Category: Consumer advocacy

CO homeowners helpless against rogue homeowner associations

The Moonridge Falls subdivision HOA in Grand Junction suddenly locked homeowners out of their own common space park this winter, nominally for safety, even though no accidents had occurred in the park and no one had ever been hurt in the park. The HOA effectively treated all homeowners as though they were trespassers in their own common space. Across the state, subdivisions that lock off commonly-owned amenities, like swimming pools or tennis courts — whether for safety or to eliminate vandalism — provide all homeowners keys to the locks on the amenities because the homeowners own the amenities and pay the substantial costs of maintaining them.

Homeowners in the Moonridge Falls subdivision in Grand Junction woke up last December 21 to find their homeowners association (HOA) had suddenly locked them out of their own common space park.

Residents couldn’t remember a time when the gates to the park had ever been locked. No one had been hurt in the park. No accidents had occurred in the park recently, not even a close call, but for some reason the HOA suddenly decided to lock the park and keep everyone out, even homeowners, as though it was a crime scene or a grave emergency had just occurred. The HOA put up a sign saying the park would stay locked as long as there was ice on the pond.

Yet long after the ice had melted, the locks remained, leading people to wonder what was really up, and what they could do about it.

Locked out of their own property

When they bought their homes, Moonridge homeowners paid extra for the right to access the subdivision’s heavily landscaped private park. They pay all of the park’s substantial maintenance costs through their annual dues, and the cost to maintain the park takes over 90% of their dues. And as legal owners of the common space, all homeowners all have an equal right to access it 24/7. The HOA had no more right to lock all homeowners out of their own park than they have to lock them out of their own homes.

But instead of balancing what might have been a legitimate safety concern with preserving homeowners’ rights to enjoy their own property — for example by offering all homeowners keys to the locks like other subdivisions do, the HOA took an action that treated all of its own homeowners like criminals.

Residents who had been using the park for breaks from endless Zoom meetings in the pandemic, or for outdoor respite nearby were now flat out of luck. They would now have to get in their cars and drive to a public park, even though they were paying for a very nice park right next their own homes.

Ignoring laws, infringing on homeowner rights

It turned out that the Moonridge Falls HOA was also ignoring laws and compromising homeowners’ rights in a lot more ways than just this, though.

  • The HOA cancelled its only homeowner meeting last year “because of covid,” refusing to even put on a virtual meeting, and depriving owners of their only chance to discuss the plan to deprive them of their common space for the entire winter, before it ever happened. State law requires HOAs hold at least one meeting a year.
  • The HOA had never registered with the State HOA office as has been required since 1992.
  • The HOA had never adopted policies for dealing with homeowner grievances, or for fining homeowners, even thought the law requires HOAs have such policies in place.
  • The HOA had no separate reserve fund.
  • The HOA had never given homeowners information about the state laws regulating HOAs, or about homeowner duties in regard to HOAs, as the law required.
  • The HOA held board meetings without making agendas available to homeowners. (The law says HOA boards must make agendas available to homeowners so people are aware of what their HOAs are up to.)
  • And the HOA had never adopted a policy regulating conflicts of interest by its board members. (The longtime board president, owner of a landscape maintenance company, had long given his own family’s company the contract for maintaining all of Moonridge Falls’ landscaping.)

Most homeowners never knew or paid attention to all the ways their HOA was violating their rights and ignoring state laws. But when the HOA suddenly locked off the park to everyone and blocked every attempt homeowners tried to address the move, the HOA crossed the line into being a dictator, and became worthy of more scrutiny.

Abusive HOAs have total control. Homeowners have little to no recourse.

So what can homeowners do with an HOA that abuses its decision-making power and infringes on their property rights?

Turns out, not much.

They can file a complaint against their HOA with Colorado’s HOA Information and Resources Center.  But the Resource Center can only collect complaints and compile them into an annual report. That’s it. The agency tells consumers up front on its website that it “does not have any investigative or enforcement capabilities to address your HOA complaint.”

While the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA, pdf) regulates HOAs and was created to protect consumers from abusive HOAs, it contains no mechanism for enforcement — zero — effectively leaving it without any “teeth.” So Colorado homeowners who belong to HOAs are at the mercy of abusive boards, whose members often are poorly qualified, in experience, knowledge or temperament, to hold positions of power over their neighbors.

The sad reality is that Colorado law leaves HOA Boards free to grab homeowners’ land, violate their rights, break state and federal laws, impose petty rules on a whim and make people’s lives miserable without ever having to worry about any corrective or punitive action being taken.

The only recourse homeowners have to fight a bad HOA is to file a lawsuit — and that is time consuming, costs lots of money and may not even solve the problem.

HOA horror stories abound

Complaints about abusive HOAs abound in Colorado, and everywhere across the country. Petty, poorly thought-out and even cruel decisions by HOA boards are common:

Power-hungry HOA boards that escalate conflicts instead of working to resolve them can bankrupt entire subdivisions by insisting on facing down homeowners who fight back by suing.

So, what’s the answer?

There is no real good answer right now. But there are things you can try:

Some say the answer is to vote out your HOA board, but because of the ways abusive boards operate, that can be difficult.

As private governments, HOA boards have no oversight and can easily engage in election fraud, for example by having existing board members “count” the ballots, and proclaiming who the winners are without providing homeowners with vote tallies. Boards can effectively appoint the same people — or their family members — to positions of power over and over again for years, assuring the same people get to lord over subdivisions for years, or decades, where they can continue using their position to benefit themselves financially and make life hard for homeowners they don’t like.

How else can homeowners fight back?

  • Pay attention to what your HOA board is doing. Too many people ignore this until it is too late, because they don’t want to get involved.
  • Get familiar with the CCIOA, and insist that your HOA follow the law.
  • Insist that your HOA board be transparent in scheduling and holding all its meetings, and they make agendas for all of their meetings available to homeowners, so homeowners can see if their Board is doing — or planning on doing things — may infringe on their property rights or make life difficult.
  • Insist your HOA board members end contracts that have even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • Insist your HOA board adhere to state law how it conducts its elections, so everyone has a, equal chance to get a say on the board. The CCIOA requires ballots be counted by neutral third parties who have no interest in the outcome. It doesn’t allow existing board members or candidates to count ballots. Don’t be fooled by things like offers to “notarize” the results of an illegitimately-held election as a way to legitimize it. Notarizing is not required by state law, and has no effect on whether the election was legally held. Adhering to the law that details how to hold a fair election is required by the law.
  • Lobby your elected state legislators to put much-needed teeth into the CCIOA.

HOAs with bad reputations can drag down property values and make things harder for homeowners and realtor strying to sell homes in subdivisions with bad reputations.

Millions of people in Colorado live in over 8,000 homeowner associations. It’s time for Colorado’s legislators fix the mess they created for all these people by failing to include any enforcement in the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act.

The HOA Resource Office must get the funding it needs to investigate and pursue complaints against HOAs and and issue corrective actions.

 

 

 

 

Group files ethics complaint against Rep. Boebert’s exorbitant campaign mileage reimbursements

Lauren Boebert shown n December, 2019, carrying the same flag carried by many of the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

The government watchdog group Accountable.us has filed a complaint (pdf) with the Office of Congressional Ethics requesting an investigation into House Rep. Lauren Boebert’s exorbitant mileage reimbursements in 2020. Boebert claimed to have driven 36,868 miles in 2020, enough to circumnavigate the globe almost one and a half times, even though there were several months in which there were no posted public campaign events.

By contrast, her predecessor, former District 3 Congress member Scott Tipton,  reimbursed himself a total of $12,255 from his campaign coffers for travel over the entire decade he held the office.

Petition asks the Mesa County Public Health Dept. to enforce mask mandate at Mesa Mall

A Move-On.org petition is asking the Mesa County Health Department to enforce the state-wide mask mandate inside the Mall.

The petition states,

Covid-19 is spreading fast and hard through Mesa County. Many people are still not taking the threat seriously. It is putting [Mall] employees, tenants, and guests at a ridiculously high risk of catching and spreading the virus. The effects are dangerous and deadly and we have a moral and social imperative to do what we can to keep each other safe. The Mesa Mall is responsible for the safety of those who enter it’s walls. If they can’t provide a safe place for people to work, shop, and visit, then they should shut down for the health and safety of our community.

A mask mandate is currently in place throughout Colorado to reduce the spread of the deadly, communicable Corona virus that is sweeping the country. It requires everyone 11 years and older to wear a face mask in enclosed public places. Masks are recommended anywhere people are sharing air.

How to effectively complain about businesses that aren’t enforcing the mask order:

The pitfalls of Mesa County’s “5 Star” Coronavirus protection program

Mesa County’s 5-Star program creates expectations that often aren’t met, and leaves it to patrons to police establishments for compliance, which can then lead to harassment, threats and intimidation against patrons who complain.

Mesa County has been touting it’s “Variance Protection” (“Five Star”) program as the key to keeping businesses open amid the pandemic, and while the goals of the program are laudable, the widespread lack of enforcement, particularly of masking requirements, can unfortunately create a climate of additional threats to patrons, and not just to their health.

Graph of cumulative Mesa County Covid cases shows where county is headed

Graph showing the number of Covid-19 cases in Mesa County Covid over time, from March 1-July 31, 2020. The Mesa County Health Department does not have a graph like this on its Coronavirus information web page. The steep rise in cases recently is telling. (Chart credit: Tim Kozak)

Whether through oversight or intention, the Mesa County Health Department does not have a graph of cumulative cases of Covid-19 on its website, but such a graph can give a clear picture of how well or how poorly our county is doing in preventing spread of Corona virus, and show us where we are going under the current conditions. This chart provides that missing information.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters takes exception to atheists on social media

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters’ biased comment on the “Transparency in Mesa County” Facebook page.

 

Embattled Republican Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters expressed contempt for atheists yesterday in a comment on social media, sowing further doubt about whether she can truly conduct her office in an impartial manner.

Here is how the comment came about:

Participants on the public group Facebook page “Transparency in Mesa County” had been discussing the County Clerk’s office after it was found that they forgot to collect and count 574+ ballots from the November, 2019 combined general election.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters stonewalling list of voters whose ballots were lost

Mesa County citizens are trying to recall Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters for inept operation of her office, including forgetting 574 ballots in a collection box from the November, 2019 general election.

Embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R) has not complied with several Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests seeking a copy of a spreadsheet her office created containing the names of the 574+ disenfranchised voters whose ballots her office failed count in the November, 2019 general election.

The ballots were left in a collection box after the election and were not retrieved or counted. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold called the oversight a “serious dereliction of duty.”

Clerk Peters ordered the creation of the list.

Several former Clerk’s office employees report that Ms. Peters asked Sandra Brown, another Clerk’s Office employee, to create a spreadsheet of the names of all the voters whose ballots weren’t counted so Ms. Peters could send them each a written apology.

Internal emails from the County Clerk’s office support claims that the list in fact exists. In the emails, Peters asks other employees not to distract Ms. Brown from the task of creating the list, so she could finish it quickly.

GarCo Public Health: Boebert’s food poisoned 80 people in 2017

Lauren Boebert, Republican candidate for 3rd Congressional District and proprietor of Shooter’s Grill in Rifle, Co (Photo: Facebook)

Calls started pouring into the Garfield County Public Health Department (GCPH) at 10:00 a.m. on June 6, 2017, from people complaining  they had come down with severe diarrhea and nausea. In all, 17 people called or walked into the health department that day saying they had suddenly become ill with the same symptoms.

What did all these people have in common?

They had all attended the Rifle Rodeo on June 5 and eaten food supplied by the only vendor at the fairgrounds that day: Lauren Boebert, owner of Shooter’s Grill and Smokehouse 1776.

That’s according to a 10-page GCPH report titled Rifle Rodeo 06/05/17 Outbreak Report, which is publicly available on the internet (pdf).

Why not Ray Scott? Consider his past as an elected official.

Colorado State Senator Ray Scott

What do you know about State Senator Ray Scott, who is currently a candidate for Mesa County Commissioner?

One question people have about Scott is, if he is already a state senator and his term doesn’t expire until 2022, why is he running for county commissioner? Why doesn’t he want to finish his term in the State Senate?

The answer?

Money.

Scott makes $30,000/year and a $45/day per diem as a state senator.

As a county commissioner, he would more than triple his salary. The salary for a county commissioner is now $92,681, not including benefits and perks, like insurance, use of vehicles, etc. — more than three times the average salary in Mesa County.

Incumbent Mesa County Commissioners unilaterally failing to address Coronavirus pandemic

Guest post by Dennis Simpson, CPA, reposted with permission from his “Transparency in Mesa County” Facebook page

Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis

The Mesa County Commissioners have been totally silent on the impact the COVID-19 crisis will have on the County’s ability to deliver basic services to residents during the many months before our economy returns to normal. Rather than buckling down and addressing the tough financial questions, they meet weekly to hear updates from County staff and to whine about just how terrible the Governor is. There is nothing wrong with these two activities. Staff needs to know the bosses support them. Complaining about what happens in Denver is a waste of time but it apparently makes them feel important.

The problem is not with what they are doing, it is about what they are not doing. There has been no discussion of the impact on the County’s reserve balances. They should be trying to get ahead of pending financial hit by reviewing numerous projections based on different assumptions of just how bad things are going to get. The development of the various assumptions and the results of each needs to be done by someone with demonstrated skills and the ability to simplify what they do so the Commissioners can understand their options. In my opinion, none of the current staff have these abilities. They need to seek help from outside the organization.

Mesa County commissioners woefully silent during this pandemic

Op-ed by Kathryn Bedell, candidate for Mesa County Commissioner, District 1 – from the 4/21/20 Daily Sentinel (Please support our local paper)

Kathryn Bedell, DVM, veterinarian and Fruita rancher running for county commissioner in District 1 (Fruita/Loma/Mack and west end of the valley)

As a Western Slope appointee to the State of Colorado Agriculture Commission, I continue to address issues related to our local farm economy and food security. As I was isolating at home, reaching out to fellow farms and ranchers to see what they are thinking and what kind of help they might need, it occurred to me I haven’t heard a peep from our Mesa County commissioners.

I searched for recent comments from them and only found one advocating against a national popular vote, which has absolutely nothing to do with the current state of the county. I looked on the county’s Facebook page and saw nothing from our commissioners but noticed that Mesa County Public Health is keeping the county informed. I looked at the county website and the last update was 19 days ago and that was a link to Mesa County Public Health and Human Services.

As many as a third of responders to Daily Sentinel survey fail to grasp the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic

Daily Sentinel poll

The Daily Sentinel published results of a non-scientific online poll today asking readers for their opinions of the ongoing stay-at-home order due to the Coronavirus pandemic. About 72 percent of people said they agree with the order and are obeying it. Twenty one percent say they’re following the stay-at-home order even though they think it’s “over the top,” and 7 percent say they are not following the order at all because they think it’s “too extreme” or “unnecessary.”

This means about a third of people in our area aren’t really grasping the seriousness of this pandemic.

That’s scary.

It took a pandemic to stop open burning in Mesa County, as public officials finally recognize it as a public health threat

A “controlled burn,” started by a person with a permit, got out of control on March 5, causing $5,000 worth of damage and endangering nearby residents

The Mesa County Health Department suspended residential open burning in the county indefinitely on March 18 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

No doubt tens of thousands of valley residents are greatly relieved.

The Health Department explained the ban by saying:

COVID-19 is a lower respiratory illness impacting residents with underlying medical conditions, more severely than other groups. This decision was made to ensure the best possible air quality for residents in high-risk categories, and to ensure our medical community has enough resources to care for the patients impacted by COVID-19.

The last-century scourge of open burning is halted at last, at least for awhile

Mesa County’s spring burn season — a throwback to a time when this area was predominantly agricultural — runs from March 1 through May 31. Every year like clockwork, as soon as the weather warms up and people start getting outdoors, they find their springtime ruined by plumes of smoke that give them sore throats, burning eyes, runny noses, headaches, asthma attacks, and exacerbate their lung conditions. Beautiful spring mornings are soon fouled by smoke drifting across the valley, forcing people to close doors and windows and grab their inhalers.

Dennis Simpson recommends ways County Commissioners can handle COVID-19 pandemic

Dennis Simpson, CPA

Certified Public Accountant Dennis Simpson, a long-time advocate for transparency in Grand Junction City and Mesa County government, discovered that in 2019 Mesa County purchased two new late model SUVs at a cost of $45,000 each, for the exclusive use of Commissioners Scott McInnis and John Justman. Before that time, Simpson noted, the County had provided a single passenger car for all three commissioners to share. He also noted that the decision to greatly increase this transportation expense for taxpayers was not made in public, and that while Commissioner Rose Pugliese tried to distance herself from the purchase, she failed to protest it publicly.

When Simpson raised these issues to Scott McInnis, McInnis deflected attention from the matter by asking Simpson to instead focus on coming up with financial suggestions for ways the County can cope with the COVID-19 pandemic rather than concerning himself with the purchase of the vehicles, which McInnis dismissed as unimportant.

Simpson obliged and produced the following suggestions, which he submitted to all three county commissioners on March 19, 2020.

Western slope nonprofit group encourages people to report violations of separation of church and state

The western slope’s nonprofit watchdog organization Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) encourages people to report violations of separation of church and state in places like public schools and at local government meetings, so they can address the violations.

Past violations reported to WCAF have included a Mesa County Commissioner praying to Jesus Christ at the start of public hearings, a Delta county middle school student being forced to watch a nativity play after asking to opt out, a Delta County middle school teacher hosting weekly Bible study classes in his own classroom immediately before school and handing out free doughnuts to students who attended, Fellowship Church promoting its youth indoctrination center in a Mesa County middle school by showing a video about it during gym period and handing students admission slips to the facility afterward, a Mesa County elementary school student being told by a lunch aide in the cafeteria in front of her friends that she MUST believe in God “because God created everything,” a Delta County high school student having her grades slashed and college grant applications sabotaged for reporting Christian proselytizing going on within the  school system, Colorado Mesa University students having Gideon Bibles foisted on them as they stepped off the dais at their graduation ceremony, a Delta County Middle School teacher telling her class that “non-Christians are bad people” and “the bombers aren’t Christians,” quoting the Bible in class, and much more.

The Daily Sentinel abdicates its mission, caves to Trumpism

In an editorial January 23 the Daily Sentinel announced it is giving up reporting on Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Sentinel says since they’re not going to change any minds, they’re just going to throw up their hands and give up reporting on it entirely. The paper blames readers, saying “There’s nothing rational about the way people feel about the president.” The shocker here is that the Daily Sentinel is openly abdicating its mission of disseminating information because of Trump supporters.

But it’s also a major false equivalency to say that Trumpers and those who support his impeachment and removal from office are all equally irrational.

They are not equivalent, and the Sentinel knows it.

Now you can get free, medically-accurate sexual health info anonymously via text

Do you have questions about sexual health but can’t afford to call a medical doctor? Are you finding it tough to find somewhere on the western slope where you can get unbiased, non-judgmental, medically-accurate sexual health info on your specific situation?

Planned Parenthood now offers a FREE chat/text program that allows young people to live-chat with trained health educators from their cell phone or computer about any topic dealing with sexual health.

This service is available nationwide and it provides completely non-judgmental, medically-accurate information on any and all sexual and reproductive health topics, including the various kids of birth control, how they work and how to use them, sexual intercourse, how and where to obtain emergency contraception, sexually-transmitted diseases/infections, pregnancy, abortion, unusual discharges, menstruation and anything else you need info on.

To access the program, just text PPNOW to 774636 to get started. It’s 100% anonymous and 100% free.

The hero of City Market 24 Road

David at City Market 24 Road

Meet David, the best employee at City Market 24 Road.

Have you ever gone into a City Market, asked a store employee for help finding a product, had the employee march you all around the store for ten minutes looking for it, call the store manager who is also clueless, and then the employee finally shrugs, gives up and admits he or she doesn’t have a clue?

That’s not David.

David never fails to impress. He knows exactly where everything is in the store, he knows all about food, how to use all of the products in the store and lots more.

David works in the specialty cheese shop, but he also knows the rest of the store like the back of his hand. If you ever need a weird, obscure ingredient, like chopped gherkins, anchovy sauce or some kind of odd seasoning oil, David can take you right to it. If you are trying to figure out the difference between two different brands of garlic and herb spread, David not only knows all the differences, he knows which brand is better depending on whether you want to spread it on a cracker or crumble it into a salad or main dish. If want to make your beef Stroganoff really pop, David knows the secrets of how to do it.

David is a huge asset to City Market. He’s one of the reasons I shop at the 24 Road store more than any other store.

Before working at City Market, David managed the restaurant in the Doubletree Hotel on Horizon Drive for ten years, and before that, he was the manager of The Red Lobster, so the guy really knows food prep inside and out. He knows ingredients, he knows food.

Kroger Corporation, are you listening? You’re super-lucky to have this guy working for you, and if you read this, I want to nominate David to get a big, fat raise.