Has Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League (GSMOL), our state-wide advocate for over 50 years, failed mobilehome owners? You be the judge. Let us give you some information (it is documented and can all be verified). If we don’t share this with you, we would be part of the cover-up. This is an indictment of GSMOL leadership, not of the organization or volunteer network.
Now and Then
Over the last 25 years GSMOL has gone from a strong advocate for mobilehome owners to an ineffective, mismanaged, closed organization. It’s membership has decreased from about 100,000 members in 1990 to perhaps 10,000 today. And GSMOL’s strength is in it’s membership. It takes supportive members to get new laws and to keep the organization going. Ultimately, in 25 years, GSMOL has spent over $15,000,000 of members dues, not including millions in donations. In August 2012, GSMOL sold it’s only real asset, the building in Garden Grove and has spent most of the $700,000 already. That was your money!
What Have You Gotten For Your Support?
One would hope protection for your investment and lifestyle. Unfortunately we believe this is not the case. You money has produced an ineffective Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL) with loopholes and watered-down laws. And then there is the critical matter of enforcement. Today, everyone will tell you (we feel there is another option) that you are the enforcer. You must run out and retain an attorney and go to court. But there are no guarantees and who has the money and time? And where do you find an attorney with the expertise that can be trusted. Even GSMOL would admit the MRL is just so many pages of paper without enforcement (see Lloyd Rochambeau’s Article on the previous page).
What has led to this decline of GSMOL? We believe egos, greed and power. Also inexperience and mismanagement. Ultimately, money corrupts. In the early 1990’s when GSMOL had revenue of almost $1.5 M per year, there was a power struggle and Board leadership changed several times. GSMOL leaders, over the years, have made decisions that are responsible for this situation today: a) The first decision was GSMOL must be the only state-wide advocate at any cost. The mantra of many GSMOL leaders and members is “I’s GSMOL or nothing.” This has lead to a culture of divisiveness (defined as causing or tending to cause disagreement or dissension, arguments or hostility among people). Both COMO-CAL and MHMag have been on the receiving end of much of this divisiveness; although we have worked with them, made numerous suggestions to improve GSMOL and have successfully helped thousands of MHOS at relatively low cost.
Rather than using common sense as their guide, the GSMOL BOD focused on preserving their power. They even “rigged” the voting process, and censored information in the Californian.
We ask you: How reasonable is it to censor information and to bad-mouth those who help mobilehome owners, just because they are not affiliated with GSMOL? How reasonable is it to refuse help from other advocates, even though the greater majority of mobilehome owners want it? How reasonable is it to conspire to keep important information (financial reports, membership information) from members to get new members at any cost?
b) GSMOL’s priority is legislation, i.e. new laws will protect us,
Laws without enforcement are ineffective. Often you can’t simply legislate away problems residents face. So why does GSMOL continue to focus on getting more, ineffective laws? It’ makes no sense. What MHOS need is ENFORCEMENT!
c) The decision to rely on an attorney to help run the organization.
The common thread running through the last 25 years of GSMOL is their use of corporate attorneys. Bruce Stanton was the attorney between approximately 1995 and 1998 and between 2009 through today. Maurice Priest served between 1998 and 2008 and another 15 years in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Both have been a significant influence on the GSMOL BOD.
Maurice Priest became a park owner (ROP, Inc) in 2002 with the purchase of Niles East in Bakersfield. In the years leading up to November 2008, he acquired five more mobilehome parks, yet GMSOL hired him as corporate council and lobbyist in Sacramento. This serious conflict of interest was exposed by COMO-CAL’s THE VOICE in October 2008. A month later Mr. Priest was gone.
We question why an organization needs a corporate attorney? Of course they need a lobbyist, but why spend tens of thousands of dollars each year on a corporate attorney. It would make sense if the attorneys were writing letters to park owners on behalf of mobilehome owners, but we seldom see that happening.
d) The decision to “sell” memberships and not provide good “customer service.”
GSMOL is a service organization. It’s success requires providing good customer service and being responsive to members needs. Our good friend Steve Molski, a long time GSMOL manager in Chula Vista once said, Garden Grove is a black hole, anything that goes in never comes out. Steve was referring to the many letters he wrote to GSMOL leadership and never got a reply. Is this how to run a successful organization?
We always hear the word “apathy” as being one reason why GSMOL isn’t getting members. But we believe bad (or no) customer service plays a huge role.
e) The decision to hide financial and membership information from members so they will not be aware of the rapid decline of the organization and so they will continue to renew and new members will join.
Over the years we have asked GSMOL members and leaders about finances and membership. They answer: “We don’t know anything about finances and membership.” Of course that is not surprising, given the fact that the BOD hides the truth about the rapid membership and revenue loss. And don’t think folks didn’t ask for that information, because they did.
f) The use of paid office staff rather than volunteers.
GSMOL members have lots of expertise. Why hasn’t GSMOL used them more than they have? This would have reduced the huge cost associated with a paid office staff. Get members involved, we feel that’s a key to success.
GSMOL has kept all financial and member information hidden. A comprehensive financial report was made available to some delegates of the last Convention in April 2014; however no member information. Dr. Phil says:
“When you look at the research, you got to look at what people define as a lie. The most dangerous lie and the most difficult to spot is the lie by omission. When you leave out a material fact, that’s a lie just as big as anything you could say that’s wrong.”
We remember in 2008 when the GSMOL Treasurer asked for a no vote from delegates on a bylaw that would have finally given delegates the financial information they had wanted for years. His reasoning was such a report would be too costly and too long. The recent report was less than 10 pages and many received it via email. We feel the board’s action in 2008 was part of a deliberate cover-up.
Where Did The Money Go?
We have no idea about previous years, but we feel almost half of GSMOL’s expenses last year were unnecessary. A huge chunk of money went to office staff. What do they do? Primarily keep track of the members and money. Perhaps paid staff were necessary when GSMOL had 100,000 members, but today with 10,000 members, any money spent on staff is unnecessary. COMO-CAL ran for 7 years with very little office expense (perhaps a few hundred dollars). When office work is necessary, it can be done with volunteers.
Current BOD Part of the Problem
Of course, current BOD members claim this is history, that someone else created this situation and that they are not responsible. We beg to differ. It is well known that they are not team players, they take credit for the work of others, and they continue to support the bad policies of the past administrations. None of the “critical decisions” have been changed.
Many Chances to Change
Over the years, GSMOL has had many chances to reform making the organization transparent, provide good customer service, manage members money well, and help those they serve. Here are just a few examples (anyone wanting documentation of any can contact Mobilehome Magazine and we will supply you with the documentation:
George Smith Lawsuit (1999)
Patrick Guzman CPA Report & Recomm. Report (2004)
The removal of Maurice Priest and replacement by Christine Minnehan (2009)
The 2014 Convention Renew, Rebuild, Restore
The several MHMag surveys about “working together.”
Every time there was a new BOD, including 1998, and every other year following
Report Card on GSMOL
The numbers don’t lie. This is our assessment of the effectiveness of the GSMOL Board of Directors (BOD)over the last 25 years, including the present board.
Management of the Organization F
Use of members fees and donations D
Use of corporate attorney E
Ability to accept suggestions & make positive change F
Customer Serv (the volunteer network provides it) D
Working with others, i.e. teamwork E
Giving credit where credit is due F
Promoting the general welfare of mh owners E
Having open meetings with mho’s about GSMOL F
Ability to do everything for mh owners E
Use of volunteers D
Use of legislation to resolve MHOS problems E
Providing legal help to mobilehome owners F
Providing ENFORCEMENT for existing laws F
Management of Enforcement Legal Fund F
Consequences of Their Assumptions
As a consequence of board members policies and decisions, tens of thousands of GSMOL members and leaders have left the organization. In fact, we calculate approximately 125,000 have left over the last 25 years. That’s a potential $3,125,000 loss of income per year! Some leaders have gone off to form their own organizations. Many simply have quit out of frustration.
You, the mobilehome owner who supported GSMOL and counted on them to protect you, are the ultimate hero. After all of your support, after all the money (about $20,000,000) you have sent GSMOL trusting that it would do the right thing. After all that, you have gotten very little. Laws without enforcement, no legal help, no information about the organization, and now GSMOL is a skeleton of it’s former self. All a consequence of poor BOD decisions. Unfortunately had members been more active, this could have been prevented!
Two Bright Spots
The GSMOL volunteer network has been the real hero in all this. Many have volunteered hundreds of hours and spent their own money giving their friends and neighbors help and information. By the way, GSMOL has never really supported the volunteer network. Last year they sent $1231 to chapters, while receiving over $100,000 from them.
A second bright spot was when GSMOL hired Christine Minnehan as co-lobbyist in Sacramento. Christine was the only person over the years wanting GSMOL to respect and work with other advocates. In fact, we believe the three summits in 2009 were held at her request to get everyone on the same page. COMO-CAL participated in all three. Thanks Christine!
Public Accessible Information
Ultimately GSMOL leaders have hidden the facts from their membership, but did you know much information about the organizations, including finances and membership, are available to the public. For example, every non-profit must submit 990 Tax Returns to the IRS. These are available to anyone who wants them, including park owners and managers. Figures on total membership are available in the Californian if you know where to find them. These figures can usually be found in the November issue of the Californian in a report for the United States Postal Service (USPS).
So we at MHMag have not violated any confidentiality. We have researched to find the information we provide in this article, information that is available to and used by park owners and their representatives.
We understand there is grid-lock on the Board of Directors, much like we see in our Federal Government. There are now10 board members versus the original 6.
We congratulated, via email, the new President, Jean Crowder, and invited her to chat with us about our offer to help GSMOL. That was over a month ago. We received no reply. We also sent a similar email to Miss Terri, the new Zone A-1 VP and never heard from her either.
There may be a change of the delegate system of voting. The BOD said there would be a review and results in six months.
We have made suggestions over the years to improve GSMOL, as have others. We have asked you, the MHO, what you wanted. You said you wanted MHMag and GSMOL working together. We agree 100%. We have reached out to GSMOL and offered to share our distribution network. We were at the hotel where the GSMOL Convention was held to give Board members an opportunity to sit down with us and discuss working together.
Ultimately GSMOL has rebuffed any and all attempts to work with MHMag. So where do we go from here? Our hope is that you, MHOS across California, armed with facts and truth, will bring enough pressure so that GSMOL leaders will want to institute major reforms We feel this is GSMOL’s only hope.
We hope to see GSMOL once again an organization for the people, by the people, open, transparent, responsive to MHOS, and working hard to protect them.
Anyone wanting to view supporting documents for this article, please contact us at Mobilehome Magazine.