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Oakmont News, Opinion & More

Truthteller or Salesman?

OVA President Steve Spanier made a provocative statement at the June 18 board meeting with regards to the issues surrounding the potential offer to buy the OGC:  “Don’t believe anything unless it comes from us. We will give you the truth.”

One of the main problems is that very little of substance regarding the potential OGC purchase has come from this board, hidden behind the veil of non-disclosure agreements and executive sessions. All that was announced at the June 18 meeting were details of planned workshops and the 30 day voting period.  Not a hint as to the proposed financing plan (dues increase and/or special assessment combined with a loan?) was offered.  The board has been exploring and discussing this issue for months, if not the past year, and yet the OVA membership will evidently be offered a quick and hasty sales job prior to a rushed vote.

OVA members need light to be shed on these issues, the pros and cons of a golf course purchase and the current and future liabilities and costs that OVA would be taking on.  Yet we all remain in the fog of obscurity.

I’ve talked to many people who love living in Oakmont but are troubled by the direction this board is taking, the discord created by lack of information provided on their plans for the OGC, the cost overruns for the ERC, and the seeming resistance of this board – especially the president – to any views that differ from their own.

“Don’t believe anything unless it comes from us.  We will give you the truth.”

Count the number of houses that have been put on the market in the past six months to a year as these controversies have blossomed. How many others are considering doing the same with the uncertainty engendered in OVA’s risky venture to pay off the failing OGC debts and enter the golf course and hospitality business, a decision made by amateurs who have no experience in these fields.

“Don’t believe anything unless it comes from us.  We will give you the truth.”

Before OGC put the golf club on the market there was a board campaign to spend OVA dues money on purported drainage issues involving the golf course creeks that they said would threaten homeowners with flooding.  The Oakmont Observer published several articles addressing and investigating this issue. Historic rains this past winter put the lie to these scare tactics and now that the OGC is for sale the board has rescinded this offer.

“Don’t believe anything unless it comes from us.  We will give you the truth.”

In one of his first President’s Messages after being elected Spanier wrote: “In the Oakmont I envision, residents would be less afraid to state their opinions, safe in the knowledge they will not be attacked.” In another: “My experience taught me to support and believe in the power of community activism. Activism helps people think about important issues. It plants the seeds of change. It marks the genesis of all important movements in world history.”  And: “Social media is a popular tool among modern activists.”

Yet, we watch as the board and its supporters attack the validity of any activist voices in opposition to their plans. Spanier himself has attacked and singled out a discussion group on Nextdoor as a topic for a community survey and board workshop.  And other views expressed on Nextdoor or the Oakmont Observer are denigrated as merely the noise of naysayers. Truth be told, facts with references often appear on both platforms.

“Don’t believe anything unless it comes from us.  We will give you the truth.”

During his campaign for the OVA BOD in 2018 Spanier posted the following on Nextdoor: “One of the five pillars of my campaign platform is an independent press. Specifically, I say the Board will support and encourage the free expression of ideas within Oakmont.”

He also posted this:  “A scorched earth campaign based on creating fear, uncertainty and doubt among our Oakmont neighbors does an extreme disservice to our community and contributes to the divide.”

In his President’s Message of 10/16/18:  “Democracy dies in darkness. Democracy begins with truthful, timely, detailed accounting of relevant facts. It continues by offering numerous opportunities for dialogue. Only with facts and dialogue can citizens properly hold those in power accountable.”

From the 7/1/18 Message, Servant Leadership:   “Leaders don’t dictate policy to constituents and stakeholders. Instead, they’re obsessed with fulfilling needs, which they understand cannot be learned without proactive solicitation, active listening and earnest discussion.” In this same piece he quoted a book about servant leadership:  “We’ve seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of society around the world.”

As an avid golfer, OGC member and 2018 club champion prior to resigning earlier this year to lead the OVA effort to buy the golf club, the idea that Spanier is a totally unbiased purveyor of truth on this issue is unconvincing.  And considering this background, merely announcing that by resigning his OGC membership he removes all conflicts of interest is still an unresolved issue in the community.

OGC members must vote with 60% support to approve a sale; OVA members can approve a purchase with as little as 25% support of the membership. These are the rules as written and we all must play by them.  Yet there is something inherently unfair and undemocratic about this arrangement. It remains to be seen how much information can and will be provided at the June 25 OVA meeting. The board then intends to vote up or down on the OGC purchase in executive session right after this meeting.

For the board to then rush the vote, sending out ballots soon after this meeting, is to place members under duress in making such a momentous decision for Oakmont with incomplete information as to the pros and cons of such a purchase.  This appears less an effort to get all the facts and “truths” of this potential purchase to the membership so we can make an informed decision and more an act of salesmanship. A salesman emphasizes the positives and tends to downplay or ignore the negatives of what he is trying to sell, and the “truth” often suffers.

Spanier may consider himself a neutral decision-maker – much like a judge – in his handling of this issue.  But the fact is he is a partisan arguing his case before the true judge, the OVA membership. And we should demand less salesmanship and more facts before we decide this case.

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8 Comments

  1. Lyn Cramer on June 24, 2019 at 7:15 am

    The year is only half done and the competition is indeed stiff. What will be the best Oakmont Observer article of the year?

    There is no better way hoist someone for all to see clearly than by using their own words in contrast to their actions. What a take-down! I’d like to think Spanier, having read the above, would be 1) embarrassed and 2) inclined to reflect on whether he walks his talk.

    Well done and thank you.

  2. Yvonne Frauenfelder on June 24, 2019 at 7:59 am

    Michael Connolly’s latest article “Truthteller or Salesman” is a tour de force covering Steve Spanier’s handling of the Oakmont Golf Club sale and the potential acquisition by the OVA. Citing Spanier’s own words, Connolly exposes the gulf between words and actions by the president of the OVA. A must read for all members of the association.

  3. S Simon on June 24, 2019 at 10:59 am

    I don’t understand the timing of the resident voting. It would be logical to complete the resident voting BEFORE the OVA places a bid on the OGC. In fact, the vote should have been completed before “due diligence”. Why waste time on something that Oakmont residents may not want? It is naive to believe that once in motion, a course of action cannot stopped.

    • BRUCE BON on June 24, 2019 at 3:13 pm

      Although hard facts are difficult to come by (and we’ll see if the Board changes tactics and provides some hard facts tomorrow), I believe that the purchase offer will be contingent on the OVA dues increase passing, which makes sense as a valid contingency. The vote will probably cost OVA between ten and twenty thousand dollars, which is not large in the scheme of things but which would be a total waste of money if done prior to making the bid and OGC turned down OVA’s offer because they had a better one (we can hope!).

      On the other hand, the disregard that the Board holds for democratic principles is amply demonstrated by the rush to start the voting before information is disseminated to educate OVA members about what they are voting on. I have no doubt that the YES campaign will urge people to vote as soon as they receive their ballots, because it is “obviously desirable for OVA to control the property” — they just slough over how much it is going to cost us all. If it were done right, there would be a fair and detailed pro/con discussion in the Oakmont News prior to the start of the balloting — somehow I don’t see that as a likely occurrence!

  4. S Simon on June 24, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Good points Bruce Bon. A contingency is one way to handle it. The cost of a vote is small considering the uncertainties that could be resolved, such as home sales and purchases, golf membership dues, and everybody’s time and energy. I do hope the bid is modest, but the board seems too eager.

  5. Lisa Symonds on June 25, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    For those of you that are Game of Thrones fans the changes in Steve’s behavior from pre election to now remind me of the changes in the Game of Thrones character Daenerys Targaryen from her first introduction to the current Season 8 episode 5 when she destroys King’s landing. Although Daenerys is fictional, I see parallels in these two evolutions of individuals in positions of power and concern Steve’s actions will lead to the destruction of Oakmont (instead of death, our residents will suffer financial decline and quality of life at a time when they cannot remedy the loss). Residents must see through the rhetoric and research if the financial risks are worthwhile to gain 225 acres of land for recreational use.

  6. jim sannar on June 29, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Check out this interesting read, Google or click here: DEVELOPERS TEE OFF AMID MASS CLOSURE OF U.S. GOLF COURSES

  7. jim sannar on June 29, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Found another good article, Google or click here” IS BUYING A GOLF COURSE PROFITABLE?

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