How does voting work for the SAMLARC Board?
Shawn M. Gordon
City Council Candidate for Rancho Santa Margarita
The master Homeowners Association (HOA) for most of the residents in Rancho Santa Margarita (RSM) is known as SAMLARC. It is governed by a seven member Board of Directors who serve a 2 year “staggered” term. If no one is running for an expiring seat, then that Director continues in office until his/her successor is elected. If a director resigns, then the Board can appoint a replacement for that position. Half the board is up for re-election each year.
In the last election 53 delegates attended the Election and cast the votes of their members (owners); 16 delegates used the Absentee Delegate Casting Ballot to cast their members (owners) votes; and 18 delegates didn’t show up or cast votes. I was shocked to see my neighborhood was one where our delegate didn’t show up. You can see the details here. In my opinion, this delegate system has the potential for some real abuse, whether any has taken place, I don’t know.
SAMLARC launched an extensive campaign in 2015 to revise the language in the Governing Documents from a Delegate system to a Direct Voting System. The Measure required 75% of the voting power of SAMLARC; however, the number of votes required was not achieved so the measure failed. We need to change this system, and it requires that we as residents get involved and are aware as well as our delegates doing their duty. If you look at that previously mentioned document, you can see how little people seem to get involved. Here is a list of all the delegates and the area they represent.
The voting system is detailed on this document, but I’m going to do you a favor and break it down in short, clear English after I give you some details. SAMLARC is represented by 87 Delegate Districts. Delegate Districts are represented by a Delegate with the primary role and purpose to facilitate the SAMLARC Board of Directors Election process. The Delegate District breakdown is as follows:
* 54 Sub Maintenance Corporations
* 24 Communities that are not part of a Sub Maintenance Corporation and are directly under SAMLARC
* 8 Apartment Communities
* 1 Storage facility that has a residence on the property
The Sub Maintenance Corporation Board President serves as the Delegate for the Sub Maintenance Corporation. In the absence of an election within their community where there is no Sub Maintenance Corporation, the SAMLARC Board of Directors has appointed a Delegate for each of the communities. The apartment community owner(s) generally appoint their apartment manager to serve as their Delegate. The owner of the storage facility (Plano Storage) is the Delegate for his property.
Now, let’s get into the how the voting works. I’m going to use my community and an apartment complex with rounded numbers as an example:
During an election, each home gets as many votes as there are open seats no matter how many people live in that home, the votes are based on the home. So, the current election has 4 open seats. That means I get 4 votes, I can cast them all for 1 person, or spread them out. Each of the 60 houses in my community gets those same 4 votes, so there are 240 votes available from my community.
An apartment complex has an apartment manager that casts ALL THE VOTES for that complex. So, if there are 500 apartments, there are 4 votes per apartment, that is 2000 votes, however the people in the apartments have no say at all, it is all up to the Delegate for that development (usually the apartment manager) in how he wants to vote. We have a situation currently where 1 person is the delegate for 3 different apartment complexes. SAMLARC has 8 apartment communities totaling 2,276 units. Given an election where four seats are up for re-election, this equates to 9,104 votes. As you can see, all you have to do is schmooze a half dozen people and you will get all those apartment votes and it will basically invalidate much of the homeowners vote. In accordance with the Governing Documents, the owner of record is granted the right to vote whether it is a homeowner or apartment owner. Apartment renters and home renters are not the owner of record. The Apartment community owner is the owner of record and the homeowner is the owner of record. As such, they are granted the right to vote on behalf of the units they own.
To top this off, the Delegate has to show up to the election to cast the votes for their community, so even if you had a great get out the vote drive for your community, your Delegate could blow off the election and none of your votes would count. The Delegate for my community never responded to repeated attempts to get them to cast our votes, so the next question is, how do we get that person thrown out as our Delegate?
Following the failure of the Measure A for direct voting, the Board looked for another way to make every homeowner’s vote count in an election. The result was an Absentee Delegate Casting Ballot. If a Delegate could not attend the Election, they could cast the votes received by the members (owners) in their association/community through an Absentee Delegate Casting Ballot. If every Delegate either attended the Election, or used an Absentee Delegate Casting Ballot, then every vote would count in an Election. Unfortunately, there were 18 delegates who never responded to our concerted effort to get them engaged and participating. I’m not sure if people really understood what was at stake because these rules are so archaic and weird. It took me a few days to finally get enough information to be able to explain it clearly to other people.
These SAMLARC elections are extremely important, almost on a par with the City Council elections because SAMLARC controls pretty much all the outdoor recreational options in addition to the landscaping in this town. We need to vote folks. Check if your Delegate is voting for you or failing to show up and get involved with your neighbors to make sure you are properly represented.