[Editor’s further note: this matter concerns the termination of Alex Sanchez, the maintenance man, or at present, the former maintenance man. The transcript of the extent of the Board meeting on this matter follows. After the transcript, we publish our exclusive interview with Alex Sanchez and our concerns about what purportedly happened as well as our concerns about the edict from the Board prohibiting Mr. Sanchez access to conduct his business with individual residents, and the financial risk to which that so-called policy exposes the HOA.]
Marion: The Board met before, on July 17, 2020; the following was approved unanimously, to require FirstService Residential Management Company to remove current maintenance staff from the property as of July 27, 2020.
[Editor’s note: that was the entirety of what was stated on this matter under New Business. The transcript is complete. There was no ratification of this unanimous consent action at this point, after which Marion immediately went on to the next item on the Agenda. Where was the vote? There was none and Marion moved on with the Agenda. Later, at the Round Table Discussion, Harvey mentioned that there needed to be a ratification of this action and indeed the ratification occurred at that time. Once again, Harvey’s progression on the learning curve has surpassed most of the rest of the Board.]
[Editor’s further note: there is apparently a standing order at the entrance gate to bar Mr. Sanchez from entering the community, even to engage in separate, independent work with individual homeowners, a practice that he and many homeowners have engaged in for approximately six years. Under the Second Residents’ Input Session, there were objections made to this community ban and Marion Weil stated, as reported in that section, that it is “the policy of the Board as directed by our attorney not to discuss personnel.” Marion further stated, “you can work with anyone else.”
This demand and standing order is dangerous and stupid and may cost this community in the long run, because as of press time, Mr. Sanchez is seeking legal counsel to address issues and causes of action which include wrongful termination based on a hostile and unsafe work environment, and tortious interference with prospective business advantage for preventing him from plying his trade to his customers and clients who live within the gates of the community. We will explain this asinine demand/order and its ramifications along with our report of our exclusive interview of Mr. Sanchez, which took place on Friday, August 7, 2020, from 6:35pm to 6:58pm.
At the inception, we must point out that there are three separate occurrences concerning this matter:
(1) The first was Mr. Sanchez’ termination by FirstResidential, which was his employer. The HOA was never his employer. He was never an employee of the HOA. That matter was between those other two parties. The HOA was never a party to that contract or to that relationship, however, if the HOA intentionally and wrongfully induced that termination, it may be brought in as a party defendant to the action;
(2) The second occurrence was the broadcasting of the private firing of Mr. Sanchez to the community at large via an email blast sent by Marion Weil purportedly on behalf of the Board dated July 29, 2020; and
(3) The third occurrence was the banning of Mr. Sanchez from conducting his on-going business with his clients and customers inside the community, also transmitted to the community by the aforementioned email blast, based on a purported “policy” which, even if it did exist, is not based on any rational analysis.
For example, let’s say Lee Sinett was fired as the Sports Director. Does this mean he can never again spend Shabbat at his mother’s house on Landon Circle and he can never again walk his mother’s dog, Poochie, because his access to the community is banned? The absurdity of this so-called policy is obvious.
This alleged policy is just made up junk, but its legal ramifications are real, as will become obvious when you read through the interview. And who exactly is in charge of this community: Marion and Deborah? No, ladies, it doesn’t work that way. Perhaps we need a new property manager along with a new “policy” that protects the community’s assets, not one which clearly exposes those assets which is now the case.
Without further ado, we now report on our exclusive interview of Mr. Sanchez along with our additional comments.
Interviewee: Alex Sanchez. August 7, 2020. Interview conducted by your Editor, Vicki Roberts, with assistance from your Roving Reporter, Arthur Andelson.
Alex was asked several questions interspersed throughout the interview. The first question was whether or not he had a written employment contract. He said he was hired at the corporate office of FirstResidential and that there was no written contract.
At this juncture we would like to again emphasize that he was never an employee of the HOA. The HOA has a contract with the management company and the management company supplies their employees pursuant to the contract it has with the HOA. This is a critical distinction, because when President Marion Weil for the Board decrees that this individual cannot enter the premises to conduct lawful business with specific residents/clients/customers, she and the Board are not banning a former employee of the HOA; they are banning a former employee of the management company who, upon termination, is a free agent.
In fact, even when he was an employee of the management company, it was determined that he worked after hours for many, many residents, including present and former HOA Board members, doing odd jobs, and there was never any issue with that. Thus, the banning of a non-employee from conducting business with his customers is extremely problematic from a legal perspective.
Alex stated that he started working at the Cascade Lakes location approximately 2014 or 2015. He was asked about an incident about a year and half ago which your Editor was apprised of by a confidential informant, as it purportedly occurred prior to your Editor’s purchase of a home in Cascade Lakes. (As many of you know, this News Site has a number of very well-connected confidential informants.)
Alex stated that about a year and a half ago “they tried to fire me.” It was not in writing. He stated, “her boss said I wasn’t doing my job.” He was referring to Deborah Balka’s boss, Ron Capitena. Alex denied that and stated to your Editor, “I’m the only one, so who is doing the work?” He then stated, “Deborah doesn’t know how to speak; she’s always yelling at you. Do something, then do something else. I can only do one thing at a time. She believes in multi-tasking excessively.” This News Site has heard anecdotally similar complaints about Deborah being abrasive and abrupt.
He complained of an “unsafe working area. One time I got hurt.” We asked if he filed a Worker’s Compensation claim. He responded, “yes, I was out for a while. I broke my toe with the golf cart. I’m by myself.” Alex indeed has been seen around the community in the golf cart, his main means of transportation to do his job within the community.
He was asked if he ever did odd jobs during employment hours. He responded, “never.” He was asked if he were ever given a written warning or notice. He responded, “no. The first time, yes, probation for three months, they said I wasn’t doing my job.” He was asked what he believed was the real reason, if that were not true. He responded, “I don’t know. She has something against me.” He was referring to Deborah Balka.
He confirms he was fired. He stated about Deborah Balka, “it’s not only me; everybody there gets yelled at like a child; they all know, and even the residents know. We all cope with it. That day, she called Ron to let me go. She asked me to do something. She saw me in the clubhouse speaking to the cleaning guy. She said, ‘why are you there? You should be working.’ I needed somebody to spot me for the ladder, to change a bulb on Military in front that was out.”
He was then asked by us how high the light bulb was. He responded, “It was a light pole, about ten feet high. And the grass where the ladder would go is on a little hill, so you need someone holding the ladder.” This appears to be a valid and legitimate safety concern.
He continued, “then she said, she has another thing for me to do. So, I said, ‘what priority do you want?’ She said, ‘it doesn’t matter, in a day’s work you should be able to do all.’ It was done. And then Monday I was let go.”
We asked if there are any annual or quarterly reviews. He responded that there is a review every year in the beginning. He stated, “last year, she started writing better reviews.”
He was asked if he worked for residents of the HOA after hours. He responded, “yes, the Board encouraged it – the Board before this Board, to help people out.”
He also stated, “They got me a helper at one point; they hired on the off-season, and then complained that there was no work. I didn’t understand.”
He was brought back to the issue of working for residents on the side and asked if that were frequent. He responded, “a lot. At least half the people I know.” He was asked if he ever worked for present or former members of the Board. “I worked for Mark [Goodman], Deckinger, Madeline who moved, Olitsky, Marion, Linda.” He was asked if he ever worked for former Board member Alan Silver. “Yes.” Barry Gordon? “Yes.” Rich Ruskin? “Yes.” Elliot Graff? “Yes.” Miles Alter? “Yes, but not when he was on the Board.”
He cannot conduct his business with residents if he is barred from entering the premises because he needs access to their homes. He cannot have them drive him in with their vehicles because, in his words, “I need to bring supplies, I go to Home Depot, and then give them the receipt for the merchandise and then the labor charge. Every day after 4pm I made appointments. I would have to put it in the residents’ car” and he stated that he did not want to do that because he did not want to take the chance of damaging their cars with the tools and supplies; if he damaged his own car, then so be it. So he has no ingress to ply his trade.
He stated he would be going to a lawyer. He stated, “about 50 residents called me.” He stated that he has lost income from not being able to service his customers inside the community. The interview of Alex to ascertain the alleged facts was then concluded.
It seems very clear that a knowledgeable lawyer would focus on a few salient points which are divided into two separate categories:
Category One: An action against his former employer, FirstResidential, and potentially including the HOA as a defendant for allegedly inducing the alleged wrongful termination and allegedly permitting the alleged hostile and dangerous work environment:
1. The alleged hostile work environment: the alleged abrasive and abusive manner in which his immediate supervisor, Deborah Balka, repeatedly treated and addressed him;
2. The alleged unsafe work environment: the alleged firing of someone for seeking assistance for safety reasons;
3. The alleged wrongful termination based on the above, that in fact, the former employer created and maintained a hostile and unsafe work environment.
Category Two: An action against the HOA for tortious interference with prospective business advantage:
“Tortious interference happens when a third party to a business relationship or contract intentionally disrupts that relationship or contract…Florida recognizes two forms of relationships that can be subject to tortious interference: contractual business relationships and advantageous business relationships. Contractual business relationships are those established by a contract between the parties [oral or written] …Advantageous business relationships…can include scenarios like a sales relationship with a customer or a vendor.
The alleged tortfeasor…must have known about the relationship’s existence...The interference must be unjust and intentional…Additionally, the interference must take the form of causing the other party to the relationship to either break their promise under the contract or withdraw from the relationship altogether…” (Courtesy, the Campbell Law Group, Coral Gables, Florida).
In this case concerning Alex Sanchez, the alleged tortfeasor/interferer is the actual entity (the HOA Board) which is preventing access to the customers because it controls the ingress and egress to and from the customer’s home.
It is clear that any attorney hired by Alex would likely send a demand letter to the HOA Board to immediately provide access to Alex’s customers forthwith. We have a resident speaking at the Board meeting (Second Residents’ Input Session below) stating that she wants Alex as her maintenance man. The Board is interfering and instructing her to use someone else. We have Alex who confirmed that he wants to continue with his business relationships with individual homeowners and residents within the community. The HOA Board must mitigate this fiasco immediately so that the HOA members are protected and insulated from this financial exposure. Insurance will not cover intentional torts. Insurance will not cover legal fees to defend complaints alleging intentional torts.
The Sign-Up Genius was not an emergency subject to unanimous consent; this is. Alex’s ban from the community must be immediately rescinded.
Also, if and when an insurance company receives this type of complaint, and its underwriters see the alleged malfeasance and how the Board is acting, these are red flags for the underwriters. This may come up during renewal time or when insurance shopping.
And now a word about the secrecy of the situation. Marion essentially states that the matter is privileged because it involves “personnel.” It is true that the Florida statute permits a privileged communication between the Board and the HOA attorney for matters concerning “personnel.” The problem here is that this individual is not technically “personnel” because he was never an “employee” of the HOA. He was an employee of the management company which has a contract with the HOA. And frankly, based on past experience, we are not fully confident that the entire Board met with or spoke with the HOA attorney.]
2. PBB: Removal of two trees - $1590: Mark: another piggyback of all the others…one on Landon Circle and one on Grey Birch that are near pools. 5434 and 5305. Remove the oak trees, creating a hazard. Each one is $795. Proposal 35-20 for $1,590. Second? Harvey. Marion: are the pools [sic – trees] on the property or adjacent? Deborah: they’re on community property right behind the pools. Marion: all in favor? Unanimous.
3. Copier: Renewal: Mark Goodman: proposal came in, paper, rental of machine. A new copier machine; will cost us a lot less money. Rental from $527 and change per month for a 60 month lease, normal, it would go down 25% to $396.56. Savin machine, it does copying, faxing, etc., and the paper, the original lease, black and white we are paying one cent; 1.1% per copy going down to .009…that adds up.
[Editor’s note: We’ll tell you what doesn't add up: the way you are doing this. This is insanity on steroids. More as we read through the transcript.]
Mark: The same thing with color…We have been paying 9.7 cents a copy. It’s reduced to 6 cents a copy. I am proposing that this new lease with Savin will help us save money on the monthly lease and the copies…Marion: second? Harvey. Eileen: how long is the new lease? Mark: all the copy companies want five years. I was not happy over the years, but they’ve really improved. Marion: the company is Max Davis.
[Editor’s note: Max Davis Associates, which has a website of www.AdamsRemco.com.]
Sue: looking at the contract, service and maintenance. Marion: yes, as well as ink. Sue: where in the contract? Mark: Service and Supplies. Sue: are we limited in terms of the number and times they would come to service? Deborah: we really haven’t had problems.
[Editor’s note: that does not answer the question, and in fact, the question was never answered, so Sue, next time, insist on an answer to your important question, otherwise why bother asking it?]
Deborah: …one problem… Harvey: is it a brand-new machine? Mark: yes. It’s over $7,000 over...it’s a no-brainer. I used my brain but yes, it’s a no-brainer. Marion: all in favor of Savin 1M C3500 copier from Max Davis? Unanimous.
[Editor’s note: At $356.96 per month for 60 months – five years – that totals $23,793.36 for the five-year lease of the machine. Anyone can get a very good high-output office grade copier for a few thousand dollars. Even if one factors in maintenance, copies, ink, and toner, it would never come anywhere near $23,793.36 for the five year period, or $4,758.72 per year. Copy paper can be purchased cheap as borscht from outlets, Costco, and other places. A ream of 500 can be purchased for way less than $5.00, which is less than one cent per copy. This is not a “no-brainer” as Mark claims. This is not fiscally responsible either.]
4. Sidewalk Repairs – Polylift $3,800. Eileen: …have shaved in the past…Because of the age of the trees, we’re having a lot of lifting. This sidewalk is Cascade Lakes Blvd. on both sides and a sidewalk slab repair outside the ballroom door on the top step. Total fee of $3,800, and these were never done. They cannot be shaved. Motion to accept. Second: Linda. Harvey: it’s not replacement, it’s Polylift, you put under it. We’ve used it in the past and it works well. Eileen: I meant repair. Richard: When Deborah and I did the budget…as far as sidewalk repair we’re under budget. $29,000 budget, with this we will have spent $7,000 in 8 months. Deborah: we still have the trees. Landon Circle, the next pod to look at the sidewalks. Richard: the trees and the sidewalks were over budget by $32,000 and it’s only gonna get worse. It’s not a want, it’s a need. Marion: all in favor? Unanimous.
Second Residents’ Input Session:
1. Joyce Winston: I would appreciate if you make a motion, you would list the dollar amount. No one mentioned how much the reservation system is costing. Marion: $8.99 a month. Mark: it didn’t pass so that’s fine.
2. Art Ritt: This is Joyce Katzman: you made a decision to change the maintenance man, Alex, if he wants to work in my home, I should be able to hire whoever [sic] I want. I have found him to be bright, honest, and do work. There is an order at the gate. It’s an infringement of my rights and his rights. Marion: policy of the Board as directed by our attorney not to discuss personnel.
[Editor’s note: it is most certainly an infringement of your right to hire whom you wish and the businessman’s right to do business with his customer base. The only exception we over here in the news room could think of is if he posed a clear and present danger to the community, but there has been no evidence of that, and to the contrary, the evidence we have collected to date suggests that the motive for his termination had nothing to do with any safety issue vis-à-vis the community at large.
This so-called policy is absurd as discussed above in the GO ASK ALEX area of this synopsis and commentary. If the Sports Director, Lee Sinett, were fired, would he be banned from entering the community to visit his mother, who is a resident/owner here? We think not. Rather, we think you, the resident, and Alex, the businessman, have causes of action against the HOA. As a practical matter, you will not be running to the courthouse, but Alex’s lawyer will.]
Joyce: I have a right to have anyone to work in my house. [Editor’s note: yes, you do.]
Marion: not at this point! Personnel. [Editor’s note: lose the smugness, Marion, and also, no one is buying the poopoo you’re selling.] Joyce: these are my own personal liberties. [Editor’s note: yes, unless it has been established that the situation would present a danger or safety hazard to the community, which has not been shown in this case.] Joyce: so, from now on, the community is going to tell me who [sic - whom] I can work with in my own home. Marion: you can work with anyone else.