOA members must be reoriented away from the teachings of the CAI School and toward the forgotten and neglected principles and values of democratic America. The CAI School needs to be replaced with a qualified program of education and training on municipal government: its structure, objectives and mission, functions and operations.

CAI support of HOAs

Why does CAI oppose holding HOAs subject to the Constitution? How can CAI take this stance and still assert that it’s supportive of the homeowners? It seems by adopting the WW II Fascist philosophy of Italy’s Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, who proclaimed, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”[5] And who described Fascism a being “for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State[6] Just substitute “HOA” for “state” and it all makes sense. Essentially, this is CAI’s true position on HOA governments.

While there is much to support and justify the need to remove the heavy influence by CAI over HOA-Land, a few instances are provided.

In the context of community associations, the unwise extension of constitutional rights to the use of private property by members . . . raises the likelihood that judicial intervention will become the norm.”[7] (NJ).

In other words, CAI doesn’t want our constitutional judicial system to be applied to HOAs. They can rule themselves without judicial oversight. All other forms of local government, including the most liberal of self-government charters under the home rule doctrine are subject to the Constitution.

AGAINST

[CAI] Kathe Barnes, Self(02/10/2020); Jason Barraza, AZ ASSN OF COMMUNITY MANAGERS (AACM)(02/10/2020); Terry Carstens, Self(02/23/2020); Quinten Cupps, Self(02/06/2020); [CAI, AACM] Mary Jo Edel, Self(02/06/2020); Alexis Glascock, COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE(02/09/2020); [CAI attorney] Lynn Krupnik, Self(02/06/2020); [AACM] Linda Lang, Self(02/10/2020); Mark Logan, Self(02/10/2020); Dave Norton, Self(02/06/2020); Jeff Sandquist, AZ ASSN OF COMMUNITY MANAGERS (AACM)(02/10/2020); Vicki Sears, Self(02/06/2020); [AACM] Mark Wade, Self(02/06/2020); Donna Wood, Self(02/06/2020); [AZ]

The above quote represents the persons and/or organizations against Arizona Senate bill SB 1412 (2020). The bill would bring homeowner protections for HOA political activity and free speech rights. Note the absence of any identification of several persons who are members of one or the other mentioned organizations, CAI and AACM (AACM is a spin-off from CAI in 2003). That’s 8 out of 14 persons in opposition. Please also note that none of these persons have identified themselves with any HOA. Where are the HOA directors or presidents?

California’s SB 323 (2019) introduced fair elections procedures for HOAs that protect homeowner voting rights. It addressed one of my 6 substantive defects in the HOA legal scheme.[8]   It has become California law. Long time California lawyer Adrian Adams is heavily involved in CAI policy and management at the HQ and chapter levels. He writes:

Last year, the Center for California Homeowner Association Law (CCHAL), an organization hostile to community associations . . . The train wreck legislation . . . The bill also forces members . . . In another hostile move against associations . . . The California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) is a volunteer organization consisting of homeowners and professionals serving homeowner associations by monitoring legislation, educating lawmakers, and protecting the interests of those living in community associations.[9]

CAI’s California LAC:[10]

The California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) is a committee of Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national not-for-profit educational and resource organization dedicated to fostering vibrant, competent, harmonious community associations. CLAC consists of homeowners and professionals serving community associations.

We worked hard to defeat SB 323 and we came very close, especially on the Assembly Floor where the bill passed and was sent to the Governor. . . . Let’s work closely together to make sure legislators understand the negative consequences SB 323 potentially will have on community associations.

It should be obvious by now that CAI is not a friend of the homeowner in spite of its lofty, high sounding pronouncements, policies and Best Practices. The acts of its members both in CAI HQ and in the numerous state chapters speak an entirely contradictory message. CAI is there to support the HOA and the BOD that is the real person representative of the HOA association. It is obvious that granting and admitting individual rights and freedoms to the homeowners presents an obstacle to its personal agenda; CAI is a business trade tax-exempt nonprofit entity to make money for its members, the attorneys and managers for the most part, the

After consideration of the above and earlier posts under Restructuring HOAs, I ask and answer: Does the Declaration provide covenants that implement and accomplish the intents and purposes of the HOA that serve the interests of the members? My answer is NO. It raises the question of why BODs accept the HOA model of local government and resist revisions in order to bring the HOA within the Constitution for the protection of its members?

Notes

[1] See “Restructuring HOAs – intents and purposes,” George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government (Feb 2020).

[2] The basis for a definition can be found in “CAI claims Factbook 2018 at home with Democracy in America.”, in HOA Constitutional Government, footnote 9.

[3] See “Would the HOA legal scheme collapse under a democratic form of government?” in HOA Constitutional Government (2014); “HOA-Land and the decline in democratic institutions” in HOA Constitutional Government (2019).

[4] See “HOA member Declaration of US and State citizenship” in HOA Constitutional Government (2012).

[5] See Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932.

[6] Fundamental Ideas of Fascism,” Benito Mussolini, Souciant, Inc. (2016).

[7] CAI amicus curiae brief in CBTR v. Twin Rivers, 890 A.2d 947 (NJ Super. App. Div. 2006).

[8] See HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, Democratic elections, No. 5. (2019).

[9] Adams Stirling Newsletter, Adrian Adams, Esq. (Feb. 24, 2019). Adams is a member of CAI’s Community Association Research Foundation, CAI chapter director and CLAC delegate.

[10] CAI-CLAC Feb. (2020).

 

 

 

Calif. holds HOA elections as protected free speech public elections

Speaking of HOA members and public voting rights, “Why Are HOA Members Allowed A Public Vote?”[1], let’s look at the reverse side and ask, Why aren’t HOA elections equivalent to public elections?  This is another example of how successful constitutional challenges can lead to and bring about broad HOA reform legislation.

Many of us are aware of the treatment of dissenting and opposing voices with respect to BOD actions and elections. There are the threats by rogue BODs of harm, and of  slanderous and libelous statements aimed to discredit and injure the dissenter’s reputation. And then, in true attack the attackers,  there are the lawsuits by the BOD claiming that the dissenter’s speech was harmful and injured the reputation of the HOA and/or BOD members.

Anti-SLAPP

These lawsuits are referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – SLAPP —  whose purpose is to silence the dissenting homeowner(s) by arguing that the HOA/BOD was defamed.[2]  In the name of justice, or the appearance of justice, many states have adopted anti-SLAPP statutes to protect the dissenters; in our case here, the homeowners. The common criteria to file an anti-slapp suit includes (my emphasis):

A moving party may file a special motion to dismiss [the HOA suit] under [the state’s] antiSLAPP statutes “if an [HOA] action is filed in retaliation to the exercise of free speech [homeowner dissent].” In considering a special motion to dismiss, a district court must undertake a two-prong analysis. First, the court must determine whether the moving party [homeowner] has, by a preponderance of the evidence, established that the action [anti-slapp motion] is based upon a good faith communication in furtherance of the right to free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern.

Furthermore, 1)  the statement must be made without knowledge of falsehood or truth with respect to a public concern, 2) the statement must be made in a place open to the public or in a public forum, and 3) “aimed at procuring any governmental or electoral action, result or outcome.” WOW! No chance in hell to bring an anti-Slapp suit against an HOA.

HOA elections are public

However, as expected, the anti-slapp statutes vary from state to state with Arizona adopting the very strict government election requirement while California has held, over several court cases, that (my emphasis):

California courts have repeatedly held in the context of anti-SLAPP litigation that board meetings of a homeowners association “serve[] a function similar to that of a governmental body. As [the California] Supreme Court has recognized, owners of planned development units “‘comprise a little democratic subsociety.”‘ … A homeowners’ association board is in effect ‘a quasi-government entity paralleling in almost every case the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a municipal government.”[3]

The use of mail or internet – social media or websites open to the public —  have been held by the California courts to be “ a public forum.”   Nextdoor was held to be a public forum in spite of the fact it functions as a closed group, but its intent is clearly to be open to anyone.[4]

This is another important tool for homeowners and advocates to use in CA, and to lobby for the same return to justice anti-slapp laws in other states.

Notes

[1] George K. Staropoli, “Why are HOA members allowed a public vote?” HOA Constitutional Government (July 20, 2019).

[2] See in general, Colorado’s anti-Slapp statute, Colorado becomes 31st State.

[3] Quoted Appellant’s Opening Brief,  Kosor v. Olympia Companies, LLC, (Nev. SC NO.75669, Feb. 8, 2019). At this writing Kosor has not yet been accepted to be heard by the Nevada Supreme Court.

[4] Id, Part C, vii, printed page 33.  See Kronemyer v. Internet Movie Data Base, Inc., 59 Cal. Rptr. 3d 48 (2007).

“Rules of Engagement” apply to CAI

Many may feel from all my criticism that I unjustifiably have it in for CAI.  Well folks, you decide whether the CAI propaganda statements and publications that are PR releases is in conflict with its numerous acts before state legislators and the courts.  These contradictory stances are revealed in CAI’s amicus briefswhat I say I don’t do [1].

Advocates have failed to apply the Rules of Engagement to such Doubletalk[2] from CAI allowing the legislators, the media and the BODs to see no evil, hear no evil speak no evil.  These Rules are a very important weapon to discredit CAI and stop the policymakers from trusting their misleading statements; to start believing in the validity of the positions and arguments for HOA reforms coming from homeowners and homeowner advocates.

As a prime example, and there are many others found in the numerous CAI briefs dealing with constitutional HOA issues, is the NJ Supreme Court case in Dublirer.[3] It involved the free speech rights of a homeowner to equal access the HOA facilities in order to distribute BOD election materials to his neighbors – an exercise of his rights in a democracy. Allow me to repeat my quotes[4] from CAI’s NJ Supreme Court amicus brief in Dublirer.[5]

CAI-NJ’s concern is the attempt to convert private communities into constitutional actors and to open such communities to access not only to speakers from within the community but also to the public, while ignoring contractual agreements and non-constitutional protections.

The relationship between the plaintiff and the defendants here is that of a business corporation and so is similar to that involved in any other business corporation. A shareholder who wishes to run for a position on a corporate board has no right to post campaign signs on the corporation’s property. . . . He has no constitutional right to distribute his campaign materials within the cooperative’s property simply because mailing them to the other tenant/shareholders may cost him money”.

In plain English, this is secessionist and a rejection of the Constitution. CAI’s position says the people in an HOA will decide what laws to follow or not to follow. It is an incredulous statement from the organization that claims to be the one and only voice on HOAs, but apparently does not understand or simply ignores constitutional law. The CAI position is in opposition to the  long-standing legal doctrine on the delegation of legislative (lawmaking) powers to private persons.

In order to win, advocates must muzzle CAI’s lack of “candor to the tribunal.”[6]  Judicial and legislative  doctrines hold that an allegation or argument that goes unanswered is held to be true.  That’s why, it seems, advocates are viewed as unbelievable,  because of their repeated silence resulting from a lack of knowledge on how to respond.  This must change!

 

References

[1] See in general, Will the real CAI standup: its contradictory beliefs, pronouncements and goals.

[2] From George Orwell’s novel, 1984, where a person holds two contradictory statements at the same time.

[3] Dublirer v. 2000 Linwood Avenue,  103 A.3d 249 (NJ 2014).

[4] See my Commentary for additional quotes: CAI: the HOA form of government is independent of the US Constitution.

[5] Dublirer CAI Amicus.pdf.

[6] Attorney Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 42, E.R. 3.3