BY KAREN BILLING
Rancho Santa Fe Association Board President Philip Wilkinson addressed a “damaging” allegation made against the Association regarding the 2006 purchase of the Osuna Adobe at the May 15 board meeting.
The allegations were made on an independent website and on Facebook.
Documents were posted showing that the grant deed for the $12 million purchase of the Osuna property was signed on March 31, 2006, nearly a month before the board announced the decision to acquire the property on April 20, 2006.
“I am so sick and tried of what I’ve been seeing, I can’t believe what’s going on,” Wilkinson said, noting he felt the post had political motivations relating to the upcoming election of directors.
Per the documents on the websites, the notice of intent to purchase was sent to Rancho Santa Fe Association members on April 21, 2006 and members had 30 days to file a petition to trigger a vote, like was done recently with the proposed RSF Garden Club purchase. During the 30-day period, no member objected.
Per the RSF Association minutes posted on the independent website, discussions on the potential purchase of the Osuna property go back to April of 2005. The sale went through the planning committee but did not receive input from the finance committee.
Wilkinson said the Association staff and attorney looked into the matter and refuted some of the claims.
Wilkinson said that grant deeds are usually drafted by title companies significantly before closing. The grant deed is dated March 31, 2006, but the seller signed on April 11, 2006.
“Both of these dates are legally irrelevant because the escrow agent held the grant deed during escrow and the Association did not receive the grant deed until the close of escrow on June 8, 2006,” Wilkinson said. “It’s doubtful the Association saw the executed grant deed until the Association received it after the closing.”
Rancho Santa Fe residents Mike Licosati and Alex Kaiser said the findings posted about the Osuna purchase were an outgrowth of their work with the Garden Club purchase, taking a deeper dive into past Association purchases.
Licosati said the look into the Osuna purchase was not politically motivated and the grant deed is a minor complaint; their bigger issues are with the process, with transparency and fiscal governance — they feel the Osuna was a “terrible deal for the membership.”
In their deeper look into the Osuna purchase, Licosati said they found that the property was purchased in 2004 for $8.75 million by Rancho Osuna LLC. Licosati said the LLC tried to develop the property but couldn’t get it entitled and yet were able to sell it 22 months later to the Association for $12 million.
“There’s no way the land was worth $12 million after the county deemed it couldn’t be developed,” said Licosati, noting that they could not find any evidence of an appraisal. Licosati also said it was not vetted by the finance committee and that there was a potential conflict of interest as the chair of the open space committee was an executive at the seller’s company.
Both Licosati and Kaiser were living in Rancho Santa Fe in 2006, but they said that this information was not disclosed in the Association’s intent to purchase.
“We didn’t have all the facts,” Licsoati said.
Kasier said everyone gets busy in their lives and they trust the people they have elected to represent them. In this case he feels that trust was broken.
“The right question would have been to ask the membership ‘Are you willing to write a check for $6,300 to buy this property?’” Kaiser said.
“The broad theme is that we don’t think people are asking questions and we’re not having open discussions about the Association’s goals and priorities and how our money is being spent,” Licosati said. “We’re trying to illustrate this is the problem when you have a closed system…problems develop when you don’t have full disclosure about how money is being spent. If we still had that $12 million, we could have done a lot with it.”
At last week’s RSF Association board meeting, Wilkinson said if members have questions about issues they should bring them to the board to ask for a full review — not blindside them in public.
“I’m appealing to the candidates and to the community, enough is enough,” Wilkinson said of the contentious atmosphere in the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant recently. “We need to put the Association first and we need to stop the negativity that’s going on in the community.”
Licosati said he hopes that the board has learned something over the last month, to be more open and forthcoming with information.
“We think the community should have far greater discussions on how our money’s being spent and that’s not happening,” Licosati said.
Both Licosati and Kaiser said they plan to continue to advocate for fiscal discipline in the Association and have both volunteered their names to serve on the finance committee.