The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Op-ed: It's Time to Move Forward

I, like many of my fellow RSFA members, have read the RSF “Review” article concerning the Past President’s Council (PPC) and the letter from the PPC directed to the RSFA Board.

What the PPC and their consulting group, consisting of Pete Smith, Walt Ekard, Keith Behner and Ivan Holler, all former employees of the RSFA, have done and are attempting to do is extremely detrimental to our community. We need to move forward in a positive manner—not go backwards!

I note the timeframe discussed by the PPC commences with the end of Mr. Smith’s tenure as manager. Why?

I certainly hope that the Board is not going to find it necessary to hire a forensic audit firm. I also hope the Board does not rehire the former RSFA counsel of long-standing or rehire any past employees. The current RSFA Board and staff are more than competent to do a thorough review of the allegations set-forth by the PPC and their consultants. However, if the Board decides to hire consultants, I hope the consultants will have absolutely no connection to the past and the scope of any such investigation will not be limited to the date of Mr. Smith’s departure as manager. If there is to be an “outside” investigation, utilizing outside experts, it should go back to the beginning of Mr. Smith’s time as manager.

Under Mr. Smith’s and many of the PPC’s tenure, we had a never ending string of very disturbing, to say the least, patterns of conduct. A very few examples include:

  • $1.6 Million in asset misclassifications
  • RSFA had no balance sheet
  • Serious misrepresentations on IRS forms 990
  • Numerous, significant breaches of Davis-Stirling provisions
  • California law requires that the RSFA have multiple, segregated accounts-- these did not exist
  • There were no CPA’s on RSFA staff
  • Lack of proper RSFA property accounts (Ex. no invoices for Osuna horse operation)
  • PPC member who “jumped the queue” and had utility poles in front of the PPC’s house undergrounded, with approximately 50% of the expenses paid by the RSFA
  • Counsel for the RSFA who investigated himself and recused himself on occasion, due to his close friendship with the manager
  • Amazingly negative statements about the manager and/or counsel in written decisions by judges from New York to California
  • Building of trails without the knowledge or consent of the owners
  • Holding some Executive Session meetings, or portions thereof, that were in clear violation of the law
  • Manager informing the community that certain trails were not covered by RSFA insurance, when in fact they were
  • Willfully covering up the backdating of an easement by an employee—then not being truthful once the matter came to light
  • Manager sending a letter to the County concerning Calzada relating to a General Plan Amendment that Board knew nothing about and had not authorized
  • Manager indicated part of his responsibility was to check on the status of all RSFA Board candidates to ascertain that they owned property within the Covenant. There was a failure to do the job: Two Board members, who became Board Presidents, didn’t own property in the Covenant
  • Manager had his name on PIC’s (Public Interest Committee) letterhead as an “ex officio” member
  • Manager & Board members denied access to manager’s contract and other pertinent documents so Board members could not carry out their fiduciary responsibilities
  • No and then later on a “dark ages” RSFA website
  • Dismal voter registration record
  • Properties purchased/attempted to be purchased “behind closed doors”
  • Potentially devastating insurance coverage gaps
  • Art Jury/CDRC meeting were closed to the membership

I hope our community will not bring back, in any capacity, employees/consultants/lawyers from the past. Let’s start the healing and move forward with fresh ideas and new faces. 


Lisa M. Bartlett