August 22, 2013
By Breck Porter
FRIENDSWOOD, Texas -- The owners of 20 homes in the Frenchman's Creek Townhome Community in Friendswood suffered extensive damages from Hurricane Ike in 2008. Those homeowners belong to a homeowner's association, Frenchman's Creek HOA. According to Kathy Tam, homeowner and resident, a year after Ike, the then serving Board of Directors was removed because the management company, Bay Property Management, President, Bill Hall had contracted with a roofing company, A1 Roofing without the Boards approval. At the time, Board Vice President, Kathy Tam refused to acknowledge the contract because she, nor the Board had reviewed any bids nor did the management company have rights to sign or approve any bids without Board approval and proper process of Bid submission. Is is alleged by some that Bill Hall, the President of Bay Property Management decided to roundup some residents that would side with him and removed the Board. Their platform for removal was theft, claiming that the Board had stolen funds from the community. That proved later to be untrue.
The Board was responsible for home repairs and collected what seem to be over a million dollars in insurance funds.
The residents/homeowners pay a monthly assessment fee of $495.00 in homeowner fees, approximately $117-$120 thousand dollars a year. The community has no amenities such as pool or parks, etc…
However, the Board failed to responsibly repair their homes and several of the homeowners became suspicious of where the funds were going and the monthly reports seem to have discrepancies in them. When the members started asking questions and asking for the records a turf battle broke out between the HOA Board and several members of the community.
Each individual home was to receive a certain amount of money from the insurance funds. Several of the homeowners complained they received no insurance funds nor were all repairs done to their homes. Some who did have work done, complained of shoddy work and remaining roof leaks and other discrepancies.
As the HOA continued to receive insurance money and bids from contactors for various kinds of repair work, residents continued to file claims with the HOA that were denied. The HOA saying that certain particular kind(s) of damages were not covered. As residents got together they discovered that claims for some particular damages were being covered for some homeowners but not for others. Some questioned how much money was allotted for repairs to their homes and they never received an answer from the Board.
It later came to light that the Board members were having repairs made to the interiors of their homes yet denying claims for similar repairs to other homes.
Homeowners were told $800,000.00 in insurance money was received. One person who had the opportunity to examine the claims being paid out, reported claims paid to Board members were double and often triple the amount of the claims paid to other homeowners. The residents did not even know what the Board had claimed for several of the initial claims to their homes because the Board did not communicate nor did they reveal how much was actually received for each homeowners claim.
Two Board of Directors, Dr. Hilmar Zeissig, PhD, and Bart Shutts were paid refunds from the claims because they claim all the work wasn’t done in their homes and they were due that money. Which they put in the minutes of that repayment. When this information spread through the community, other members began asking to see the records. This resulted in the Board of Directors becoming more and more hostile to those seeking the records. When asked if anyone else was to receive any money, the Board did not respond.
According to Kathy Tam, after trying to remove the Board, the Board President sent out a mailing to the residents sighting this issue regarding the refund and the records. He copied a previous email that he had sent on May 10, 2012, “ To the community, The Frenchman’s Creek HOA has bypassed the State’s Policies to allow any of the homeowners to view our files from 2008 forward. You may view our records during regular business hours of Greg Crinion by appointment only. Mr. Crinion is Frenchman’s Creek official agent for our community. His address and phone are the following: Greg Crinion, 17040 El Camino Real Suit 200, Houston TX 281-990-8300, Sincerely Bart”.
According to Shannon Weaver, in a recent request to inspect the records, they were met by a notice from the Board demanding an advance payment of $3,700.00 for those records to be made ready for them to view in the HOA office.
In an interview with The Police News, homeowners of 17 years, Roger and Shannon Weaver say they have been retaliated against for their participation in the records demand. Directors ordered large boulders lined across the end of the street blocking access to the Weaver's property. This was also where their son plays basketball, which he can no longer do. When the Weavers asked Board of Directors, Karen Heidrich. Why are you doing this and what about our son’s basketball area? Her comment was “ maybe you should stop file lawsuits and I don’t care about your kid”. The Board also placed no parking signs on the street in front of their home which is a dead-end street, painting the curbs red and marking them as fire lanes down the street where they have been parking for 17 years, and planting shrubs along the curbs in an effort to block access to property they own on the opposite side of the street from their home. And changed them a few weeks later to read that no residents could park on the streets. Friendswood Police has been called several times because of these issues that the homeowners and residents are facing.
The Board further carried out their program of intimidation by sending a letter to homeowners with regulations about parking cars in their own driveways, taking garbage cans off the street within a prescribed period after garbage pickup, no garbage cans outside of the garage, cleaning debris from under their homes and garages, yet a quick survey of the neighborhood revealed most of the Board members themselves were in violation of the tenants of the letter.
Making one homeowner take down her lattice that was there since 2007 but allowing others to keep theirs.
Now there has been a lawsuit brought against Frenchmen's Creek HOA demanding the records. A hearing on that suit is scheduled for September 17, in justice court in League City.
Meanwhile, Shannon Weaver was given a time frame of August 16-21 to bring in $2,200.00 and she would then be allowed to view the records in the office of the HOA. An additional fee of $1,500.00 is demanded if emails must be made available that pertain to the community. Which seems like an awful lot just to look at records that should already be available.
Another longtime homeowner was visibly upset when we met while taking a tour of the neighborhood.
“This is just not right, something is wrong,” said Ken Childs, who lives at Frenchmans Creek and pays $495 a month HOA dues.
That "something," homeowners say, is the Frenchmans Creek board members. And the parties are now blaming each other for not having an independent audit done, as required by state law.
Some residents accuse board members of paying their cronies for work that they didn't do and getting kickbacks from contrators hired to work on the property.
By "paying their cronies", they mean paying their friends and family with Frenchmans Creek HOA money.
The Police News will update this story following the court action on September 17.
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