The Rancho Santa Fe Post

HOA Candidates Face Divisive Crowd at Annual Meet the Candidates Event

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Ballots for the HOA Board of Directors election were sent out to members’ homes yesterday and in an effort to help the community vote, the RSFA Board held the annual “Meet the Candidates” event on Thursday, May 12.

Candidates Rachel Laffer, Rachel Leheny, Janet Danola, Terry Peay, Allen Finkelson, and Ken Markstein introduced themselves to a capacity crowd at the Garden Club and took questions from the audience. The six candidates are vying to replace 3 Board positions currently held by Directors Jerry Yahr, Heather Slosar, and Philip Wilkinson.

It was clear from the outset that there were three candidates running to continue the progress made by the current Board (Leheny, Laffer, Peay) while the other three focused on criticizing the efforts of the Board (Markstein, Danola, Finkelson).

Most audience questions focused on the Covenant Club, but candidates were also asked about their position on the Covenant Enhancement Fund and community divisiveness.

RSF Board President Ann Boon opened the meeting by welcoming the community, Association staff and committees, and past members of the Board.

“This has been a remarkable year of community and Board engagement. We all have a tremendous investment in our home values, our quality of life, and this wonderful place we call home.”

Boon also addressed the rumors that are spreading among Ranch residents that suggest that the Board wants to take over the Golf Club.

“This is utterly false and baseless. I will personally and unequivocally say that any idea to take over the Golf Club is a rumor and a terrible idea. The last thing we want to do is add something else to our plate by taking away the autonomy that the Golf Club deserves,” Boon stated.

Each candidate was allotted three minutes to introduce themselves followed by a question and answer portion.

Rachel Leheny:

“I want to thank the Board and Association for hosting this event. I’ve had the pleasure of running with Rachel Laffer and Terry Peay and we are in complete agreement in our support of the current Board and wish to continue the immense progress the Board has made.

The cornerstone of our position is transparency and inclusiveness. We believe that any decision that will impact the community considerably, like a Covenant Club or roundabouts, needs to be put to a community vote.

We suggest that amending the bylaws so that any significant non-operating spending can only happen if the majority of the community supports it. The current Board has done a wonderful opportunity engaging the community, as they should.”

Ken Markstein:

“Listening skills, honesty, trust, the ability to build community consensus are some of the skills we look for in Board members...I’m very concerned about the negativism and accusations. Rumors don’t do anyone any good. I’ve been accused by being a regressive candidate and being beholden to PIC, the RSF Homeowners Group, and the Golf Club. I am not beholden to anyone.”

Terry Peay:

“One of our motivations for moving to the Ranch was the RSF Golf Club and we feel honored and blessed to live in this community. One of my primary responsibilities as a previous president of other HOA’s, was to educate incoming board members about their fiduciary obligation and responsibilities to serve community members…

I find that the claim of the divisiveness of the current Board is a trumped up card. All of us support the many activities and accomplishments the board has had ... Rachel Laffer, Rachel Leheny, and myself believe that the community has an absolute right to vote on the Covenant Club whether you are for or against it.”

Allen Finkelson:

“The only reason I decided to run is simple: My professional career has made me an expert in how a community should function. And I can help the Board become better … in making well-informed and responsible decisions. This election is about the future. My opponents want to make is about the current Board. One went so far in saying that the RSF Board has become the model of responsible government. Quite the contrary. To be sure, our Board is dedicated and hardworking and have made progress in certain areas. But a model of responsible government, really? Help will not come from 3 Ann friends. Help is spelled Janet, Allen, and Ken.”

Rachel Laffer:

“We all can agree on the fact that we are all neighbors and we all love this community. I remember how the Village and how the Ranch looked. I have a very strong respect for this community. I am a 3rd generation Rancho Santa Fe resident raising a 4th generation Rancho Santa Fe resident. I’d like to think that I’m specially placed to bridge the gap between the past and the present, repair disconnects, find common ground, and move all of us together toward the future.”

Janet Danola:

“’I’ve been to more Board meetings than anyone else including some of the Board members. This continued observation has let me see how the Board works. My three opponents want to continue business as usual. I believe there have been a series of missteps by the Association Board. Let’s hold more Town Hall meetings and surveys… to promote participation and engagement.”

Q&A

Since you are endorsed by the Golf Club will you recuse yourself from votes if elected?

“Being endorsed by a group does not mean that we need to recuse ourselves when there is a vote,” Danola explained referring to herself, Allen Finkelson, and Ken Markstein.

If the Covenant Club is approved will you promise that the costs of construction and operation be paid by those who wish to use the Club?

“Yes, it is should be financially sustainable and no one should have to be burdened by a facility they aren’t a part of,” Laffer said.

Leheny agreed with Laffer and added “[b]ut, as there has been no formal plan, we would like to see the financials first.”

What is your position on the Covenant Enhancement Fund (CEF)?

“I am convinced the CEF is illegal.” Finkelson stated adding that he wished to discontinue the assessments as they have become a “slush fund.”

Ken Markstein was unsure if the CEF is illegal or not.

“We just need to put restraints on the use of that fund. The notion that it should be dissolved will create chaos,” Peay stated.

“The bylaws need to be updated to set limits to what the Board can spend without a community vote. If there are limits in place we can all rest a bit easier,” Leheny proposed.

What do you think has caused the community to be so divided and suspicious of the Board? Do you have any ideas on solving the lack of goodwill?

Danola explained that the Covenant Club was the reason for so much divisiveness while her running mates focused on the Board itself.

“The Board needs to be better at processing information and soliciting opinions. I am not sure if this Board has achieved transparency,” Finkelson explained while mentioning that he would be able to fix this.

Peay stated his support of the current Board while Laffer and Leheny mentioned there needs to be an open dialogue where all community members work together.

As a reminder, HOA ballots are due back to the Association office by June 13 at 5pm.