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Rancho Santa Fe Association Past Presidents Council requests board address ‘significant damage’

A group called the Past Presidents Council is alleging serious financial and managerial issues have occurred at the Rancho Santa Fe Association and they are requesting actions be taken to correct the issues. The Past Presidents Council submitted a letter to RSF Association President Fred Wasserman on Aug. 10 with its recommendations, including engaging an independent forensic audit firm to begin a review of all accounting transactions.

“The goal is to help with the process of correcting the operations of the Association that are in error, not to point a finger of blame,” the letter stated.

The group requested a response of the board’s intent by Aug. 19.

According to RSF Association Communications Manager Christy Whalen, the board has placed the item on its Sept. 1 agenda.

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“In the meantime, the board will be researching points in the letter so they may be assessed and addressed,” Whalen said. “The board is interested in and very sensitive to member concerns.”

“With the new board, we feel very enthusiastic about the sense of cooperation with the community and their openness,” said Marie Addario, a member of the Past President’s Council. “We do believe that the membership should know about these problems and some of the repercussions they have on the community. The community has a right to know.”

The Past Presidents Council was formed five months ago and includes 10 past RSF Association presidents and four past Covenant Design Review Committee/Art Jury presidents, including Addario, Jim Ashcraft, Ken Bien, Roxana Foxx, Nancy Hillgren, Bill Hinchy, Ron McMahon, Tom Lang, Bob Stine, Jack Queen, Candace Humber and Marjorie Vandenberg. They hired a consulting group made up of people who collectively represent over 60 years of service to the RSF Association: past managers Walt Ekard and Pete Smith, and former Covenant administrators Keith Behner and Ivan Holler.

The Past Presidents Council believes one of the biggest issues facing the Association is staff turnover — they have had four different general managers and a turnover of 85 percent of its staff in the past two years. Departures have included Smith, CFO Steve Comstock, Holler, Senior Building Official Kirk Dakan, Manager Bill Overton, Administrator Daria Quay, and administrative assistants Nadine Garcia and Shannon Mountain. Building Commissioner Robert Green, who has been with the Association for 17 years, will retire on Sept. 2.

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The group believes that due to the changeover, there is no one left on staff to advise the board on the Association’s corporate culture and its unique history.

Infractions found in the consultants’ review also include non-compliance with the Association’s bylaws, codes and Covenant, as well as the Association’s “lack of acceptable financial procedures and processes” that could lead to Association funds being misappropriated.

“We are confident that quick action by the Association board to begin resolving the issues identified in the report can and will restore the exceptional reputation the Association has long enjoyed,” the letter to the board stated. “The (consulting) team consists of individuals who have each committed substantial portions of their careers in service to the Association. It is the team’s desire to ensure that the dignity and integrity of the Association is maintained and enhanced.”

In its letter to the board, the Past Presidents Council recommended that the board retain Alan Zuckerman as legal counsel to oversee the process as he had been previously involved with the Association’s legal affairs for many years. Zuckerman spent over two decades as the Association’s lead counsel.

Addario said the group does not expect the problems to be solved quickly.

“This is not an easy fix, the damage is so significant,” Addario said. “All we want to know is if the board is aware of the scope of the problems and what they are going to do about it.”

The council’s reports and recommendations are available to any member who would like a copy.


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