I'd like to thank the Academy.
Triumph is not too strong a word to use, regarding the outcome of the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals' investigation into that group of naughty children known as the Chestnut Hill Community Association Board of Directors.
The board will spin the "violations" (the AGs' words) alleged and the fines levied, as a slap on the wrist.
I couldn't agree more.
A slap is what this crowd deserves. Or maybe a spanking.
I have watched as the board committed fraud, paid off friends, whited-out incriminating documents, rigged elections and destroyed the ballots, and, when found out, gaveled down those who produced the proof at meetings-me- and threatened to call the police for the dangerous act of....asking embarrassing questions at public meetings. They have threatened me with police five different times. I haven't seen any yet. I'm waiting.
Their threats started when I pointed out their violations at meetings five years ago. But when I got elected to the board, along with some other reformers, we formed an oversight committee, chartered by the board for a three year term. Two lawyers and a former bank executive were on the committee. They did the hard work, and I played the trumpet and wrote about it.
When we reached our conclusions, we presented our findings to the board, but it was too late.
Some of the folks who had broken board rules, and state laws, had fled, but others had run for the board again and gained back the majority.
It was to this, new-old-dirty board, that the oversight committee presented its findings, and recommended remedies. Like give back the money used in violation of the state grant, and most importantly, have a forensic audit to find out where all the money actually went. And find out what kind of legal entity the board was. It had no idea. It raised hundreds of thousands and wasn't registered with the state, therefore avoiding official scrutiny.
The new board responded by rejecting every finding, and disbanding the oversight committee, more than a year before its term was up.
I told my associates that it was time for US to call the cops. They were more reasonable, and thought the board would be too. The found a donor to pay for the audit, as the board, with more than a million dollars in the bank, was pleading poverty. The board rejected the offer.
I said call the cops.
Pleas were made. The board was given every chance to reform, or at least find out what had happened. Nothing.
We called the cops.
We got the PA Attorney General to investigate. We gave them our report. I gave testimony. I curled their hair.
Now the report is out, and it turns out that we were right. The CHCA owes fines, and has to start keeping minutes of Trustees meetings, which it has previously avoided, and finally register their activities with the State. And they will be, from this moment forward, watched. I don't have to do it anymore, because the State will. It's all in the report.
I went to the board meeting on March 25, 2010 to finally read the AG's report which would be discussed and to have my fun.
Can anyone guess what happened?
Their spin has already begun. But more telling than the "official story' are the actions of the players themselves.
That the AGs' report would be a subject of the meeting was well known.
Imagine my surprise when less than half of the board members showed up, barely a quorum.
The long tables, for board members only, were set in their customary square configuration, an interior design metaphor used to marginalize the public at a public meeting.
But something was different this time. The table at the "head' of this arrangement, had always been filled with the officers of the board, all whispering to each other during meetings regarding how to deal with, well- me usually. Remember-direct questions?
This ten person table, was now empty. Only Walter Sullivan, President of the board, sat there.
All his friends avoided the meeting. The board has a rule you see, or more accurately, the absence of a rule, about directors attending meetings. They never have to attend meetings. Never.
The ones that came, literally, kept their distance.
It looked like The Last Supper,but with all the Apostles out at the Pool Hall, trying to divide the thirty pieces between them. Walter should be pissed at them, not me.
Those who would have been most embarrassed by the report chose to attend to other matters, including one the masterminds of so many of the offenses, Dina Hitchcock.
But I was there.
First, a presentation from a Green Initiative group, about making Chestnut Hill environmentally responsible, during which I never mentioned that the largest developer of Hill commercial real estate, Richard Snowden, derives his operating capital from the leasing of West Virginia land for the strip mining of coal. Richard, board member, not having any pet projects waiting for the rubber stamp from a board he now controls, was not present. I didn't mention him.
See, I was on my Best Behavior.
Then the four and a half page Compliance document was distributed, and time was given for it to be read. The person giving them out refused my request for one, but another board member gave me hers. I don't know her name, but I thank her.
Jeanne Hemphill, Head trustee for the Chestnut Hill Fund, in charge of over a million dollars in contributions, joined Walter. I didn't see any other Trustees. including Bill McGuckin, who once almost had a stroke over my behavior.
I guess criminals don't return to the scene of the crime. Unless they have to put a lovely pink bow on a smoking gun.
Jeanne tried her best. After all, one her specialties, listed on the website of her law firm, Ballard-Spahr, is the defense of corporations and organizations involved in government investigations.
She claimed that some of the issues raised in the investigation had come as surprises to her, and to the accountants that the board had hired, halfway through the Oversight Committees' investigation, to try and clean up a fiscal mess created by a board that felt it proper to conduct audits every OTHER year.
I can vouch for the accountants' surprise, but not Jeannes'. When the head of the Oversight committee told those accountants about some of the things we had found, they were surprised too. The board hadn't told them everything, you see.
Jeanne finished her presentation. She did not seem comfortable explaining all this in public. She had, before her explanation, recommended that the issue be discussed in executive session, excluding the public (me), and repeating the rationale for secrecy, even after President Walter repeated that the discussion should proceed in public. I had to tell her to stop, that the ruling had been made.
The president opened the floor for questions. The board was silent, except for two minor and forgettable questions.
Frankly, most of the board members present were ill equipped to ask anything. Most of the guilty ones were elsewhere. Those who were present remained silent.
After Walter asked three times if any board member had anything to add, he just had to open the floor to the public.
I was the only taker.
He warned me that I must confine myself only to issues contained in the document at hand. Remember, this is a public meeting, in a democracy, and Walter even claims to be a democrat.
I agreed, cause I live for moments like these.
SO I sez to her I sez: Jeanne, you cannot claim surprise about anything contained in this document. Everything the Attorney General alleges, everything they have discovered, was first discovered by the Oversight Committee, and told to you in this room, at these meetings over and over. You were given the chance to do something about it and clean it up yourself. You refused. You disbanded the Committee instead. You brought these sanctions, and these fines on yourself, through your denials and refusal to self enforce.
At that point a lot of things happened at once. Walters' gavel started striking at ramming speed cadence. Jeanne started re-explaining her "ignorance defense".
And Tolis Vardakis, past president of the CHCA, involved in much of the cover up, made a motion with his hand. I followed the direction of his gaze and found its subject.
It was Rob Remus, board member, real estate agent, who has in the past; told employees at the Chestnut Hill Local newspaper, owned by the CHCA, how to do their job, without the benefit of any experience in that vocation, used homophobic hate speech towards a Local employee, who was then fired as a result of the incident, threatened a lawsuit against the CHCA, that he volunteers on ,for defamation, and received a four figure settlement from the organization for not bringing the suit.
Rob is large, stupid, and a coward. But because of the first two attributes, Tolis apparently thought that he could be used as "muscle" against the latest dangerous attempt by your humble narrator to commit freedom of speech in public. Rob turned to me and told me to be quiet.
I responded by refusing , adding that if he laid on a hand on me, I would put him in the hospital. I have been waiting for these tough guys to try and be tough with me for six years. They're all talk.
The woman next to him, Countess de Peroxide-Wedgewood I believe, became the latest in the long and distinguished line of board members to brandish her cel phone at me with that tired police threat. I told her the number, and told her I would wait for them, and her explanation to them for the call, and the resulting laughter. She's new, she didn't know I'd seen this play before.
She left the room, either to make the call and be laughed at in private, or to make believe she was making the call. We'll never know.
Things calmed down. Jeanne explained some more. Walter said one of the allegations was "piddling" and he would love to fight it in court. But he also urged that the board sign the Compliance agreement and pay the fines, so I guess he doesn't really want to fight it in court.
The motion to sign and pay the fines was passed, unanimously, save for one vote. No one said anything else about the matter.
Except for me.
After everyone was ready, in the words used by the perpetrators of so many lies, crimes, misdemeanors, cover ups, to "Move On", I had one last comment to the silent, sullen, room.
"GUILTY AS CHARGED" And then I left
I saw Lady of the Plates in the lobby and I told her I would wait as long as I could for the police to arrive, but as the business in the meeting that concerned me had concluded, that time was finite.
Actually, had the police arrived, I, as the first one to see them, in the lobby, had intended to tell them that The Duchess had exposed her genitals at the meeting and that was the reason for their summoning. I waited as long as I could. I guess the Flash Mobs are a police priority.
Too bad. I had tweeted the Mobs to come to the meeting. I wanted them to see how the white people committed crimes. Nothing like learning from the Pros.
The entire AG report will be linked to as soon as I get someone to do it.
Thanks to the PA AG, and to the Oversight Committee. They did all the work-I had all the fun.
They never did call the cops on me, because they had no case and no guts. We did call the cops because we had both. And now I have an ending to my book.
I want to share this Award with my Agent, my Manager and my Lifemate. Don't buy fur , and please spay or neuter the CHCA board of Directors. Oh, I guess I took care of that last one already.
Ed(Best Actor in a Leading Role) Feldman