WE DO NOT OWE THE CWPOA ANY MONEY
Voluntary is voluntary. Voluntary means optional.
This post is to flesh out a little about what happened in the small claims courts of Madera County, Dept 5. The story is really amazing. 40+ years of misrepresentation gets cut through like a hot knife through butter by Judge Oakley.
Assemble enough facts, and a picture emerges. The bottom line picture here is that the local neighborhood association, social club, recreational club, IS NOT A HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION AND CAN’T MAKE YOU PAY ITS OVERHEAD.
Why does a group like this reinstate ‘road maintenance’ fees and then spend all the money on other things? One of their biggest supporters, who has since moved, put it best: ‘If people know where their money really is going, no one will pay.’
That says it all. Clubs are generally a good thing. But clubs that lie to you in order to trick you out of your money are not. Without good intention, there is no trust. Without trust, there is nothing.
The Good News SHORT COPY
We have good news. After not paying for 3 years, the court said WE DO NOT OWE THE CWPOA.
The Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association (CWPOA) is not a homeowners association (HOA). It cannot arbitrarily bill you for ‘road maintenance’ or anything else. It cannot make you pay.
In a recent small claims hearing, based on the merits, the facts in evidence, and the law, the court found that WE DO NOT OWE THE CWPOA ANY MONEY. The CWPOA cannot arbitrarily collect ‘$100 per unit’. The CWPOA is voluntary. Voluntary means optional. You do not have to pay it anything.
- CWPOA is voluntary
- Payment to CWPOA is optional
- There are no Covenants Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) making it an ‘HOA’. It is not an HOA. It cannot force you to pay for its overhead.
- CWPOA cannot make demands in escrow forcing payment.
- Cascadel road maintenance is ‘neighbor helping neighbor’. Any owner doing maintenance may make other benefiting owners contribute, but only for the actual cost of road maintenance. Nothing else. Nothing road for improvements. Nothing for overhead. Nothing for administration.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY. At best, the CWPOA can voluntarily choose to try road maintenance. Then it may try to force payment for the actual cost of proposed or completed permitted road maintenance. Not for improvements. Not for overhead. Not for admin. It cannot make you pay for overhead costs. See attached MSC008538 Notice of Entry of Judgment Item #4.
We aren’t paying CWPOA any longer. We are paying the Fire Safe Council. They do road work that benefits us all. All our money goes to road work. Their work on the dirt road was a life saver during the Willow Fire. We will continue to support the FSC moving forward. Please consider doing the same.
Lloyd Carter, Mark Stamas & Judy Castles, Chris & Marie Iden
CC District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler
CC Public Works Director Johannes Hoevertsz
The Good News LONG COPY
We’re very happy to report some really good news.
We have successfully proven, in court, that any road maintenance money collected by the CWPOA (recreational social club), can only be used for actual road maintenance based on actual road maintenance project contractor estimates, not its cost of operation.
On the merits, the facts in evidence, and the law, the court found that WE DO NOT OWE THE CWPOA ANYTHING. The club cannot arbitrarily collect ‘$100 per unit’.
We were right all along. All of us. NO ROAD MAINTENANCE DONE MEANS NO MONEY COLLECTIBLE. The social club is voluntary.
Club cost of operation cannot come from road maintenance money. None.
There are no Covenants Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) providing funding for the social club cost of operation, only voluntary membership dues.
Over the last six years, the social club collected, and spent, ~$194,000 of your ‘road maintenance’ money.
That’s not counting the ~$80,000 of service area funds it collected and spent.
That’s not counting ~18,000 of ‘voluntary’ membership dues it collected and spent.
That’s not counting unknown amounts of monies demanded in real estate escrows it collected and spent.
That’s not counting any allegedly ‘mandatory’ ‘past due’ monies it collected and spent.
It spent at least $62,000 on attorneys. That’s at least double all legal fees spent over its fifty year history combined.
This board has increased fees to unprecedented highs.
In six years, this club board has spent over a quarter million dollars, almost $300,000.
During all that time, it did no legal road maintenance.
The CWPOA is a Voluntary Corporation
The social club is purely voluntary. Voluntary means optional. You don’t have to join. You don’t have to pay. There are no CC&Rs to force you to fund it.
You don’t have to pay it anything for its cost of operation.
You don’t have to send it a check.
You don’t have to pay it a dime for road maintenance, without your consent, without total transparency, without specs, contractor estimates, county permits, a separate bank account to protect your money, transparent accounting, and actual performance.
You can choose to do your own road maintenance.
You can choose the Fire Safe Council as we have.
You can choose to do nothing.
Any owner can do road maintenance.
Any group of owners can do road maintenance. Just like the Fire Safe Council does.
How did we pull this off? How did we expose these facts? Simple.
We stopped paying.
And then demanded a refund.
Alleged ‘Road Maintenance’ Assessments
In 2009, the social club once again started sending bills for alleged ‘road maintenance’.
This was after road maintenance fees were eliminated in 2004 after much upheaval.
This was after a club resolution to cease road maintenance was passed in 2009.
This was after the current ‘administration’ took over.
This was after its immediate 43.75% increase in fees without consent. ($160 became $230, 70/160 =.4375).
This was after it completely overhauled what was once a neighborhood association trying to do good.
Even though it billed for ‘road maintenance’, there wasn’t any legal road maintenance.
Its bills said ‘MANDATORY’ and ‘OBLIGATED’.
Still no legal road maintenance.
But other spending? There were plenty of legal fees, and accounting fees, and insurance, and rent, and utilities, and printer toner, and computers, and payroll, and mileage, and ‘administration’.
On top of that, over $62,000, and counting, was spent on attorneys, as mentioned above. We still don’t know what we got for any of it.
Then we found out the social club’s ‘road maintenance’ bills were false.
We didn’t have to pay them anything.
We found that out in 2013, with the fallout from the effort to get the county to fill our potholes, an effort the social club opposed.
After the RMD vote failed, the club bills stopped claiming ‘MANDATORY’ and ‘OBLIGATED’
So we quit paying. Voluntary means optional.
The club wasn’t doing any legal road maintenance anyway.
We chose the Fire Safe Council. We chose ourselves.
But then, the social club started threatening people with lawsuits.
Still no road maintenance.
Then they threatened us personally with lawsuits if we didn’t meet their demands.
Still no road maintenance.
We put our heads together. We asked for a refund. We asked for an accounting.
Where did the ‘road maintenance’ money go? No answer.
We decided to ask for our money back in a small claims action.
Better than sitting around waiting to get sued by the social club picking us off, one by one, hiding the facts.
We repeatedly offered to contribute to any legal road maintenance it did, just like we do with the Fire Safe Council. Other than more threats and coercion, no response,
We sent a demand letter as required by the court. No response.
So we filed the small claim asking for our 2009 to 2012 ‘road maintenance’ money to be returned.
The hearing was on Friday, August 21st, 2015, a day that will go down in history as liberating us all.
Before the hearing, as we had hoped, the social club sued us back, demanding still more ‘road maintenance’ money.
Throughout this entire case, and at the hearing, the club never disputed it did no legal road maintenance.
It did not dispute it spent well ~$194,000 of your dollars, our dollars, everyone’s dollars, and demanded more.
Still no road maintenance.
In fact, the social club not only didn’t do any legal road maintenance for all that time, it didn’t even have a permit to do road maintenance until 2015.
Yet it demanded we pay them more ‘road maintenance’ money.
Regrettably, we lost our claim for a refund. We figured the court was trying to give the club a second chance. We paid for road maintenance, and got no legal road maintenance. That doesn’t change.
But more importantly, and the ultimate goal and why we are writing you today, is that the court DENIED EVERY PENNY of the club’s counterclaim demand against us. EVERY PENNY.
The court GAVE IT NOTHING. The club cannot appeal. The cat is out of the bag. No more ‘road maintenance’ assessments.
Sure, the club can go sue crazy and continue threatening to sue everyone.
Sure, this group may even try suing us again. But we aren’t worried.
Because here’s the kicker: NO ROAD MAINTENANCE = NO MONEY.
The club DID NO ROAD MAINTENANCE.
NO ROAD MAINTENANCE = NO MONEY can be collected.
And even if it did, WE ALREADY PAID.
Again, on the merits, the facts, and the law, the court DENIED the social club’s ENTIRE COUNTERCLAIM.
The social club cannot bill for ‘road maintenance’ arbitrarily set at $100 per unit.
We don’t have to pay them. We never did. The club is voluntary.
They have no grounds to demand payment from us, unless, and until, they actually do some legal road maintenance, with specifics and a spelled out basis for demanding payment.
Then, and only then, would we conceivably be obligated to pay the club anything, and even then, ONLY FOR THE ACTUAL COST OF ROAD MAINTENANCE.
Here are The Facts:
- The social club is a voluntary corporation. Voluntary means optional. There is no forced payment for cost of operation. There is no ‘administration’ fee. It is voluntary.
- The social club was organized to promote social, beneficial, and recreational activities, and, ironically enough, to assist its members against fraud and imposition.
- The social club is not organized to perform road maintenance.
- There are no CC&Rs, Covenants, Codes and Restrictions, to empower, or fund the social club cost of operation.
- Road maintenance funds can only go to road maintenance and nothing else.
- The social club is not an HOA.
- The social club cannot lawfully make demands on real estate transactions in escrow.
- The social club voluntarily chooses to do road maintenance.
- With a permit from the county, any owner up here, or any group of owners up here, can potentially perform road maintenance. See Fire Safe Council.
- The roads in Cascadel are public roads.
- The roads in Cascadel are County of Madera dedicated public right of ways.
- The owners of road easements, or land with road easements, are required to maintain them, same as anywhere else in Madera County. Cascadel is no different. Cascadel is not special.
- The social club cannot fund its cost of operation by billing for ‘road maintenance’.
- Since there are no CC&Rs to fund its cost of operation, it is nothing more than a voluntary neighborhood association. The CWPOA is a social and recreational club according to its Articles of Incorporation.
- The social club could only conceivably collect for actual road maintenance, after planning and doing road maintenance with specifics.It must get contractor estimates, use the formula provided by the law and a court document of record. It must determine, and clearly show, how it came to the total ‘units’. It must determine, and clearly show, each units’ proportionate share based on actual road maintenance costs divided by the formula.Then, and only then, can it request contribution per the formula. Then it must place the money in a separate bank account to be used for that specific road maintenance only.Then it must actually perform, or have already performed, that specific road maintenance. No road maintenance, no money.
What kind of social club collecting an arbitrary ‘$100 per unit’ like clockwork, claiming it is for ‘road maintenance’, then threatens neighbors with lawsuits after doing no road maintenance and spending all the money elsewhere? And sues them?
What service does it provide for all this money spent on other things like attorneys?
We don’t know.
But we do know that voluntary membership dues alone can be used to cover their cost of operation. It can’t use our road maintenance money.
- And only road maintenance is covered under statutory law. No construction or improvements are covered. This protects owners from having to finance major upgrades they don’t want.For example, the cost of the unnecessary culvert replacements, done poorly, twice, cannot be recouped under the neighbor suing neighbor model.But there is a better way. The voluntary model is way better.
The Better Way: Road Maintenance In The Real World
Collecting for road maintenance by neighbor suing neighbor is not practical. It’s too costly, usually exceeding the cost of the road maintenance itself, and creates conflict. It’s not appropriate.
The better voluntary method is used countywide.
Example: For less than $7,500 dollars, voluntarily contributed by residents, the Eastern Madera County Fire Safe Council produced the only legal road maintenance in Cascadel performed in six years.
For this small amount, the Fire Safe Council redid the dirt road from the front east to the creek, and filled all the major potholes in Cascadel.
With less than $7,500 voluntary contribution, they’ve achieved more, making the roads safer, especially critical during the recent Willow Fire, than the club did for well ~$194,000 of your dollars.
The Fire Safe Council achieved this without suing anyone, or threatening to sue anyone.
The social club did not contribute anything but complaints to the Fire Safe Council work.
Other than having a social club making false claims on us, Cascadel Ranch is no different than anywhere else in Madera County.
Take Keller Road in North Fork for example, located down off Old Town Road near Manzanita Lake.
They have the same as us, and everyone else in these kinds of neighborhoods. Dedicated public county right of way, not yet county maintained.
How do they do it?
They pull together.
They don’t sue each other.
They don’t have a social club trying to falsely fund itself off of ‘road maintenance’ fees.
If you want to know more about Keller Rd roads call Supervisor Wheeler at (559) 232-8915.
There are many miles of these roads throughout many neighborhoods in Madera County.
Where Did Our Road Maintenance Money Go?
The social club spent well ~$194,000 in six years, collected as ‘road maintenance’, but with no legal road maintenance to show for it.
The only way we were able to learn that, and even partly where our money went, was by filing a small claim. The social club would not divulge any details, until that time.
The funds went mostly to attorneys and payroll. But we really don’t know where it all went. We only know that it’s gone.
If the social club insists on its ineffective effort to appoint itself to ‘perform road maintenance’, it must fund its efforts per the facts, and the law, and then ask for payment.
The money we contributed in good faith, must be used for road maintenance, period. That doesn’t change.
We’re not paying the social club for road maintenance any more.
We have paid for four years with no legal road maintenance done.
The club does not dispute it did no legal road maintenance in all that time.
It does not dispute it had no permit until just this year.
It does not dispute that it is a voluntary corporation.
It does not dispute that it spent all the money it collected from June 30, 2009 to June 30, 2015.
We paid in good faith. We are owed road maintenance with that money, or a refund.
We are going to continue to contribute to the Fire Safe Council for road maintenance and snow removal.
Their next planned project is routine road surface maintenance, cleaning, patching, crack sealing, and snow removal, for all of Cascadel Ranch east of Cascadel Heights Drive.
The work will be performed by county crews, just like the dirt road maintenance was, continuing the Fire Safe Council’s successful track record of Public Private Partnership with the County of Madera Public Works Dept all over the County of Madera.
Mark Stamas & Judy Castles
Chris & Marie Iden