Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Response to Mint Board email April 8, 2020

Dear Mint owners,
You would have received the below email blast April 8, 2020 from the Mint board. Sadly the letter deflects the specific issues and attempts to cast a negative light on owners wishing to exercise their right.

This Mint board has spent significant time sending lengthy emails (even on a Sunday) boasting about our beautiful building, but have never answered specific questions or issues that Mint owners have been asking for over a year. In their response they encourage us to ask Mint management. Yet that is what brought us here. Questions that owners have asked in the past and never received an answer.

Why not thoroughly answer all the questions raised in the "communication"?

Below see our rebuttal in blue.

We hope you are faring well during these trying times.  Unfortunately, it has come to the attention of the Board of Directors and the Mint’s Management Company that inaccurate and misleading communications have been distributed to many owners and residents within our condominium including fabricated and erroneous data. Through our open records request process these individuals are attempting to take selective pieces of our board meeting notes in an effort to create a false and misleading narrative.  [Minutes of Meeting are readily available through the FSR portal that all owners have access to. These Minutes were not obtained via the open records request. ]

As a board we vigorously debate our decisions  in an open forum in an effort to get to the best outcome for our community. [Mr. Taylor as Mint rep and President to the Master, where was this vigorous debate for the Master budget? We learned it never occurred when the budget was presented]. These communications contain allegations without the support of fully transparent and complete corroborating evidence and it seems they have been originated by a handful of disgruntled homeowners seeking primarily to create confusion and discord amongst our owners and residents during this difficult time. [We are a group of 600+ owners, which is clearly not "a handful".  In addition 50+ Mint owners sent an email to the Mint admin and Board requesting e-voting. 50 is not a handful.  The Mint Admin and Board knows this from a recent email that was sent to them on behalf of these owners where every unit owner email was listed.  To state a "handful" is misleading. Unit owners have the right to meet, assemble and talk freely in passing or in the elevator regarding our common property.  With growing concerns experienced by many homeowners, Mint owners have gathered to collectively share their concerns and take action.  As unit owners that collectively share a property, we have no need to create confusion and discord. On the contrary, our efforts aim to seek clarification and answers and change for the better to protect our investment].

While some may have received such communication(s), we would like to assure you that your private information is protected and that the Management Company does not disclose the email address or phone numbers of our owners or residents.  By law the only information that can be distributed is a roster of all owners, their mailing addresses and their unit identifications. [Owners themselves have voluntarily provided emails to volunteer organizers for the ease of sharing information.]

These communications also include a claim of financial irregularity by the board of directors.  Putting aside that the mere allegation of such financial irregularity is without merit and untrue (which may be sufficient to justify the bringing of a libel action by the board members against those that have made the accusation), the Mint’s financials are independently audited annually by an independent accounting firm and all processed payments are reviewed, approved and signed by at least two board members.  Moreover, the Mint’s financials have been a benchmark for fiscal stewardship across the many buildings composing the FirstService Residential portfolio.  We’ve maintained and upgraded the building, our reserves are in a healthy state ($2M+), and our monthly dues are in line with a building of our size and complexity.  We would also like to reiterate that despite the size or cost of the improvement/repair, we have never had a special assessment which is a major financial accomplishment. [This is an apparent attempt to deflect from the real issue--the decision of unusual expenditures outside of board meetings. On the surface the financials are in order.  While board members approve and sign payments, our concern is again collaboration and decisions made outside of an open board meeting. EXAMPLE: Why are we renting artwork where payments are sent to company where owners are business partners of President Troy Taylor? Why was this never disclosed in an open board meeting? Why was a $63K expenditure made outside of a board meeting? Why not purchase the artwork from the artist instead of renting?  These are valid questions. We await the board's thorough explanation.]

With respect to the claims involving the implementation of an electronic voting system, the board has unanimously agreed that moving to a more effective and secure voting system makes a lot of sense.  That said, the board has opted to be diligent and informed about this important potential change and prefers to refrain from rushing into the process.  As a reminder, The Mint was the victim of an attempted massive voter fraud campaign several years ago coordinated by some less-than-honest people.  They attempted to take over the board and to take control of our association’s $5M annual budget.  This is one of the main reasons why any changes to our voting system must be undertaken with the utmost caution and oversight to ensure the validity and integrity of the process.  Voter fraud is all too common among Miami condominium associations, especially in buildings that have solid financials like the Mint. [This is precisely why owners are seeking alternative solutions.  The fraud occurred in 2014. This is 2020. Significant advancements have been made with regards to reliable voting systems] As a testament to the Board’s attention to the anticipated implementation of electronic voting, please see that attached response that was sent to a homeowner who inquired about implementing an electronic voting system.  It appears as if the individual to whom this communication was directed may not have been satisfied with the board’s response, which we add, was vetted by the association’s attorney. [this response is clearly another deflection of the real issue.  Furthermore, the Board's communication was not directed to one individual but many Mint owners who are still urging e-voting. We have also requested a one month postponement of the elections to address the board's concern for more time to implement e-voting although our research has shown it can be implemented in 2 weeks.  This was originally requested in March.  If we can not postpone the elections,  we have asked legal counsel to provide an explanation.]

With the foregoing in mind, the obvious question is why this small group [our group of 50 Mint owners is now 70+ owners] of individuals which appear to be disgruntled over decisions made by our board would send out such aggressive and misleading communications during this difficult time. [The answer to this question is the Board's failure to answer our questions at all. When unit owners have respectfully asked questions in communications and are repeatedly ignored, there is cause for concern].  It appears probable that these communications, which use unsubstantiated phrases like “irregularities” and “lack of transparency“ in lieu of facts, were designed to sow discord and create unfounded suspicion with regard to the board.  That said, it should be mentioned that all of the Mint’s Board meetings are properly noticed and open to all unit owners, [Notices are posted but not visible. Why not send email? Why not send an email about the Master budget increase of 36.2% before it is passed? Troy Taylor is our Mint rep and the President to the Master, why not inform owners of a significant increase beforehand? The Mint Board takes the time to send lengthy general emails about the aesthetics of the building but why not do the same when it comes to financials? ] and we rarely have more than 2-3 residents attend (and often none).  This board and management company have had a long history of effective stewardship [Many would disagree. Why are Mint owners physically blocked from entering the management office (before COVID-19) for simple admin questions? Why does an owner need permission from the person or guard at the reception? This is not stewardship. We understand making an appointment to discuss complex issues at length.  Why can't an owner walk in to make that appointment? Our neighbors at the Ivy can walk into their management office and be greeted with a smile and "How may I help you?"] of the Mint Condominium which may have gone unrecognized by some relatively new owners in the building who may not be well-informed regarding the operations of the building and could thus be mislead by fabricated and inaccurate information.

If there are any owners or residents that feel that they are being harassed or that their privacy is being invaded by the correspondence from these individuals, [Another deflection. Owners and renters feel more fear in trying to enter the management office; Owners will naturally turn to fellow owners to share concerns ] please contact the management office so that we can forward your complaint to our legal department and appropriate action can be taken.  We also invite you to contact the management office with any questions that you might have [Owners have asked and have not received answers. It is the Mint administration and Board that have repeatedly failed to answer questions for the past 6 years ] or if you should desire any clarification pertaining to this communication or any other communication that you receive from a third party pertaining to the affairs of the Mint Condominium.  It is our desire that all owners and residents have true and accurate information [Then why not answer the questions in the communication that Mint owners have been asking?] upon which to base their opinions regarding the operations of the Mint. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fellow Mint Owners,
The above response by the Mint Board was anticipated. The response offers zero specific answers to questions, and only attacks owners for exercising their rights. The Mint Board of Directors has once again failed to demonstrate proper communication, and only heighten the lack of transparency. This is not a representation of our interests. They failed again to answer recurring questions. Questions that have lingered since 2014. 

It was this Mint Board that owners attempted to replace in 2014. Sadly voter fraud tainted the elections and the same members remained.  

We are continuing efforts to urge the Mint Board to postpone the elections and implement e-voting. Please contact us via email so you may help bolster our efforts for positive change.

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