Two weeks prior to the end of his term, Treasurer Denny Galford resigned his position on the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors in a surprise announcement at the conclusion of the Monday, March 14 Work Session.
Unwilling to violate a self-imposed code of silence that has become common practice for sitting SLLA directors, Galford first peppered Community Manager Alina Cochran with a to-do list of financially-related items and then read a statement of his intent to resign and explained his decision to directly address his critics.
“Early in my term as a volunteer board member, there were many unfavorable comments directed only to me,” Galford said. “However, recently the tone is a return to what we had four or five years ago. It is unbelievable what Board members are receiving; and, as volunteers, we do not deserve that level of abuse.”
He specifically cited criticism alleging director incompetence over a recently approved amendment to the 2007 Agreement between the Association and the Seven Lakes Country Club [SLCC] over future development of the old driving range. Galford expressed his disappointment in The Times for being “quick to print” negative viewpoints.
“Saying we allowed the Club to destroy property values ignores what members understand: when the property values will drop is when the Club ceases to exist,” Galford said. “The Club is not an adversary of the landowners. It brings in 9,000 to 10,000 guests a year to Seven Lakes and is ranked eighty-third in the state. The Club needs the community and, likewise, the community needs the Club.”
The only fellow board member to ask Galford to reconsider, Director Kent Droppers said he respected his position; but expressed concerns about the time frame. [Galford is not running for reelection and his term was set to expire at the Annual Meeting, less than two weeks away.]
“We often approached things differently, but I would ask that you reconsider,” Droppers said.
“By virtue of resigning, it sets a precedent. This is difficult for all of us, but you’re elected to this Board to do what is in the best interest of the community. We can all disagree without being disagreeable.”
Attacks become personal
However, timing — no matter how short the interval — was the critical factor in Galford’s decision to resign.
“It is my desire to respond to comments that have been made to us as directors and published in The Times over the entire period I have served,” he said. “As sitting directors, we don’t comment back, and I respect that board members should refrain from such actions.”
Though he avoided mentioning any names, some of Galford’s comments were clearly a response to criticism from Alan Shaw, a Southside resident and one of the original developers of the community, who has consistently and vehemently opposed any residential development of the old driving range.
“It is time to stop taking revenge on volunteers that serve the community,” Galford said. “Pay some dues, and run for the Board, and use your self-proclaimed talents to serve the community,” he challenged Shaw.
His comments prompted a retaliatory spat with Southsider Chuck Leach, who demanded that an appropriate explanation of Shaw’s dues status should be included alongside such statements. [Editor’s note: Shaw is not a member of the SLLA and does not pay dues based on legal agreements signed with the Association in 1992 and in 2006. You can read a full explanation at www.sevenalkestimes.com.]
Galford continued, “We as a Board argue about things and that is good . . . A majority of the Board reaches a decision and we live with that decision. We don’t go back and continue to fight. That is the way a board should operate.”
“I just could not say these things as a member of the Board,” said Galford.”I think what we have seen is damaging the reputation of our community. I want the public to understand that they [the Directors] are putting up with a lot of abuse that has not been brought forward.”
“I’m not saying whether it is right or wrong that he doesn’t pay dues,” Galford said. “There is a problem with him abusing the Board and stating what the Association should be doing, when he is not a member.”
History repeats itself
Shrouded in unfortunate but familiar circumstances, Galford’s decision to resign over the tenor of recent attacks on the Board is a return to the very reason he first ran for a seat.
Originally appointed to fill the unexpired term of former Director Laura Douglass, who herself had resigned in the wake of a tumultuous year of infighting within the Board ranks and the community at-large over several divisive issues, Galford was then reelected for a full term the following year.
Responding to Northsider Joan Cook’s observation that the ugly side of politics has been a problem before, Galford agreed.
“Yes. That’s why I ran,” he said. “It was an embarrassment to the community, and I hoped I could step in to help,” he explained.
Director Bud Shaver, who sided with Galford last month in opposition to another equally contentious decision — to outsource landscape maintenance — agreed that abusive emails and telephone calls to Board members can become unbearable.
Shaver said that just recently he had talked Director Chuck Mims out of resigning over the same concerns. While disagreements are expected and acceptable, he said, they do not need to resort to name calling and abuse.
“It discourages people from running for the board,” Shaver said, “and you have to have an effective board to run this Association.”
Galford addresses Talis
Prior to reading a prepared letter of resignation, Galford recommended several items of interest to Community Manager Alina Cochran.
Specifically, he noted that there is a lack of adequate information on the Talis-based website, including the community calendar section, that no dues information is posted, and that meeting minutes have not been published in a timely manner.
He questioned Cochran on dues billing statements, and recommended that a sample statement should be provided to the Board prior to mailing.
“Last year, we had problems that should not have occurred. I want to make sure this is corrected before they are mailed this year,” said Galford.
He also expressed concern about the accounting system, how it lists members, and how that information will be used to verify ballots from qualified voters in the upcoming election.
Galford stated his belief that Talis Management Group has the capability to serve the community well, but said they must do a better job than what has been demonstrated to date.