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Laguna Woods HOA board welcomes fresh faces after recall

For his first meeting at the helm, Third Mutual board President Mark Laws introduced the board’s new look – fresh faces and role assignments –  last week.

The meeting was the first to follow the successful recall of two members of the condo association’s board, in an election held June 3.

Of the 2,784 ballots counted, 1,981 members voted to recall President Robert Mutchnick and Director Lynn Jarrett. A total of 759 votes dissented the recall.

Catherine Burkhart, director of UniLect Election Services, said that a couple of ballots were empty and an owner of two properties returned both of her ballots in one envelope, which is acceptable.

Members elected Jules Zalon, receiving 1,754 votes, and Cris Prince, receiving 1,619 votes, to serve in place of the ousted board members.

Runners-up Karen Shore received 687 votes while Mutchnick received 527 votes.

Laws is serving as president of the Third board, with Prince as the secretary.

“One of my top priorities is the 2023 budget,” Laws said, noting that plans began in May and are set to be finalized by September.

Earlier this month, staff delivered a first-draft proposal of next year’s budget, he added, which reflected an increase of 5% in monthly assessments.

Although the board has changed its makeup, the issues that Third Mutual faces are the same – sky-rocketing property insurance fees and deferred maintenance projects among them.

Anti-harassment policy

Third board members discussed a resolution that would create a six-member inter-board committee to address claims of harassment, abuse and intimidation across all relations – residents, Village Management Services staff and board directors.

Director Ira Lewis took issue with protections in the policy for VMS staff against residents and directors without mention of corrective action for staff.

“There are no guidelines or penalties qualifying a first offense or second offense – it’s all very arbitrary,” Lewis said.

In an earlier discussion of this agenda item, VMS CEO Siobhan Foster said that since VMS is a company, disciplinary action with staff must be handled internally through a separate mode, which includes termination. She assured that member protections are included.

Member-resident John Jacob described four separate instances where maintenance staff engaged in conflict with him while visiting his property.

“I don’t see where staff are being abused,” he said. “I think the residents are being abused.”

As written, the proposed policy covers harassment, abuse and intimidation beyond state and federal guidelines. It interprets shouting; stalking, such as following someone around to intimidate or “make a point”; disrupting organized activities in progress; and excessive telephone calls as valid counts of harassment, per Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

“(The policy is) so unnecessary,” Zalon said. “It has a single purpose: to protect staff from the unpleasant task of putting up with members who refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

The board majority voted to send the resolution back to committee.

COVID-19 update

The adjusted daily COVID-19 case rate in Orange County was nearly 30 cases per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday, June 28, according to the OC Health Care Agency.

The testing positivity rate — the reported number of swabs and spit tests that return positive for coronavirus – was 15.3%, with the health equity rate – the test positivity of disproportionately impacted neighborhoods – of 14.6%.

To date, county public officials have recorded 1,280 COVID-19 cases and 77 related fatalities in the city of Laguna Woods.

Resale report

The average resale price for a unit in Third Mutual in May was $631,445, up from $468,545 in May 2021, according to a VMS staff report. Resales year to date numbered 196, up from 181 the year prior. Sales volume in May was $22.7 million compared with $18.7 million in May 2021.

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