RSF Association board selects new vice president

Bill Strong addresses the Rancho Santa Fe Association board on April 7.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board has switched officers: Dan Comstock is now vice president, replacing Bill Strong after he was removed from the position last month. The board made the change at its April 7 meeting.

Strong had been removed as vice president during the board’s executive session on March 1.

“This was not a disciplinary action,” said RSF Association President Bill Weber. “The officers sit at the pleasure of the board and can be removed with or without cause at any time. In this case, this action was deemed to be in the best interest of the board.”

As a result of the removal, the board needed to elect a new vice president for the remainder of the term.

With just two months left in the term, Director Lorraine Kent made a motion to delay the appointment until the new directors are elected in June. The motion failed in a 4-3 vote with Weber, Comstock and Directors Rick Sapp and Greg Gruzdowich opposed and Strong, Kent and Laurel Lemarié voting in favor of the continuation.

The board then took nominations for vice president with Gruzdowich nominating Comstock and Lemarié nominating Kent. A secret ballot vote was held and Comstock was named the new vice president.

Dan Comstock

In late January, Strong received a document outlining his 33 violations of the board’s code of conduct to be discussed in a closed board session. With his attorney, he requested to respond to the allegations during an open public meeting rather than a closed executive session. He said all of his requests were ignored and he never got a response.

Strong believes that the allegations were “punishment” for requesting to have certain executive session items heard in open session, in an effort to increase transparency and abide by Davis-Stirling Act requirements. Per Davis-Stirling, boards may only go into executive sessions to discuss confidential topics such as litigation, formation of contracts, disciplinary hearings, personnel issues and payment plans. Additional issues that may require confidentiality in executive sessions include foreclosure, disability requests, potential liability issues and director censure.

Strong said the board continues to ignore the law for permissible topics in closed executive sessions and therefore what took place in the executive session, removing him as vice president, was invalid.

“I was removed as VP, that’s fine. It’s only two letters it never provided any status, I didn’t receive one bit of information as VP,” Strong said. “The purpose of this is to punish me for doing my fiduciary responsibility. It’s divisive and the process has been illegal and it serves no point.”

Lemarié was not at the March 1 executive session meeting and she also questioned whether the action to remove Strong as vice president was properly noticed on the agenda. She said she believed that the board needed to take a vote of no confidence and it should’ve been taken in public.

Weber said the executive session and board action were properly handled—he said both the parliamentarian and the Association’s attorney were in attendance at the meeting and it was deemed to be legal.

During public comment, Sharon Ruhnau, a former Association board member, spoke in support of Strong. She believes that some of the board’s actions were “unethical” regarding the golf club renovation and that Strong was the only director to insist on getting information regarding stop-work orders that the county placed on the project for grading without a permit.

“No one can say that this man has been anything but a supporter of the Association,” Ruhnau said. “His motives are pure. I would say that the motives of this board are far from that.”

During a golf course renovation update at the board’s September 2021 meeting, it was stated that while all 18 holes would be ready for play by the end of the year, the club would need further permitting to complete the planned improvements of the short game area and practice range.

This week RSF Golf Club General Manager Todd Huizinga said the club continues to work with the county to secure permits for phase three of the renovation project which includes the short game area and driving range. The plans are currently going through agency review, he said.