Thursday, November 29, 2007

Regarding Stillwater v. Savo Island: Further proof of Board bias and an appeal for redress (Sorry, fellow blog readers, but sometimes I just gotta vent!)

Regarding my fair housing reasonable accommodation complaint against Savo Island Board members (B), (M), (H), (H2), (C) and (E) [aka the Board], I would like to point out yet another incident wherein this Board has demonstrated a consistent pattern of prejudice against me due to my status as a whistle-blower.

For approximately the last 11 years, the Board has demonstrated an obvious pattern of bias against me because of my activities as a whistle-blower. Due to this repeated pattern of prejudice and intimidation, I've learned the hard way to never bring matters of importance to me before this Board directly. At this time, I would like to offer an apology for my behavior but also to offer an explanation for why I have been forced to behave in this manner.

I cite the following incident as a small but typical example of how my behavior has been affected by the Board: At Savo Island's November 2007 Board meeting, I wanted to ask the Board if they would consider changing the December meeting date from the week before Christmas to the week after Christmas -- a reasonable request. But due to my feelings of personal intimidation by Board members in the past, I asked another Board member to make this request for me. However, that Board member did not come to the meeting and I was forced to ask for this option myself. The request was not even considered by the Board.

Had any other Board member made the request it most likely would have been acted upon immediately. For example, when (B) wanted to go to New Orleans before Thanksgiving, our November Board meeting was easily postponed unilaterally by (M), ostensibly on the grounds that there would not be a quorum available -- yet (M) apparently hadn't asked any other Board members if they would be available on the original meeting date. Apparently (M) acted unilaterally -- and was deceptive regarding his reason for such actions -- in order to accommodate (B). Yet the Board seemed not able to make a fairly similar decision to accommodate me.

This incident is just one small example of how this Board has acted consistently in a prejudiced manner against me and how their actions have consistently followed a pattern of bias against me -- even when the Board's actions are not in the co-op's best interests. And I am bringing this incident to your attention at this point in time to illustrate that, while I have sometimes acted in a manner over-stressing self-defense while dealing with this Board's actions against me, I am still routinely prejudiced against due to my whistle-blower status -- and that I am still, under law, entitled to HUD's review, reconsideration and redress regarding said actions by the Board.

In 2001, after enduring approximately five years of being consistently prejudiced against and attacked by this Board -- see attached timeline -- wherein my rent was raised illegally, I was tormented in Board meetings, I was fired from my position as Board recording secretary and threatened with eviction and even jail, I -- perhaps imprudently -- decided to ask for a loan to install a property-enhancing and disability-relieving window in my unit instead of asking for the window itself; knowing full well that I wouldn't get permission to install said window. I assumed from the Board's past behavior patterns that they wouldn't grant me this window, necessary because of my Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-related disability, solely on the grounds that it was me that was asking for it and not a member of the Board in-group. But I figured that the Board might possibly grant me a loan clearance and that would be a first step. I was wrong!

After presenting a detailed proposal and specifications for a possible window to the Board and then requesting a reasonable loan, the Board spent approximately an hour telling me why I should not get the loan and enumerating all the various personality flaws that they thought I possessed.

However, never in the course of that hour did the Board take the time and trouble to tell me that my window plan was unsatisfactory in any way, that I could not install the window or that I needed Board approval to install the window, leaving me with the impression that it was me that the Board objected to -- not the window or even the loan. So when I received an income tax refund, I had the window installed according to the specifications that I had presented to the Board.

Currently, the fate of my window is in the hands of a HUD Fair Housing investigation based on the Board's repeated denial of my documented reasonable accommodation requests. And apparently HUD itself is objecting to my window on the grounds that the Board had not approved its original installation.

HUD is basically saying that, no matter what, I shouldn't have put in the window without the Board's permission. But what I am saying is that I wish that HUD would reconsider the circumstances wherein that I made the decision to go ahead and install that window and, instead of telling me to destroy the window, look into the allegedly self-interested conduct and actions of the Board that drove me to act in this way. I am a good co-op member and would never even think of breaking co-op rules if I hadn't been driven to it -- and been given such glaring examples by this Board regarding breaking co-op rules (such as canceling elections for three years, giving lateral transfers to family members, circumventing downsizing, etc.) and their own tendency to bypass Board approval when it benefits one of them, such as the time a Board member's grown child was illegally moved into a unit without the Board's approval.

Another reason why I am appealing for redress at this time is because of another incident at the November 2007 Board meeting wherein the Board once again demonstrated their bias against me, and I would like to put this incident on record here as well.

With regard to Savo Island's re-hab project, this Board has apparently managed to stall it off for six (6) long years because apparently certain Board members didn't want their market-rate rents to go up. But now that two formerly market-rate members have made it known that they are currently on Section 8 vouchers instead, keeping rents as low as $700 below rent averages for this area seems to no longer be a matter of self-interest for them and so the log jam stopping the re-hab from happening has suddenly broken and another contractor has actually been selected.

After finally selecting a contractor, the Board's next step in getting the re-hab online again should have been to approve an Occupancy Agreement by December 6, 2007, but the Board balked at approving it because they allegedly hadn't had a chance to read the few new changes made to it over a month ago. So in order to move things along and get the re-hab back on track, I made a motion that the Board approve the agreement at the November 28 meeting with the provision that we retain the right to amend it at some future time.

My motion was not even seconded.

Within approximately five minutes of my motion having failed, (B) then proposed the exact same motion -- and it was seconded and passed. The difference between the two motions? None -- except that I had made the first one and (B) had made the second one.

Wherefore, I would like it duly noted by HUD that this Board has shown a consistent pattern of prejudice against me and that I would like the following redress:

1. That HUD experts investigate the stability of my window and, if their findings reveal that its presence is not causing structural damage, that said window be approved as a reasonable accommodation;

2. That instances of Board members taking actions without Board approval and in their own self-interest be investigated;

3. That a thorough investigation of this Board's harassment against me -- including five (5) executive sessions they have called in order to attempt to silence my whistle-blowing activities -- be instigated and that the Board be instructed in writing to cease and desist, without further retaliations;

4. And that each Board member be issued written directions from HUD that as Board members they must cease and desist from acting in their own self-interest and act in the interests of the co-op alone -- or else resign their positions.

I will be expecting to hear from HUD representatives regarding this matter no later than January 2, 2008 or I will be forced to consider legal action in order to protect both myself and the co-op.

Very truly yours,
Jane Stillwater, Savo Island Cooperative Homes, Inc. Board Member