Friday, April 27, 2007

New Link Added

A reader sent in this link to be added to the list on the left

A little bio sent to me, taken from a Rabb post, I am told: "Rabb writes Afro-Netizen from his Mount Airy home; he has lived here a little more than three years, happily trailing his wife to Philadelphia after she got a job teaching law at Rutgers and Penn. Newspaper blood flows through the 35-year-old Yale graduate - his family publishes the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper - but his own roots are in entrepreneurism and political activism. He worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D., Ill.)."

The message begins:
Blogging While Black

By Christopher Rabb, Afro-Netizen
Posted on February 18, 2005, Printed on April 27, 2007
Alternet Story

BLOGS (N. PL.) (FROM "WEB LOGS"): online journals housed on a web site whose content ranges from accounts of the authors' personal lives to celebrity gossip to electoral politics.

In 2004, "blogging" was on the lips of millions of Americans, despite the fact most people didn't know what the term meant beyond the idea that it somehow influenced the evolving landscape of American politics.

The site address is Afro-Netizen.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

..And I am Unanimous in That...

Now everyone is getting into the Apologia Chestnut Hill Local show. This memo is being presented to the CHCA board at its next meeting. Perhaps its authors could persuade the subject of the Ad Hoc Committee's attention to pay his past-due BID assessments.
Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
TO: The Board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association
FROM: The Board of the Chestnut Hill Business Association

This morning the Board of Trustees of the Chestnut Hill Business Association unilaterally [sic] approved a motion to support the efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee and to strongly encourage both parties to sign the Memorandum of Understanding drawn up by the Ad Hoc Committee and being presented to the Board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association.

Our Board also commends the Ad Hoc Committee for its hard work on behalf of the community, and thanks both parties for their willingness to resolve the issue.

Let's move foward!

Quite a statement. Note that He Who Must Not Be Named is not once cited. Nor
are there any references to those parties representingHWMNBN. The only unilateral action spoken of in this document is a quiet resignation by the CHCA and the community to HWMNBN's terms while HWMNBN is left blameless. Go back to the drawing board and send out some BID billings. And as Mrs Slocombe might say, "...and I am unanimous in that...".

Former Local Editor Passes Away

Carole Boynton, interim editor of the Local from November, 2005, to March, 2006, died at 7:05 a.m. today (April 26) at her Bells Mill Road home in the Andorra section of Philadelphia. No additional information is available.

Update 11:52 pm: Carole Boynton died from complications due to dialysis. A viewing will be held at Koller's Funeral Home, 6835 Ridge Avenue, Roxborough, on Saturday, April 28, from 1 to 3 pm with a service afterwards.

A Crying Shame ... or Not

Today is April 26 and CHCA President Ron Recko was just informed of this epistle by Richard Snowden, addressed to the members of the Apologia Chestnut Hill Local Committee. Given the claims it contains, one wonders why this was withheld from public inspection so long. I do like the part where the author refers to himself in third person.

The letter follows. A newly edited version has been uploaded; my thanks to the commenter who provided a clean version. Never trust OCR, but ya go with what ya got. The old one was a scan. Commentary is welcome.

TO: Dick Doyle, Chairman, Dottie Sheffield, Kathy Jones, Tom Fleming, Jim Albrecht
FROM: Rich Snowden
SUBJECT: “Final” Ad Hoc Committee Report
DATE: 02/9/07

The Bowman Partners as well as certain of its employees have reviewed the above-referenced Ad Hoc Committee Report and Summary and while sympathetic to some of the Summary, we believe that the supporting Report material (pages 3-27) is often at odds and sometimes completely disconnected from the Summary in fact, tone and conclusions. Inappropriately released without the full review of Messrs. Snowden and Recko, the Committee now faces the uncomfortable choice of correction or irrelevance. Despite moments of inspiring clarity, insight and sometimes magnificent writing, Bowman is absolutely unable to accept and certainly does not embrace either the Summary or the Report in its current form as a platform upon which the partnership and the CHCA can move forward in sync to the benefit of the entire community.

In addition to identifying numerous troubling individual points in the attached marked-up copy of the Summary and Report, an overarching question – only partially answered in the Summary – is a disturbing drumbeat throughout its many pages: What is the appropriate balance of the rule of law, property rights and the level of stewardship owed to a community – particularly a hostile community – by a given property owner?. The statement in the report that “civilization demands more…than… (the rule of) law…” (Page 9) is breathtaking in its defacto dismissal of 6,000 years of civilization based upon that rule. “Trade ethics”, inexplicably cited as an apparently superior standard (page 9) is our supposed saving grace. Really? To be developed in our community by whom? The CHCA? The Local? A large majority in our community join Bowman in saying no to that notion. Bowman’s supposed “ethical” breach? Advertising its buildings according to its right under law. The Local’s breach? Lying, egregious journalistic malpractice and the public insult and disdain of a long time neighbor family in mourning. As long as the report attempts to reconcile the parties by blaming the victim, avoiding an apology and equalizing the harm between the Local and Bowman through eloquent faux counter-claims there will be absolutely no resolution of these differences. Period.

The sociological turmoil, endless enmity and rapid change in Chestnut Hill since the recent turn of the century are simply costumes and stage sets in the drama of Chestnut Hill’s grossly over-blown sense of community entitlement versus the right of property owners to use, manage and enjoy their property as they see fit under the law. Blessed with many civic-minded land owners – including Bowman – that believe in giving the community far more than the law requires, Chestnut Hill as represented in its civic institutions, repeatedly eschews the appropriately respectful response to such gestures – a simple thank you – instead repeating an endless, numbing diatribe of entitled to this and entitled to that. The Report Summary (though deeply flawed in its inflammatory use of the term ‘collective punishment’ and recommendation of expressions of regret over an outright apology) raises the slim opportunity to reconcile these opposing forces. The supporting Report quixotically dashes that opportunity by gratuitously exacerbating previous damage in its hectoring patronization not only of the Bowman Partnership but, with Bowman as its villainous example, other current or potential investors in the Chestnut Hill market.

Only in Chestnut Hill could a landlord with a 25 year record of matchless restoration projects overwhelmingly well-maintained buildings, and philanthropy totaling millions of dollars face vilification beyond that of a host of other property owners far worse not only in this neighborhood but city and region wide. Out of 40 plus buildings with only one (7908 Germantown Avenue) that could arguably be considered below a ‘C’ grade in its overall condition, no outstanding building code violations (Other than signage, I cannot remember when we had one) no fully vacant buildings – they have all been continuously occupied in one form or other – not to mention millions of dollars in rent subsidies for small businesses, for Bowman to be considered a “collective punisher” – like some sort of Serbian dictator – for legally advertising property for lease – is absurdly melodramatic. To describe such action as “dissolute and indefensible” (page 8) insensitively minimizes the truly heinous things in real life that that sort of invective assumes. Finally, in a spectacular shift of blame to the victim, the report concludes that the Blue Moon – despite a one million dollar restoration, reduction in apartment density, removal of Section VIII designation and an honest (and expensive) effort to find a commercial tenant – is the genesis of this dispute. In effect: if only Bowman had not closed the building prior to restoration, the Local would never have lied, breeched its journalistic ethics or – if the Report is to be believed – acted with a level of stupidity so complete that one wonders how the paper ever mustered the construction of a literate English sentence during the past six years.

In short, our view sees a community organization and its newspaper that – whether by malice or such stupidity on a truly grand scale – has systematically deceived, vilified and silenced not only the neighborhood’s largest commercial landlord but one of its largest benefactors. Splitting the difference between malice and gross incompetence hides the harm that occurred. Did anyone at the Local ever stop and say wait, these might be good people – look at their record of accomplishment and how this community benefited? No. Did anyone at the CHCA and the Local ever reach out to Bowman, Snowden or the Snowden family? No. Did Peter Mazzaccaro ever reach out? No. In fact he lied yet again in his September 28, 2006 editorial in which he states “…in the last two weeks the Local has tried to engage Richard…I offered him column space to air his grievances. I promised not to edit a word and to even allow one of representatives to view a final proof before we sent it to our printer. He has refused that as well…” Other than requests for comment on specific stories by a Local staffer, none of those statements are true. Apparently, the young Ben Bradlee is too important to call Rich Snowden on the phone or get on his shank’s mare and walk the two blocks to the Bowman office. Some journalist. In fact, until seeing Peter at Cathedral Village ten days ago, no one at Bowman had contact with him since the 2001 articles. Our phone and e-mail records confirm this. This is transparency, Local style.

A community organization and its newspaper – holding themselves out as representatives of a community of 10,000 people must embrace a much higher standard than a private individual or business. These organizations had an affirmative obligation to reach out to Bowman as friend and neighbor and in this they failed and – we believe – failed maliciously. In fact, both the CHCA and Local repeatedly rejected our entreaties in manners ranging from bemused patronization to outright censorship. We should not need – nor will we engage – a public relations firm to speak to our neighbors. Did any of these critics ever consider just walking into our office or picking up the phone? That seems a very, very small standard for people who collect tax-deductible contributions to promote good will in a neighborhood. Some neighbors.

To have shattered the Bowman relationship places Chestnut Hill and its bloated, corrupt and self-righteous institutions in the pantheon of municipal mismanagement. Someday, at the International Downtown Association annual meeting, slack-jawed town managers and neighborhood executive directors will marvel at the Chestnut Hill case history as the story of a community that gave up so much for want of the graciousness of apology. But, of course, they’ll learn that this was the same ship of fools that couldn’t wait to sell a historic building to a big box power center developer for $300,000 less than the next competing bid from a buyer who counted dozens of historic restorations in its portfolio.

Bowman’s decision to invest or disinvest is an economic one directly related to the community’s behavior and the investment climate that behavior helps to create. Should we be surprised or only amused that The Hill as proverbial patricidal orphan cries “collective punishment” at the first whiff of disinvestment by a benefactor tiring of funding its own abuse? The Valhalla of community cooperation envisioned in the committee’s report epilogue is only possible born of analysis that fairly squares the harms that have occurred. The path begins with an honest rewriting of the Ad Hoc Committee’s Summary and Report as the attached comments suggest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You are the paper you read ...

This list was recently updated by a reader and sent to us.

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country ... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped, minority, feminist, atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. The Chestnut Hill Local is read by the people who think Chestnut Hill IS the
country that they can run like it's a High School.

13. None of these are read by the guy who is running the country into the ground.

Don't Break The Elastic

This e-mail came this morning and it seemed appropriate to post it.

In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older. And, there on television, she said it was "exciting." Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first. The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words. Maya Angelou said this:

"I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow."

"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."

"I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life."

"I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."

"I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance."

"I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back."

"I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision."

"I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one."

"I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back."

"I've learned that I still have a lot to learn."

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Prozac nation

First they came for the Muslims.
I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the mentally ill.
Then I started to take things personally.

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy: Prozac nation

Monday, April 23, 2007

Will Somebody Get a Stake?

Like all bad ideas, the Apologia Chestnut Hill Local won't die. We thought it was over but the damn thing keeps crawling out of the grave, leaving a stench that somehow manages to creep up Germantown Avenue. Martha Haley offers this take on events surrounding the committee and its efforts.

Last week the Chestnut Hill Local published a letter to the Editor so patently dishonest that to ignore it would be worse than negligent.

"Ad Hoc thanks" was signed by three Chestnut Hill residents - once part of *The Ad Hoc Committee* that had been assembled to "address concerns rumored to be bothering Richard Snowden."

In early November they were six, and then five local people who appeared to be equally divided between the parties with a potential tie-breaker in the CHCA Executive Committee member with family ties to the Snowdens.

At least a dozen meetings, each lasting from three to four hours, were held before the public release of the FINAL REPORT OF THE AD HOC COMMITTEE. The twenty-seven page document, dated January 25, 2007, was signed by all five participating members.

The Local's editor responded immediately to the recommendations, calling the committee's report "fair," and accepted as "excellent" the suggestions for policy and practice changes at the Local. (2/1/2007 Editorial).

A committee member who had a four-hour one-way commute to these meetings understood FINAL REPORT to mean *final* and returned to her own demanding schedule and busy life.

A second member resigned shortly thereafter when the goal posts started to bob and weave and the prose got purple punctuated by slamming doors.

And then there were three - and even the appearance of balance became a joke.

It's not over until Snowden says "it's over." There were more meetings and call-backs and memos "of understanding." In a shocking memorandum from Snowden to his "committee" dated February 9, 2007, he leaves no room for doubt or confusion about his *VISION* for Chestnut Hill: "To have shattered the Bowman relationship places Chestnut Hill and its bloated, corrupt and self-righteous institutions in the pantheon of municipal mismanagement. Bowman's decision to invest or disinvest is an economic one directly related to the community's behavior and the investment climate that behavior helps to create."

Here is his current but incomplete Enemies List accumulated since 2001: seven CHCA Boards of Directors, six different editors of the Local, the business association and Business Improvement District, some factions of the Historical society, the Parking Foundation, and writers of letters to the Editor(s). (Please, sir, could we ALL see the Whine List?)

The first "FINAL REPORT" may not have granted all Snowden's wish list, but the "most current FINAL" has upped the ante to impose behavior modification and public atonement ex post facto - his tribulations beginning in the summer of 2001 and fast-forwarded to more than six weeks after the FINAL REPORT The transgressors will apologize in language selected by Snowden who will also determine exactly where they will be prominently displayed in the newspaper. No worries about the quality of the writing or an acceptable level of remorse expressed. Snowden has been practicing ghost-writing reparation statements on your behalf for years.

For balance then, the community gets this from the April 11, 2007, Draft III MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING:

"Mr. Snowden agrees to publish an Op-Ed article for the Chestnut Hill Local in which he states that it is regrettable that the actions of the past six months were necessary."

That the Doyle/Fleming/Sheffield Group mistook weariness and fear for "continuing support" and "confirmation of good standing" at the Executive Committee meeting on April 12 is stunning. The Peace-at-any-price Executives of the CHCA, the trash-talk represented by the Bard of SoHa/part-time Aesthetician's "I just want it to go the *f#%k* away," those whose self-interests prompt them to bleat that settlement is moments away, and the never-ending supply of unformed and uninformed opinions without a shred of fact-checking can share the blame and shoulder the responsibility for this obscenity.

Q. How many cheeks must every man, woman, and child turn to make this all just go away?
A. It doesn't matter. It will never be enough.

What kind of place is this? How did EVERYTHING get to be about the narcissism of one man? How did a section of Philadelphia prostitute its present and surrender its future to the whims of a man whose life and neediness, resentments and grievances don't matter a damn east of Stenton Avenue and south of Cresheim Valley?

Martha Haley

Pending, pending, pending..

Two posts are pending, awaiting confirmation of a few details about items.

In other news, the Patriots Day get-together was a success with kudos accorded the guest of honor and several Philadelphia City Council candidates making appearances. There are photos, if I can get them of the cell phone.

The newest incarnation of the Committee That Refuses to Die is doing what it thinks it needs to do. Ah, to be rich and have all the time to idle away. Another plate of lotus, please.

Be back later.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Answer is ...

Not Ron Recko. If you don't know the question, you're better off for it.

This post is for all the people trying to read tea leaves and divine answers. Now return to your activities. Nothing to see here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cha-ching. The Sound of Money in Motion

On this week's edition of "Leaving Chestnut Hill," we see that Chico's appears to be the next business shuttering its presence on the Hill. What with the "Available" sign prominently displayed on the second floor of the Germantown and Evergreen building housing this women's apparel store, it doesn't take a wizrd to figure the magic's gone.

At least the landlord is someone who wants to fill the slot.

Update: with Chico's going, "Life Is Good" (sic) clearly having cleared out, and all those snow-man vacancies, it shouldn't be out of the question, doncha think. [A humorous reference to Hooters coming to Chestnut Hill. Not reality-based.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

And Then There Are These CHCA Amendments

The CHCA Board has offered 13 amendments to the association membership for approval or rejection in the spring 2007 election. They are posted here as a public service. We'd like to see you vote Approve on 1, 2 and 11.

1. The following sentence shall be inserted into Article I, C, 3a of the CHCA Bylaws, immediately following the statement that publication of the Chestnut Hill Local is an integral function of the Association:
"The Local acts as a forum for community discourse as set forth in the Lentz Policy, which reads, in part: 'It is the policy of the Local to publish all responsible points of view on the various issues presented in The Forum.'"

2. Article I, C, 3c: Editorial Independence
"Any form of prior censorship expressed or implied is prohibited. Any person may suggest to the Editor subjects to be covered but the Editor has sole authority to decide what is ultimately published."

3. Article I, C, 4: Community Fund
"The Trustees of the Fund shall issue two reports per year to the Association regarding the status and activities of the Fund. The reports shall be presented in person by the President of the Fund, or his or her designee, at the Annual and October meetings of the Board."

4. Article IV, A, 4a: Cause for Removal (Director)
“The Board, with cause, may remove any Director by a two-thirds vote of the entire Board at any Special or Regular Meeting of the Board. The Board in so doing must comply with the due process provisions of Robert’s Rules of Order, Chapter XX, 'Disciplinary Procedures.'”

5. Article IV, C, 1: Regular Meetings of the Board
"The Board conducts regular meetings every month on a date and at a time and place determined by the Board."

6. Article IV, C, 3: Notice of Meetings of the Board
"The President or designee must give written notice of the date, time, location, and agenda of all meetings of the Board. The agenda shall provide such information as is necessary to understand the agenda item to be discussed, as reasonably determined by the President or designee. Where possible, notice shall be given at least seven days prior to the meeting. Notice may be given by e-mail or regular mail. In addition, posting of meetings shall be printed in the issue of the Chestnut Hill Local the week prior to the meeting, as well as the week of the meeting."

7. Article IV, C, 5a: Public Meetings of the Board
"Except when the Board meets in executive session, all meetings of the Board are open to the public. The Board may not resolve into executive session until it has first voted in open session to do so. The Board may so thus resolve into executive session on matters related to employee conduct, personnel policy or salary, and on other matters of an unusually sensitive nature. If the presiding officer has anticipated the need for executive session when the Notice of the Meeting was issued and published, then that Notice shall include that on the agenda with as much specificity as possible without compromising the sensitivity of the matter."

8. Article V, A, 2: Eligibility of Officers
"All officers of the Association, except the Treasurer, must be members of the Board and must have one year of Board service prior to the election. The Treasurer must be a member of the Association."

9. Article V, A, 7: Cause for Removal (Officer)
"The Board, with cause, may remove any Officer, as an Officer, by a two-thirds vote of the entire Board at any Special or Regular Meeting of the Board. The Board in so doing must comply with the due process provisions of Robert’s Rules of Order, Chapter XX, 'Disciplinary Procedures.'”

10. Article VI, B, 3b: Membership of the Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee
"The committee consists of up to 12 members."

11. Article VI, B, 5: The Publisher's Committee
Strike Article VI, B, 5: the Publisher's Committee in its entirety as a Standing Committee; i.e., disband the Publisher's Committee.

12. Article VI, B, 7a: Budget and Finance Committee, Purpose and Duties
"The Budget and Finance Committee recommends, reviews, and on an ongoing basis monitors the budgets of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, the Chestnut Hill Local, and the Chestnut Hill Community Fund. Disbursements from the Fund shall fall within the purposes set forth in Article I C 4 of these Bylaws and in the Fund Declaration of Trust and before disbursed shall be approved by the Trustees of the Fund as properly falling within those purposes. The Committee meets monthly to monitor the budgetary operations of all three entities and the financial health of the Association and Local, and reports monthly on those matters to the Board."

13. Article VI, B, 8g: Meetings of the Bylaws Committee (this is a new addition to the bylaws)
"The Bylaws Committee must meet a minimum of three times during the year, the ‘year’ beginning at the Annual Organizational Meeting and finishing two weeks prior to the next Annual Organizational Meeting."

To view the current CHCA Bylaws, go to CHCA. Click on "About CHCA" and then click on "Bylaws."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

People the CHCA Needs Elected

The annual election of the Chestnut Hill Community Association board of directors features 12 three-year directorships up this year.

If you are a member of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, please consider the following 12 candidates as people who have earned support. None of these people are aware that this is being posted nor were they consulted on the choices.

Jonathan Sternberg
Edward Feldman
Mark R. Sellers
Brad Bank
Jane M. Piotrowski
Joseph A. Pizzano
Elaine M. Aiello
Pam Rosser Thistle
Mitchell W. Melton
Paul B. Bolno
Jan LeSuer
George L. Spaeth

The voting runs through May 2 with ballots being printed in the Chestnut Hill Local starting with the April 12 issue.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Shelf Life Has Been Reached

We are now past the point of relevance with L'affaire Local, the Apologia Chestnut Hill Local or whatever else obsessed people may call it. The committee(s) has/have spoken and it's a wash.

Nothing has happened. Nothing will happen. Nothing should happen. It was an excercise in political masturbation that satisfied no one. Thus, all sides have been given a like result.

This product has passed its shelf life. Time to move on to productive enterprises.

Friday, April 06, 2007

CHCA Election, v 1.1

How did we miss this last fall?

Better yet, why isn't this listing included as one of his demands in the confidential addendum? There's room on the CHCA ballot for it.

Richard Snowden for King.

And on a related note, is the item referred to the same poster that gave the fair-haired one the vapors? That caused someone to be charged with a terroristic threat?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Patriot's Day Fete, Another Angle

Another Patriot's Day poster is making the rounds in Chestnut Hill. This event is not confidential.

April 20. 7 PM. Venetian Club. 8030 Germantown Ave. $15 per person. Food. Cash bar.

Vote Early, Vote Often

It's election time again for the Chestnut Hill Community Association and 24 candidates are vying for 12 open at-large director positions on the Chestnut Hill Community Association board in April's election.

On the way to the ballot box, let's play a little game. Remember last year's election? It was the culmination of an ugly six-month period. In the interest of hindsight, who among this year's hopefuls was on the ballot last year and with what party (if any) were they affiliated? The winner gets a free subscription to the Chestnut Hill Notebook.

Endorsements (for what they're worth) will be forthcoming.

Corrected version: The now 22 candidates as they will appear on the ballot:
Doug Knauer
Jonathan Sternberg
Edward Feldman
Edward Berg
Mark R. Sellers
J. Patrick Moran
Robert Rossman
Brad Bank
Jane M. Piotrowski
Joseph A. Pizzano
Elaine M. Aiello
Pam Rosser Thistle
Mark Keintz
Anne McNally
Kristina Sullivan
Mitchell W. Melton
Marianne Dwyer
Nancy H. Hutter
Paul B. Bolno
Jan LeSuer
A. Tolis Vardakis
George L. Spaeth

This Week in Snowdenville, Part 2

Secret sessions and hidden agendas don't like the light of day. Witness this response to the "confidential" proposed agreement affecting the Local, CHCA, Gleason, Lau, Snowden and others.

Where did you get that confidential draft which you inserted into the Blog?? It was really very confidential..
Did you insert that confidential draft into the Blog on your own or were you directed to do so by anyone..??

I would inform you that the committee is working feverishly to resolve this issue and is putting in long hours of work to resolve this issue. Going on the Blog (i.e. with confidential material) is really counterproductive to the entire effort by th Committee to resolve this issue. The CHCA is not working to defeat itself in its efforts to resolve the issue which is getting closer and closer to resolution. We do not wish that anyone in our organization to 'sabotage' the committees efforts to resolve this issue.

What the hell is it with this "sabotage" bullshit. Hello?!? Haven't you people been paying attention? Official secrecy is out. Open and transparent government is in.

What is it about open government that you people don't understand?

As an aside: The aforementioned committee "has been dissolved and no longer exists," CHCA president Ron Recko said. And Joe Pie is all hot and bothered again, calling for me to be fired (we went through this last year, didn't we, Joe). Joe, you didn't learn a thing about the press in your little escapade last year.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

That His Sacrifice Not Be in Vain

Always Remember
Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This Week In Snowdenville

Just a little note on what's circulating regarding the Apologia Chestnut Hill Local. The following was seen in several places in Hillville Tuesday. How we got a copy is a mystery.

There ain't no way in Hell this thing gets anywhere except the bottom of a bird cage. Does the lad really think people would agree to this?


The Ad Hoc Committee, having issued a Final Report dated January 25, 2007, has continued its endeavor to resolve conflicts between Richard Snowden and the Chestnut Hill Local and the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA). Committee members have sought, in discussions with senior management representatives of Bowman Properties, the Local, and the CHCA, to have responsible individuals implement the recommendations contained in the summary of the Report. These recommendations include policy and process changes at the CHCA and the Local. In addition, Committee members have urged all parties to review the actions of the institutions and individuals over the past several years through to the present time and offer expressions of regret and, where appropriate, apologies for past failures and offenses they have caused each other and the community at large. Recent Committee discussions with Mr. Snowden, Managing Partner of Bowman Properties, and Mr. Recko, President of the CHCA, have been successful in advancing mutual understanding and acceptance of matters in dispute. Important steps have been taken by both parties to the dispute to advance resolution of issues in conflict. The Committee is pleased to advise that an omnibus resolution has been achieved.

The parties agreed to undertake the following actions to implement such resolutions:
1. The Chestnut Hill Local (Local) shall publish an apology to Bowman Properties and the Snowden family for numerous offending actions for the past six years, up to and including the March 14,2007 edition. The apology shall specifically cite certain actions as provided in the Attachment A hereto. The apology shall appear on page one of the Local and be printed above the fold.

2. The Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA), owner of the Local, shall publish an apology to Bowman Properties and the Snowden family for failing to exercise reasonable oversight of the Local management for the past six years. Reasonable oversight by the CHCA could have prevented ongoing manipulations of community news during the six-year period and thus would have prevented damage to Bowman Properties, the Snowden family, and the community at large.

3. The Ad Hoc Committee, upon review of the comments of Ron Recko, Richard Snowden, and Peter Mazzaccaro regarding the final Report, have determined that a portion of such Report may be viewed as unintentionally deleterious to Bowman Properties and Mr. Snowden. While all parties are in agreement with the Report summary and recommendations, Mr. Snowden asserts that the Chronology of Events section, in tone and certain characterization, belittle and obfuscate wrongful conduct by the Local and the CHCA. The majority of the Ad Hoc Committee believes this assertion has merit and accordingly has agreed to provide an addendum to the Report. The Committee failed to stress the damaging effect of the climate of negativity with which Bowman Properties and the Snowden family have endured during the period under review. Further, the Committee failed to cite numerous negative omissions that may be viewed as deleterious to the public image of Bowman Properties and the Snowden family.

4. Bowman Properties and the Snowden family agree to withdraw all legal actions against Mr. Gleason and Mr. Lau provided that Mr. Gleason and Mr. Lau provide full restitution of all direct damages sustained and reimbursement of all expenses incurred by Bowman Properties in connection with vandalization of Bowman property. The monies paid for restitution will be donated to a Chestnut Hill Community charity by Bowman Properties. It is further provided that Mr. Gleason and Mr. Lau each provide Bowman Properties and the Snowden family a written apology for their behavior. The apologies shall also appear on the front page of the Local. The parties hereto agree to enter into a full Settlement agreement within five days of the date of the signature of this agreement. The committee recommends that the Settlement Agreement shall be drafted by counsel (Mr. Roberts, Wolf, Block) duly appointed by the parties hereto and shall consist of mutual release of any and all liabilities either party may have against one another and the organizations whom they represent.


Ron Recko President, CHCA

Richard Snowden
Managing Partner, Bowman Properties

Monday, April 02, 2007

Appendix to the Oversight Report

An appendix documenting the events of the past few years has been circulating in Chestnut Hill. It is part of the Oversight investigation. The following is a copy of that report.




2003 THROUGH 2006

While the Committee has carefully prepared an overview, financial findings, and exhibits, there remains another aspect to addressed. Since the entire organization is based on frequent accurate communication among members, committees, Trustees and officers, some review of how that aspect deteriorated accompanies this report. The community-owned newspaper with weekly editions has long been the backbone of that interaction, presuming it provided the factual details of events, Board meetings, committee activity and the like. The clear separation of news stories and an open editorial policy was its hallmark.

The blurring of those lines began to manifest itself and many saw clear First Amendment issues. The resignation of several editors and key employees underscored these radical policy changes.

Finally, there was the January 12, 2006 issue [of the Local] that actually printed a headlined above-the-fold editorial masquerading as a news story. The headline was arresting --"For the record...the truth." Drafts submitted to the Local in the days before printing attributed authorship variously to Maxine Dornemann (CHCA President), "From the Executive Committee of the CHCA, and finally in the form which went to press, "From the President and Vice President of CHCA Operations."

1. The CHCF “Deficit”
"Statements made about the Chestnut Hill Community Association are alarmist fabrications. For the first time this year, 100% of the money raised during the Fund Drive was allocated to grant recipients – and only the money in hand was allocated."

FACT: " It was also proposed, seconded, and approved that an equity line of credit in the amount of 50K on the property 8431 Germantown Avenue be generated to pay off our grantees from FY 2002/2005."
(Source CHCA Board minutes, March 23, 2005)

2. The CHCA leadership has never budgeted any money toward a building purchase – the building purchase is in the earliest stages of Board discussion.

FACT: Hiram Lodge Acquisition Committee was formed, and $15,000 was authorized for “earnest money” and an appraisal and inspection. Maxine gave tour of building.
(Source July 22, 2004 CHCA Board minutes)
Sanjiv Jain gave a report about the proposal (sic) purchase of the Hiram Lodge Building. He has met with the bank and "a mortgage is no problem."
Source October 7, 2004 CHCA Executive Committee meeting)
Chair (Sanjiv Jain) announced that “an offer will soon be made to Hiram Lodge."
(Source November 11, 2004 Executive Committee minutes)
"An offer was presented to Hiram Lodge."
(Source November 18, 2004 CHCA Board meeting)
Fee of $3,500 to $5,000 approved for Urban Partners to estimate the financial viability of owning the building.
(Source August 11, 2005 Executive Committee meeting)

3. There is another rumor frequently sited (sic) that the association somehow “lost” a $10,000 grant in the past year . This is another falsehood. The money was never lost, but files badly kept for the past two years meant that the documentation on the grant had to be reapplied for, so that the money can be spent as specifically granted.

FACT: There was no such accusation made that the $10,000 had been "lost". The concerns raised month after month related to the contractual obligations under the terms of the DCED. Based on the information provided to the State DCED on the Grant Closeout Report, no part - not a penny - of the grant was spent on the agreed-upon items. Since the CHCFund budgets a yearly amount (headed Repair & Maintenance - 2004/05 $9,000 and 2005/06 $10,500), it was interesting to find that the work performed was "repair & maintenance" (repairing leaks, electrical outlets, patching and priming for paint jobs) and paid out of the $10,000 grant amount.
(Source - invoices attached to the DCED Grant Closeout Report - office copy)

A more recent claim made by Maxine Dornemann, CHCA President at that time, that she has documentation which supercedes the agreement of October 14, 2004 has not been produced as of today, March 22, 2007.

4. The Editor of the Local was NOT fired.

FACT: The editor of the Local was blasted and blamed in public by two members of the Executive Committee at a contentious meeting at the Water Tower Recreation Center, but the anger and outrage were directed at Tia Burke and Bob Previdi of the“Water Tower Committee” whose ill-prepared presentation raised the ire of the many neighbors who use the facility.
(Source July 28, 2005 issue Chestnut Hill Local and other Board members at meeting.)

FACT: Allison Grove of D/P Communications Group made a presentation to the Executive Committee for a public relations project to “Change the Perception of CHCA.” Their *challenges* to "re-branding Chestnut Hill"? According to their professionally produced brochure, An internal and external perception of a fragmented group at war with itself, A less than positive relationship with the local newspaper, and a perception that CHCA is "steamrolling" or taking over valued neighborhood programs (see Water Tower above). Ms. Grove, in this atmosphere felt emboldened to state, "That's another lie by the Local!"
The editor covered that meeting for the paper.
(Source D&P Communications Group brochure, page 14, first person accounts.)

FACT: A meeting of the Publisher’s Committee was called by Chairman George Parry for August 16, 2005. In Parry’s email of August 12, the following comments appear: “Maxine seemed quite peeved about that description and told me that numerous CHCA members wanted Jim fired. If you know of anyone who feels that the Local is misstating the facts or has adopted an offensive editorial posture, please invite them to present their views at the meeting. Maxine said that Bob Previdi might attend and address the issue. I also heard from Maxine that Leigh Filippini and Tia Burke also disagreed with the path the Local is taking. By copy of this email, I am inviting them to the meeting.” (In addition to the members of the committee, the above named Board members plus Stewart Graham were in receipt of this email.) Only Maxine Dornemann attended for the detractors.
(Source: Email from George Parry dated August 12, 2005)

FACT: The word "fired" appears again that week. "He (the editor) gets to write his editorials, and they (CHCA Board) get to fire him."
(Source: Email from George Parry dated August 18, 2005)

5. On October 18, three fellow staff members at the Local/Association suggested to the editor that he revise or not run a planned editorial in that week’s paper.

On October 6, at a staff meeting which the editor was not able to attend, one of his “three fellows” had been promoted to “Managing Editor” effective October 10, 2005. The on-line version of the Local reflected this change and the Organizational Chart showed the new position, "Managing Editor," listed above all other Local staff by October 12, 2005. Internal documents stated that the Managing Editor then had oversight of all departments and final say on the editorial content of the Local.
(Source: Memo to All Employees dated 10/6/2005 from Kari Ghezarian, Chestnut Hill Organizational Chart and job descriptions dated 10/20/05)

FACT: October 18, 2005 Seven working days into the “restructuring,” the Editor was either asked, urged, or ordered to suppress the editorial. His letter of resignation the following day, October 19, says: “I have come to understand the extent to which the CHCA leadership has ceased to place much stock in the continued editorial independence of its newspaper, especially
as regards comment and coverage of itself."
Source: Letter of Editor's resignation dated October 18, 2005

6. *SABOTAGE* The authors state the following: "Although the Associate Editor was given full support and editorial control for the transition period following the editor's resignation, he nevertheless also resigned on Oct. 28."

FACT: The *full support* came with some strings attached -- the associate editor would not write about the CHCA or the newspaper crisis in the editorial box."
Source: Email from Associate Editor to some Board members 10/27/2005

*SABOTAGE* Part II A Board member was charged with "abandoning fiduciary responsibility for convincing a young man to quit a job and forgo a paycheck he needs to make a political point for someone else is heartless on its face."

They got the wrong suspect - for the record. It was I who counseled him to quit - calmly. While the proof of that is personal mail which is not suitable for distribution for prurient or other interests, the email is in my file and is dated late at night on October 27, 1005.

The dust would take a long time to settle. Attention was drawn away from the truth with multiple distractions. Much was made in public and in print about the "purloined organizational chart," false irrational accusations came from George Parry and Joe Pie of the Publishers Committee as well as the loyalist CHCA staff, "barred from the building lists" were compiled and Local staffers were promised a swift dismissal for consorting with those who would "take control of the paper." Letters to the editor (sic) filled the pages of the Local with uninformed and frequently actionable statements about the former editor and other Local staff as well as Board members. An apology on 11/24 notwithstanding, Pamela Waters' astounding "Open Letter to the Community" was aching for a libel suit had the injured parties at that time had the time and energy to pursue such a path. Her role in editing the bookend piece by Vijay Kothare boggled the imagination of civilized readers.

(Source: George Parry memo 11/7/05, "the truth" 1/12/06, "Open Letter to Sanjiv" and "Open Letter to the Community of Chestnut Hill"

For the record.... the Editor and his young family moved from Chestnut Hill as soon as it was practically possible. The young Associate Editor landed on his feet and is employed at the Las Vegas Sun - covering news of the national election as well as more local political stories. He sent us some photos of himself interviewing Former President Jimmy Carter and Senator Joseph Biden.

Martha Haley
Oversight Committee

In Which the Years of CHCA Mismanagement Are Explored

The following is the Oversight Committee Report prepared for the Chestnut Hill Community Association. It provides a look at what has transpired with CHCA over the past few years (read this site for a one-year history) Below is the infamous front page of the Local when the president of the CHCA attempted to justify the behavior that caused so much turmoil. The report which follows dispels any claims to legitimacy to which the former regime clings.

Report of the Oversight Committee
Financial and
Administrative Management
Chestnut Hill
Community Association
Chestnut Hill Community fund
2003 – 2006

The Oversight Committee of the Chestnut Hill Community Association has spent the last few months studying and reviewing the operations of the CHCA and the CHCF over the recent past. While this review was taking place major changes in the structure and management of the Fund caused controversy as the Trustees acted aggressively to redirect the effects of the policies over the same period we reviewed. The significant asset erosion was offset by a substantially higher than anticipated market value purchase of one of the Fund’s real estate assets. In essence, years of negligence in management were offset by market appreciation that no one could have predicted when the investment was made. While this transaction masked years of continuing losses and asset dilution, it should not go unreported.

The CHCA management situation took a new direction as a result of the 2006 Board elections. The changes here are ongoing and challenging. Hopefully the public release of the results of our review will aid in keeping those reforms and the return to due diligence a priority for those who have the responsibility of management. With new Trustees in place, and the possibility of simply using Fund assets at will eliminated, the CHCA has had to face some serious belt tightening and reprioritizing. At this moment we still do not know just how serious the financial losses accumulated in fiscal 2005 that ran through 3/31/06 will amount to. What we do know is that $93,000 in new debt, much of it unauthorized, was created in one month of that calendar year, and that payable balances of major proportions were run up and hidden from public view. Independent certified audits of at least the last fiscal year and annual audits going forward should replace the current system of audits only every second year.

The Oversight Committee has made every effort to verify the points it raises from reliable sources and document them accordingly. Exhibits are attached to the report where appropriate. Sources include Board and Executive Committee minutes, newspaper articles, internal CHCA and CHCF records, documents from vendors, state and government agencies, financial statements and tax returns, loan documents and letters and correspondence from entities doing direct business with the Community Association and the Fund. In addition some information from interviews with key individuals are part of this report.

The members of the Oversight Committee were chosen for their diversity and, in most cases, arms length distance from those who made decisions and set policy within the Board, the Association and the Fund during the period reviewed; essentially 2003 through 2005. Those participating members with some background information were:
James H. Foster: Newly elected Board Member at Large (2006)
Mt. Airy resident; no previous CHCA or CHCF association

Ed Feldman: Previous Board Member – resigned before period covered
Chestnut Hill resident; Elected Board Member 2006

Martha Haley: Board Member for 5 months - Budget & Finance Committee
member 8 months – Non Board Member
Chestnut Hill Resident since 1998

Nancy Hutter: Newly elected Board Member at Large
Attorney; Member CHCA for 35 years
Chestnut Hill resident since 2002

Carl Shaifer: No Board Experience
Member Chestnut Hill Rotary Club
Chestnut Hill resident since 1991

Meredith Sonderskov: Born and raised Chestnut Hill – left after college – Returned
1996 – Institutional Member CHCA Board 2006-07
Board President, Senior Center; NIM Board Member

The nearly fifty year old Chestnut Hill Community Association and its affiliated 501c3 Endowment Fund established in 1972 are well structured formalized entities designed to both serve the community and fund activities that provide a quality of life aspect to deserving area charitable institutions.

The approximate 2600 paid membership and community at large depend on the CHCA Board and the Fund Trustees to provide leadership and control over these organizations and the By-Laws and Trust Declaration clearly define the obligations and responsibility demanded of those who hold those elected and appointed offices. There is little ambiguity and significant direction as to procedure in those documents.
Clearly the intent of those who founded these organizations and drafted those documents was to perpetuate open channels for participation and communication for all interested parties, maintain the fiscal stability of the Fund assets and spend its earnings annually in a responsible manner while protecting the principal. Both of these fundamental aspects of sound administrative and fiduciary management have been regularly disregarded in recent years in a manner that reflects negatively on the part of the Officers, Board Members and Trustees alike. Many decisions were clearly inconsistent with sound judgment and in violation of the By-Laws and Declaration documents.

The Oversight Committee has provided recommendations on several occasions since July 2006 regarding the institution of fundamental and routine safeguards that any corporation of its size and level of activity should have followed. Previously cited negligent practices include uncontrolled disbursements, little financial oversight, both internally and from the Board, improperly authorized federal filings, and altered documents to name a few. In addition, fabricated loan documents, improperly maintained financial records that distorted reports, and a reckless pattern of activity regarding borrowing against Fund assets, both with and without Trustee authorization, have been substantiated. Minutes of key Executive Committee and Board Meetings over one specific period of time in 2004 are missing, and what became a regular practice of holding meetings without required notice and agenda publication, permitted a small management team to initiate actions that violated due process and By-Law requirements; often without scrutiny and adequate questioning by the Board.

Furthermore, by maintaining ownership of money-losing assets and borrowing to the maximum against the advice of its own appointed financial advisor, there is evidence that neither the CHCA Board nor CHCF Trustees were concerned about the continuing dilution of Fund value. Trustee meetings and analysis of financial statements of the both the Fund and the Association seem to have been abandoned for much of the period covered and there is little evidence of comprehensive Treasurer reports of the weakening overall financial condition of the two entities during this time. The one Treasurer’s report outlining the deteriorated state of the finances near the end of the period we covered (Nov. 2005) was reported with clarity in the Local, but the scheduled meetings for discussion were not attended by the President or most key officers and executives responsible for major decisions. (See Exhibit A)

Memories of some recent and current Board members, as well as newspaper reports in the Local and Board minutes in hand, indicate a growing concern for the practices outlined above from a vocal minority who objected to abbreviated discussions of financial matters, By-Law violations, and the modification of those By-Laws under what were characterized as illegal tactics. The same regular voting majority kept those objections and concerns from having any effect.

Changes in the By-Laws resulted in control by a small group over the editorial independence of the Editor of the Local. There were clear attempts to keep specific reports from publication and increased efforts to interfere in the functions of the Association’s most public asset. A crises erupted when multiple key employees of the Local resigned in opposition to these actions, leaving the Local adrift and pushed further from an objective forum. This situation wasn’t stabilized until a new Administration took office.

Financial irregularities at the CHCA continued undetected until the newly elected Board was installed in June of 2006. Contracts for non-essential outside services were authorized by non-officers, erroneous grant documents were created and further borrowings against Fund assets took place without Trustee knowledge. Fiscal 2005 (Ending 3/31/2006) took an already money-losing CHCA and Fund further into deficit spending in an amount yet to be fully determined, but initial unaudited reports point to a figure far in excess of the losses of the two previous years.

The Association that was handed over to the new Board was awash in debt and in precarious financial condition; much of it hidden by incomplete internal financial records. Faced with the almost immediate resignation of the three key employees who had the most knowledge of ongoing policies and kept the financial records, continuity of the day-to-day operation was jeopardized. Almost immediately a seriously delinquent and unledgered printer’s bill threatened to shut down the Local. Built up balances in other accounts and other unledgered debt manifested itself creating a crisis management situation. Turning to the Fund Trustees, after approval from the Board, more funds were secured to the keep the organization afloat. This emergency $31,000 action further diluted the Fund assets already encumbered in the amount of $180,000 by two loans with no planed repayment documented.

Finally, after the Board’s suggestion, the Trustees agreed to sell the money-losing building at 8431 Germantown Avenue. Even as this transaction took place the Trustees misled the Association and the Board and operated on the legal edge of the Declaration of Trust. These Trustees have been replaced.

The Oversight Committee review is concentrated on the fiscal years that ended on March 31, 2004, 2005, 2006 which roughly correspond to calendar years 2003, 2004, and 2005. This is the period where actions by the Board and the Trustees, by omission and commission, created many of the problems the new Board is dealing with. Only by identifying and recognizing mismanagement in the past, can the Association hope to move forward to a fiscally sound productive future. Jointly refocused Trustees and Board Members are essential to the future of the CHCA and the Fund.

Attached is specific information to support the Committee’s conclusions. Additional detail will be available upon request.

While there were many aspects of this organization for the Oversight Committee to study, the limitations on time, and the importance of presenting some conclusive findings to the Board and community required us to focus on those areas where we could quickly access documented information and records. It has long been acknowledged that following the money is the quickest reflection on the success or failure of any organization and that is one area we did pursue.

We reviewed the financial statements and internal reports; we also relied on the memory of individuals who served in a fiduciary capacity for both the Fund and the CHCA where possible. Unfortunately there have been complications in the preparation of the 3/31/06 audited year-end statement for the Association and the Local which are consolidated for reporting purposes. Delay in authorizing this work by the previous administration was complicated when the new administration was not aware that an engagement letter was not sent in early April 2006. Our accountant who had regularly performed these audits for years never called it to our attention. Delays on the part of the new administration after this discovery did not help matters. Very recently the Oversight Committee discovered that significant essential postings to the ledgers of the CHCA and Local were not done as far back as September 2005, and possibly earlier. The net effect of this condition is that even the bleak financial perspective outlined in the scheduled Treasurer’s Report of November 2005 may have been understated. (Seven B&F Committee members, also members of the Executive Committee, and the President did not attend that meeting, see Exhibit A) We have concluded that any accountant’s report based on 3/31/06 figures currently in the ledger has to be assumed inaccurate. A full verification review going back through most of 2006 should precede anything that the accountant or CHCA Treasurer is asked to sign. It has been almost three years (3/31/04) since we have seen audited figures.

What we have learned from internal records, bank reports, and verbal and written contact with those having fiduciary responsibility paints a bleak picture of reckless financial management, careless oversight from the Board and Trustees, and manipulation of records.

As structured, the Community Fund’s Trustees were to oversee the assets and make investments that would maintain principal with the earnings able to be distributed to support the CHCA in its administrative and fund raising activities. In addition, the CHCA is engaged in annual fund raising and annual distributions. The Local, a separate corporation, is an independent business entity that generally earned modest profits on its nearly $1,000,000 revenue in recent years.

It is well-known that the CHCA does not earn its own keep and for years the profits of the Local were often transferred to the CHCA in a line item on the financial statements that were then consolidated for reporting purposes. That process seems to have ended in 2003 and identifying true earnings from the Local and losses at the CHCA becomes more difficult. Each year since 2003, the assets of the Fund have been diluted by borrowings against those assets that were then lent directly to the CHCA to subsidize disbursements in excess of fund raising and general losses in administration beginning with a $70,000 draw down against the securities held in the Merrill Lynch account in late 2002. Although the Merrill Lynch account was an earning asset for the Fund, the line of credit was established to allow for short term borrowings with a set interest rate tied to the market. Repayment was anticipated to be arranged in advance and of short duration. This is according to the account manager who also served as an advisor to the Trustees, Mark Nottingham. Further dilution of the Merrill Lynch account takes place in 2003 and early 2005 when the maximum amount drawn under regulations reaches $130,000 with interest by then over 9%. No repayment program was documented or agreed upon, although one was suggested in writing by Chestnut Hill Community President Maxine Dornemann in March of 2005.

In documents submitted to the Oversight Committee, Mr. Nottingham had gone on record with the Trustees, President and Executive Committee Members regarding the dilution of assets through borrowing without programmed repayment on two occasions in February 2004 and March 2005. According to his submitted information not one member responded to his documented objections other than a verbal admonition from Trustee Butler advising him he was too much of a “naysayer” and he should “go along with their vision” if he wanted to stay involved as a financial advisor. (See Exhibits B, C and D)

CHCA President Dornemann requested another $50,000 draw down against the Merrill Lynch account in March 2005, but was told that the allowable ceiling would be reached at $43,000. This amount was quickly borrowed. On March 23, minutes from that Board Meeting indicate the Board approved a $50,000 loan to be used to pay shortfalls in fund raising. This loan was to be used to quickly repay the Merrill Lynch drawdown of $43,000 taken on 3/21/05 purportedly to accomplish that purpose. Although the loan was granted, the payback never occurred. (See Exhibit E)

In one of the most interesting events reviewed, Maxine Dornemann appears on a loan document from Earthstar Bank in Northeast Philadelphia as the sole signatory on a $50,350 loan dated 4/25/05 as the “President of the Chestnut Hill Community Fund,” (italics supplied) a non-existent office. The security for that loan was the Fund-owned property at 8431 Germantown Avenue, a building that the same Earthstar Bank held a first mortgage on since 12/05/02. While it might be assumed that the signature and title was a typographical error, it is clear from the earlier document that the bank knew full well that the president of the Trustees of the Chestnut Hill Community Fund was required to authorize borrowing against that real estate asset. (See Exhibits F and G)

When contacted, the Senior Lending Officer at Earthstar Bank could not explain why the documents were drawn up differently and admitted that the Bank actually had a copy of the 1972 Declaration of Trust in the file and through that knew the requirements. He further explained that the same lending officer who authorized the 2002 loan, made the 2005 loan as well. He indicated he would inquire with that officer how this could have happened and get back to us. When called four days later, the officer that authorized those loans was no longer employed by the bank. (See Exhibit H)

At a meeting with former Chairman of the Trustees, Thomas Butler and the Chairman of the Oversight Committee was held in mid December 2006. The purpose was to clarify when the Trustees met and how they operated. At that meeting we learned that he had no knowledge of the loan generated at Earthstar bank, despite a Fund asset being used as security for a CHCA loan. We were further informed that some draw downs on the Merrill Lynch borrowing account were done without his knowledge. When asked about meetings of the Trustees and review of the Fund and CHCA financial statements, he said he could not remember when they last met, and that his requests for financial statements through former Bookkeeper Kari Gazarian and President Maxine Dornemann on many occasions were met with no response. After a protracted 3 hour interview Chairman Butler was asked if he would respond in writing to several questions from the Oversight Committee. He acknowledged he would and reaffirmed that statement in open forum at a Special Board meeting in January 2006. As of this date (March 22, 2007) the Committee has not received a reply despite a second request by certified mail. (See Exhibit I)

A similar meeting with Mark Nottingham to gain fuller understanding of his role as account manager for Merrill Lynch and Advisor to the Trustees for a period of time was more enlightening. Mr. Nottingham provided verbal information and he provided the Committee with a written narrative of his experience, earning statements of the Account, Loan Documents and his written communication with the Board regarding the debt and internal policies within the Association and the Fund. (See Exhibit G)
The bottom line is that during the approximate three year period reviewed, the losses generated within the organization created new debt in the amount of $180,000. $93,000 of it borrowed in one 30-day period; all of it using Fund assets as collateral. The Earthstar loan of $50,000, with clearly unexplained and inconsistent documentation, and supported by Chairman Butler’s perspective, seems to have been intended to escape Trustee approval. However, the Trustees also apparently approved regular borrowings against the Merrill Lynch securities, and allowed the money-losing building at 8431 to continue as a Fund asset with its annual losses wiping out any earnings on the securities. In addition, there was the mounting interest cost on the two mortgages and the $130,000 line of credit. How the Trustees could not have known that 8431 was a constant money-loser is beyond comprehension. Clearly due diligence was lacking.

But it does not end there. We do know that members of the Association, some on the Board, were aware of the continued vacancies at 8431, the losses it was generating, and the greatly expanded borrowing while the very same Board committed to non-essential services and during the same period actually seriously debated buying another building (Hiram Lodge). The downward spiral of both the Fund and the CHCA financially was not lost on some who tried desperately to follow and challenge the activities of the voting majority. The final and major failure here is with the Board itself, which some rightly characterize as the ultimate Oversight Committee.

In conclusion, it was the failure of the Board itself to analyze the financial statements and heed warning signs by the few voices on the Budget and Finance Committee and Board who raised concerns. The failure to curtail borrowing and spending for contributions it could not fund, the failure to limit expenditures on needless programs and new hires, failure to stop the bleeding of a money-losing real estate adventure, failure to stop the dilution of the Fund assets even when the Trustees failed to do so. The ultimate responsibility lies with those who hold Board membership. In recent years this Board failed to adequately exercise its fiduciary responsibility and oversee the Association entrusted to it.

To see exhibits referred to in this report, visit the Local website at Chestnut Hill Local.


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