DEJAVU IN GARDEN GROVE
EDITORIAL By Frank Wodley, CoMO-CAL PRESIDENT
Milt Burdick has been our GSMOL Zone C Vice President for over 6 years. “Uncle Miltie” was my mentor when I was GSMOL Chapter 159 President and GSMOL San Fernando Valley Associate Manager. He has been a hard working advocate for mobile home owners for many years. . In my estimation, Milt was our only real voice on the Board of Directors. He spoke out on several issues, including GSMOL finances and legislation. It is my understanding that the “leadership” of GSMOL had had enough of Milt speaking out This all came to a head at the June 2006 Board of Directors meeting in Garden Grove. On June 15, 2006 Milt sent me an email with the following letter attached. I publish it now because Milt just recently gave me permission.
GSMOL Zone C Vice President, June 15, 2006
To: GSMOL Board of Directors and GSMOL Members of Zone C
From: Milton Burdick, Vice President of Zone C; Subject: Resignation
As of this date (June 15, 2006) I hereby resign my position as Vice President of Zone C (Los Angeles, Those of us who are still GSMOL members recently lost our voice on the GSMOL Board of Directors. On June 15, 2006 Milt Burdick emailed me the following letter:
Orange and San Bernardino Counties). In my term I have accomplished many goals, yet accomplished so little on increasing GSMOL membership. Office staff has been of great help to me during my term.
I carry no bitterness against anyone and will continue to support GSMOL and GSMOL goals. GSMOL is larger than all of us. You might say; then why are you resigning?
Lately I have been accused of being one of the causes of Divisiveness within and not being a “Team Player” To me this means giving up my right to free speech and compromise my feelings and opinions on issues that I feel the membership is entitled to hear about and make their own decisions.
I am the type of person who does not fit the “Team” mold. I have taken on park managers and park owners and stand up for Homeowners when I feel park owners are wrong and continuously violating state and federal laws. I have and will continue to express my feelings on legislative issues which is one of the areas I have been accused of not being a “Team Player” When a law is not (my opinion) in the best interest of Mobilehome Owners—I intend on speaking out, not be part of a team and remain silent.
As I said above I will take on park managers and park owners when I feel they are wrong, this is the same way I feel about GSMOL leadership, when I feel they are going in the wrong direction, I will state my opinions and not remain silent just to be a team player. Present Board members know I have express my feelings in the past.
This resignation will be effected on my replacement or on September 1, 2006 which ever comes first. I will continue to assist office staff when requested to do so.
Signed: Milt Burdick
So who is George Smith and what does this have to do with Milt Burdick?
In February 1999, GSMOL Vice President George Smith filed a lawsuit against GSMOL. One complaint was as follows: (6) Contrary to the bylaws of the Corporation, the Corporation, through the acts of the majority of the Board of Directors, continuously punish and remove officers and directors that dissent or otherwise oppose or refuse to support the policies of the majority directors. The means used to punish and remove dissenting directors are acts of humiliation, censure, withholding of expense reimbursements, the denial of corporate information, the refusal to allow dissenting directors an opportunity to present agenda items for consideration at directors meetings, the suspension of directors’ and/or officers’ powers and the termination of their membership in the Corporation. Once dissenting directors and/or officers are removed, the majority on the Board then appoints replacement directors and/or officers supportive of the policies and acts of the majority on the Board. In addition, the board deliberately withholds information from the members by censoring and removing all minority views from corporate publications and member communications. By these acts, the majority of the Board perpetuate themselves and their policies and undermine the rights of the members to elect their own representatives as provided in the Corporation’s bylaws.
Mr. Smith’s lawsuit was settled. As part of the settlement, it had to be printed in the Californian. Essentially GSMOL was required to follow their own bylaws, and let Corporate officers perform their duties, get them reimbursements, and freely express themselves. Also GSMOL had to conduct meetings in accordance with the Bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order, and could not deny renewal of membership to qualified members
So are these two issues related? I believe they are. GSMOL has and continues to shun those directors, managers and members who question the “leadership.” George Smith and Milt Burdick are only the tip of the iceberg. Others include Rosemary Tomai, Jerry Lenhard, Don Hunter, John Sisker, Ralph Weber, Tom Lockhart, myself, and many others. And more and more members are not renewing, more and more chapters are folding.
During the 40 some years GSMOL has been around, thousands of mobilehome owners have put their trust in it. And many of us have actively supported GSMOL without question, blindly following our leaders. Why? Because we trusted they were doing a good job for us and had our best interests at heart. After all, their own Bylaws state their purpose is “to promote the general welfare of mobile home owners.”
In the early 90’s GSMOL had over 90,000 members and a budget close to $1.5 million. As Donald DeVore put it in his book “Mobile Home Wars,” “GSMOL was so powerful that they were like a 500-pound gorilla looking for a fight.” Mr. DeVore continues “In these past few years, their strength has dwindled and they have lost most, of not all of their power.”
The purpose of GSMOL (as stated in their Bylaws) is “to promote the general welfare of mobile home owners.” To me, this means helping us deal with issues such as interference of sales, rent control, retaliatory or unlawful evictions, out of control managers, and other serious issues experienced by mobile home owners, not just trying to get new laws. And what about enforcement of the laws we already have?
In my opinion, GSMOL has played a big part in allowing the serious issues we face today in our parks to manifest. Since GSMOL has essentially refused to help “in the trenches,” has refused to draw a line in the sand, and has refused to stand up to the WMA and other park owner organizations, mobile home owners today are more vulnerable than ever before. And mobile home owners are now reluctant to join any organization for fear they will not be receptive to their needs.
What has happened to GSMOL?
Many of us, including myself, have continued to support GSMOL in spite of it’s issues. Many had hoped that GSMOL’s new president, Tim Sheahan, former Zone D Vice President and member of the Board of Directors for several years, would lead GSMOL in a new direction.
Unfortunately this hope has not materialised. The Californian, GSMOL’s monthly newsletter, has not been published the last three months. The website has not been updated. Certainly it would have been easy enough to put something on the website explaining the situation to GSMOL members. And there are many other issues—too numerous to report here. And GSMOL is short two of its four Vice Presidents.
One Common Thread?
Over the years there has been a common thread in GSMOL, their Lobbyist and Corporate Counsel Maurice Priest. He has been with GSMOL over 25 years. Mr. Priest is an attorney and receives a salary from GSMOL for each position. He also runs Resident Owned Parks, Inc. (ROP). Although leaders have come and gone, Mr. Priest has remained. Some believe Mr. Priest has gained so much power that he is the “puppet master,” i.e. he runs the show in Garden Grove. Perhaps there is some truth to this. After all he does sit at every Board of Directors meeting, although he is not on the Board, but simply an employee of GSMOL. Why else would GSMOL continue to focus the majority of its resources on new legislation—a direction where in Mr. Priest directly benefits? If GSMOL started looking at the total picture, i.e. problems we are having in our parks with numerous issues, then there would be no need for groups such as CoMO-CAL.
Have there been any efforts to change GSMOL’s focus?
Yes, in mid-2004, eight GSMOL managers wrote a “Recommendation Report” asking GSMOL leadership to focus more resources to directly help GSMOL members in their parks. In fact I chaired that committee and worked two months writing the report. Every managers input was used. Every manager signed off on the final report which was submitted to the GSMOL Board of Directors in August 2004.
What Happened to the Recommendation Report?
It was swept under the rug by the Board and no recommendations were implemented. So much for input from GSMOL managers. So much for any change of direction in GSMOL.
The Bottom Line. You Must Be Active.
Today, mobile home owners can not blindly follow any one person or any one organization. GSMOL has become what it is today partly because it’s members have not been active or cared to investigate what GSMOL was doing for them. Mobilehome owners must wake up and be active. They must unite and work together toward common goals. CoMO-CAL can be an organization by it’s members, for it’s members only if you are active. We have a chance to make a difference. Please be a part of this opportunity.
BE ACTIVE LET’S MAKE A DIFFERENCE TOGETHER