Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's Going On Here?

There are some interesting happenings in the Ruskin Heights neighborhood, though many who live there aren’t sure exactly what’s going on. It seems that recently the board asked those attending a monthly Home Owners meeting to approve a special assessment raising home owners' dues by $4.00. While this passed, there is some doubt as to whether the number of members required in the by-laws
for this action was actually present.

When this incident was brought to my attention I decided to peruse the association’s bylaws. Accordingly, the assessed amount can be raised if “the owners of two-thirds of the lots herein specified consent in writing by an instrument to be recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds, Jackson County, Missouri, to an annual rate in excess of that herein specified.” It’s been reported that there were only about 20 members at the meeting and it is unclear whether both husband and wife votes were counted or if it was one vote per household. Either way, given that Ruskin Heights is comprised of 1875 lots, it doesn’t seem like that was a legal vote.

An article in the Jackson County Advocate said the special assessment of $4.00 would be used for legal fees to fight the vacant house problem, but that’s a city responsibility, not the homes association's.

In perusing the by-laws I noticed another interesting fact. The stated officers are the usual: president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer; however, the association does not have a secretary. The person everyone seems to assume is the secretary is actually an office manager. There’s probably a good reason for the distinction. The by-laws state that “no officer shall receive any compensation for his services”, but as office manager this restriction does not apply. The current office manager not only receives a salary but is also paid mileage for attending such events as ribbon cuttings, chamber of commerce luncheons and events, city hall meetings, including a redistricting meeting where John Sharp accused the city of splitting the Ruskin Heights neighborhood (which in fact was not the case). It seems strange to me that an office manager would be representing a homes association in this way, but then this office manager is married to the president of the association. He lives in Ruskin Village which is considered part of the association, but she lives in Ruskin Hills which is not. I guess that’s another reason she’s the office manager rather than association secretary.

The homes association used to hire a security company so they could have roving security throughout the area but that has been discontinued. While no one is exactly sure why, there are those that say it was soon after that the office manager began receiving mileage compensation. Also discontinued was the extra weekly trash pickup that was paid for out of association dues. Now Ruskin Heights is just like other areas that don’t have official associations. They have no extra security and only the city-paid trash pickup. About the only thing they get for their dues now is a weekly subscription to the Jackson County Advocate.

It’s been rumored that Bonnaye Mims, President of the Hickman Mills School Board, spends a lot of time in the association’s office. No one knows exactly what she does or whether she’s being paid, though she and the office manager, who is also on the School Board, are very good friends, so at least it’s a friendly work environment. It may be that someone was needed in the office while the office manager is out ‘representing’ the association.

It would seem that this homes association is no more than a microcosm of the larger political world. Whatever the little guy doesn’t know won’t hurt him and those in charge can bend the rules to suit whatever enterprise they wish.