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[Expanded Sept. 29] Rancho Murieta Association President Jack Cooper said Saturday that copies of the 2008 preliminary budget will be made available to members at the RMA Building starting Oct. 8.

He termed the decision to release the budget before the Oct. 10 budget workshop "a compromise" on the part of RMA officials. It's intended to give board members time to review the budget and prevent members from being "blindsided" by not seeing it until the workshop, he said.

Cooper said a board planning session scheduled for Oct. 6 was a factor in determining the release date for the preliminary budget.

He described the Oct. 6 session as a closed meeting with a facilitator at which the board would set goals. He said the meeting did not have anything specifically to do with the budget but that the organization doesn't want the budget released until the session is held. This meeting hadn't been announced previously.

After a Finance Committee meeting on the budget Thursday, RMA General Manager David Stiffler would not release a copy of the preliminary budget to RanchoMurieta.com, calling the budget "privileged information." See that story here.

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

Just raises more questions

I appreciate the Board's effort to achieve a compromise. But it just raises more questions about why the proposed budget is being unusually embargoed from member scrutiny this year.


1. Why wait until October 8? What's the big secret which must be protected between now and then? Does the Board intend to tinker with the budget further at its special October 6 "planning session" ? Isn't that what the Budget Workshop is for? I cannot recall any year in which the Board held a special pre-Workshop meeting to predetermine what will occur at the Budget Workshop. It seems very odd. Yes, the cable experiment is in trouble. Yes, members are going to pick at those numbers and ask why the promised self-sufficiency is nowhere in sight and we face another dues hike to support a failing experiment. That's what the open processes are for. The fact that members are going to criticize the Board's business plan is not a legitimate reason to hide from the open process.


2. Presumably the October 6 "planning session" is an open meeting at which members can attend, observe and comment?  Which means the meeting must be publicly noticed very, very soon to comply with the law and the bylaws.  This certainly is not a legitimate topic of executive session, so whatever the Board intends to do regarding the Proposed Budget at that meeting must be done in the open, before the members. What is the "privilege" rationale for not letting the members see the proposed budget which the Board will be considering at that meeting?


3. What "privilege" is being relied upon here? Certainly none of those I can find inthe Code apply.


4. What the heck is going on?

Richard Robinson's picture
Joined: 08/10/2007
Posts: 108
Post rating: 85


Richard Robinson

Even the State of California releases it's Budget early January six months before the legislature votes on it.

So the State Budget is out of balance, at least we get a chance to comment on it before we pay for it.

RMA should post the budget NOW!!!

Richard Robinson


RM.com's picture
Joined: 06/19/2007
Posts: 27727
Post rating: 1387

Story clarification

The story has been expanded to include the following information:

Jack Cooper described the Oct. 6 RMA board session as a closed meeting with a facilitator at which the board would set goals. He said the meeting did not have anything specifically to do with the budget but that the organization doesn't want the budget released until the session is held. This meeting hadn't been announced previously.

Bill Duncan's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 38
Post rating: 48

Very Confusing Stuff

The above article says a few things that if confirmed, should be a warning to Rancho Murieta residents.

Th remarks attributed to RMA president Jack Cooper are an admission that the RMA board is about to possibly commit an illegal act.  Mr Cooper announced that the board will hold an executive session on October 6, 2007.My interpretation of the Davis-Sterling  Act is  that their meeting DOES NOT meet the criteria of Civil Code 1363.5.

In those code sections it describes the ONLY items that can be discussed in a closed (executive) session.  Those things DO NOT include budget discussions or "goal setting" with a facilitator.

If the board has discussed or will discuss those items in closed session, then they are in violation of civil code and their own documents.

Now help me out here Wilbur. I'm just an ignorant homeowner.  Isn't that what you read too?

Section 1363.5 says that the board may meet in executive session for only four reasons. 1) Litigation matters relating to contracts with third parties. 2) member discipline 3)personnel matters 4) meetings with individual members at their request regarding fines or violations.

Maybe the board has been erroneously advised by their manager that other subjects can be discussed in closed session.  As I understand it, they cannot.

I am concerned about this rush to secrecy by the RMA Board of Directors and what it might mean to you and me.

That meeting on October 6th should be open to all residents.

Mike Burnett's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 183
Post rating: 0

Who do we hold accountable here!

The President of the RMA Board should lead by example, yet he appears to act like he is a Dictator and can make up the rules on the fly.  Evidently he has the support of the Board.

The Bridge opening was a fiasco saying RMA needed an occupancy permit. Then when the bridge was going to open they placed boulders in front of the entrance on both sides to restrict Golf Carts access.  Subsequently, this decision was reversed and we had a Grand Opening, like nothing ever happened. 

The RMA terminated the Cable Manager and subsequently lost both the Cable Technicians.  The service degraded and hasn't improved since.

The RMA is cooking the books by showing income that doesn't exist and placing income from other sources into the Cable budget to keep this service alive.  They refuse to divulge the number of subscribers when asked by John Weatherford during the Open Meetings, like they don't know.  How many residents are buying this crap.  If they don't know how many subscribers they have, then how can they know what our monthly income is for special services.  This boils down to either they are out right lying or they are incompetent.  Either way, we can not accept this kind of management for our association.

Next the RMA decided they would use maintenance staff to perform cable installation.  If RMA has the surplus Full Time Employees (FTE) on staff, then the correct decision would be to lay them off and contract out the work for the short duration to complete the install rather then paying the salaries and benefits for surplus staff ongoing.  If the staff isn't surplus then then should be doing the work they are hired to do.  Deferring maintenance to support the cable service is not good management.  Rather it will have an exponential deleterious effective on the RMA overall and strains the budget, because the maintenance work and cost doesn't disappear just because it wasn't completed within the month it was budgeted.

Now we have the Budget fiasco.  Who do we hold accountable for these compounded poor decisions.  Direction is set by the Board and the Management follows through by implementing the business plan.  It is becomming apparent to me that we have personnel in both the Board and Management that are incompetent and should not be allowed to continue to represent our Association.


Michael F. Burnett

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

Open up the deliberations

Continuing the cloak of secrecy about the cable budget and the dues increase until after the closed "planning and goals" session is quite odd, not necessarily horribly sinister or grounds for a witch hunt, something I DO NOT wish to encourage. But that rationale is nonsensical and still indefensible. If the planning session is NOT about tinkering with the proposed budget and cable figures before releasing them, and is NOT about getting the Board's position together before the budget debate with the members begins, WHAT purpose is served by keeping the proposed budget hidden from scrutiny until afterwards? No logical connection exists if the Board promises not to talk about the budget or cable in its closed session. I am assuming that is what the President is promising us.

This still comes away looking like a political attempt to keep the natives quiet for another two weeks, to manipulate the timing of the uproar, to hobble their political opponents by denying them a head of steam going into the Budget Workshop and the following Board meeting where the cable budget and dues increase will be formally adopted and nailed down just in time to commit the association to a course of action right before an election which will apparently bring to the Board another critic of the cable experiment, perhaps the decisive shift in the Board's composition which brings the tipping point in the present state of indecision about the cable experiment.

Secrecy maintained solely to manipulate and dampen open political debate of the most important fiscal questions facing the association.

Not good.

And if you're going to have a planning and goals session, how can that not include debate of the future of cable? Is there any planning and goals question which is more critical at this juncture? Yet how does one fit that topic into the "executive session" exemptions for litigation, personnel matters and contract negotiations?

Boards HAVE had such goal-setting "retreats" in the past, and in the past I've treated them as tolerable and potentially quite useful fudges on the open meeting requirement (although legally dubious in a strict sense), tolerable so long as assured and confident that the topics were indeed long-range planning and team building and not pre-debating or pre-deciding immediate issues. But they've tended to be held at the beginning of a term, to give the newly reconstituted board a chance to get acquainted, bring new members up to speed, and map out a global view of what's coming up and priorities for the coming year. And until now I've always been confident that they'd stick to the long term view and not get into dealing with imminent decisions coming before them.

They never got around to having this year's "goals" session. Now they abruptly announce they're going to have it, a month before the election. At least one new director is about to join the Board, and they decide they have to have their "goals" session just before that director arrives. And immediately prior to what clearly will be two tumultuous public meetings on the budget. That is curious at best. The timing of the announcement that they were going to have such a session is also quite unfortunate. Not a peep at last week's Board meeting of this intention. Now it leaks out (or the decision to meet is suddenly made?) because of member concern about the curiously secretive behavior about the budget numbers. In the middle of a budget and cable crisis, the board abruptly announces it's time to hold their sorta annual closed session to "plan." Combined with the demonstrated paranoia about releasing the proposed budget and the looming member revolt over the cable experiment, it is hard to not perceive the emergence of a "siege mentality" regarding cable and the budget, which makes it hard to believe the board will be successful, assuming it tries, in restraining itself from discussing in the "planning and goals" session those big fiscal and political pots which are boiling over right now. Which would step across the line of what can be tolerated in executive session.

I want to take at face value the President's representation that the meeting does "not have anything specifically to do with the budget." I want to believe the Board will strive to police themselves and make good on that promise. I should be clear about this: I do not think Jack Cooper is a liar, but an honorable man who has a tiger by the tail which is slipping from his grasp. I believe every person on the Board has good intentions and is struggling mightily to make lemonade out of this lemon.. But I struggle to believe any group could have a useful planning and goals meeting under the present circumstances and timing without addressing the looming crisis on cable, the elephant in the room which impacts anything and everything else one might try to do long-range visioneering about. I expect the Board to try to stay away from pre-discussing and pre-deciding policy decisions they are about to have to make about cable if they are intent upon having their "goals" retreat at this suspicions-inducing moment in time. I just don't see how its humanly possible to do that and still have a productive planning session. When there's a bomb ticking in the middle of the room, how does one ignore that and productively plan what type of drapes to hang?

A "brainstorming" session on various means of resolving the cable crisis is a very useful and desirable thing to do.
But the members should be in on that brainstorming.

And they're entitled to review the Proposed Budget NOW, not later, if, as the President assures us, all pre-Workshop tinkering is now complete and that is not the purpose of this closed session on the 6th.

-- Wilbur Haines

Dick Cox's picture
Joined: 10/02/2007
Posts: 156
Post rating: 563


Dick Cox


As I'm running unopposed for the RMA Board I think it is appropriate to comment on the budget.  From past experience as Treasure of the board I know the form of the submitted budget is still a work in progress. However, if there is going to be an open budget workshop the membership should have copies of this budget as early as possible.  For the life of me I do not understand the action of the board to hold distribution until the 6th of Oct.  Those of you who know me know that is not something I will put up with when I'm sworn in as a board member.  We have some problems that need community input and there is no better time to get it than during a budget workshop. 

Dick Cox

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