Upon learning of this development, the first question that I could think to ask is why? Why would the Trustees agree to spend money to oppose a legislative bill that would specifically define "member" as being a unit owner in a common interest community (CIC)? Wasn't it the Trustees of years past (and most residents as well) who complained about all the money the Radburn Association was forced to spend in order to defend itself against a lawsuit that was brought about after the sale of Daly Field? Aren't there other and more beneficial uses for how that money could be spent?
Now maybe you're thinking to yourself, "You know what, they have every right to oppose that bill. The Radburn Association spent years in litigation and well over $1 million in legal fees to defend itself against the lawsuit, so why shouldn't the Trustees do whatever they can to protect that victory?" I would say that you have a valid position. However, I would then ask if it doesn't seem even a little suspicious that this decision was made behind the backs of all residents?
The point here is that regardless of how anyone feels about a law that would confer membership to all unit owners of a CIC, the Trustees nevertheless hid this action from the community. One would think that the outrage that ensued after the sale of Daly Field would be a poignant reminder to the Trustees of what could happen when information is purposely withheld from the community. After all, if opposing this bill is truly in the best interest for all residents, then why try to hide it? Why not proudly state that the Radburn Association is prepared to take the fight to the NJ Senate to preserve our way of closed nominations and restricted participation of volunteer governance?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but I was able to uncover some facts after speaking with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission. It was explained to me that all lobbyists are required to submit quarterly reports to this commission, which includes the names of each lobbyist firm, the clients that their firm represents, and the purpose for which they are lobbying. The Radburn Association is currently being represented by Public Strategies Impact, who's registration number is 433.
Public Strategies Impact (www.njpsi.com) was hired by the Radburn Association in September at a monthly rate of $5,000. I spoke with a representative at the firm who confirmed the monthly cost and the date of engagement. The contract is open ended which means that the expenditure for 2016 could reach $60,000. The RA has already spent $20,000 in 2015 on this professional service.
Earlier in December I had asked the officers of the Board by way of email if they could confirm whether or not a lobbyist was indeed hired. I explained that I had heard that a lobbyist was hired and that, if true, residents should be informed since we all have a right to know how our money is being spent.
The response to my inquiry, as communicated by Scott Bray, was this: "The information you requested on December 13th is outside the scope of our access to Records and Documents policy."
For the record, NJ law specifically states that "All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law." [ ] "Examples of actions that require open meetings are: the adoption of an annual budget, the certification of any elections, hiring or terminating an employee, enacting or changing a rule or entering into a contract."
To be clear, no public vote or public discussion regarding this decision ever took place.
To learn more about the Board's position or to address any other questions you may have, please contact the office.
Find more information below about your rights as homeowners in a common interest community.
State of NJ Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)