Newport Controversy continues — Rampart Letter rebuts article

NEWPORT– Following the annual vote and election of board members at the New Property Owners Association of Newport meeting on Jan. 12, various parties continue to be unhappy with the results and make charges about the veracity of the other parties.
Included in these charges is this newspaper, the Star-Courier. In a letter to the publisher, Rampart Capital president Jim Carpenter has criticized the article in last week’s paper for its inaccuracy or incompleteness. This letter has been published herein, in an effort to present all sides of the story completely.
A discussion and rebuttal to the letter follows the text of the letter.

However, the Star-Courier has learned that at this month’s regular NPOAN board meeting, members of the Concerned Members of Newport group plan to request additional information on the Jan. 12 voting, and expect this meeting to be constructive and conducted in a friendly manner. It will be held Thursday, Jan. 19 at 5:45 in the Country Club.
The crux of the charges from CMN, according to resident and member Kathy Slaughter, is that the board conducts much of Newport’s business in private sessions, and that information and financial transactions are not available to residents. In addition, she says that CMN feels that an attitude of disregard for homeowners’ wishes will lead to a situation where there is no control over maintenance fees, subcontractors’ agreements and services, sale of assets, and legal agreements such as deed restrictions, voting rights agreements, and by-laws.
She cites the recent secrecy surrounding the board elections, and failure to fully answer questions regarding Rampart’s votes, as examples of this attitude. She says that CMN believes that voting irregularities may have existed and are being covered up. CMN feels that the election totals as reported by CIA Services, Inc. may not reflect the vote of those who were eligible. Even though the election had monitors, nevertheless CMN claims that there was no validation of who was present that night, and eligible to vote. Since then, the records have not been made available to see if this is true.
In rebuttal, Rampart Capital’s president has issued a detailed letter to the Star Courier, responding and refuting many of these points.
Editor of the Star-Courier:
Once again, Lewis Spearman and the Star Courier report events within Newport without being present at the meetings or independently verifying alleged facts! In his recent article “Newport Re-elects Board Members”, Mr. Spearman’s article states “that about 400 or more of the votes… were cast by the board from Newport Fund,” a subsidiary of Rampart Capital. The article also states that by casting such votes the NPOAN board will retain an advantage in determining election outcomes including maintenance dues, deed restrictions, and ultimately who is elected to the board. Further, the article states that those votes were subject to a Voting Rights Agreement limiting those votes for quorum purposes and also implied that Rampart transferred the majority of its votes to Newport Fund to avoid the Voting Rights Agreement and vote its lots. RAMPART AND ALL OF ITS RELATED ENTITIES COMPLIED WITH THE VOTING RIGHTS AGREEMENT AND CAST 405 VOTES FOR QUORUM PURPOSES ONLY. How one votes is by law a secret matter; however, I am enclosing a copy of Rampart’s Proxy for verification. Also, I am requesting the independent election judges to verify by affidavit to the Star Courier that the attached proxy was voted for quorum purposes only and not for any candidate.
In 1999, Rampart Properties purchased the assets of Newport Subdivision and the rights of the previous developer from the Bankruptcy Estate. Through an agreement with the New Property Owner’s Association of Newport(“NPOAN”), Rampart assigned its votes for the lots acquired in that transaction to NPOAN. It was Rampart’s understanding that those votes would only be used at annual meetings for quorum purposes only. When the attempted re-call was scheduled for October, Rampart realized that its Voting Rights Agreement did not clearly limit its votes for quorum purposes only and that those votes could, in fact, be voted by the NPOAN board for any purpose. The Board of Directors of the NPOAN did not cast Rampart’s votes at the October re-call meeting even though they had a contractual right to do so. After the October meeting, Rampart approached the Board and requested that the Voting Rights Agreement be amended so that this Board or any future Board could not use the Rampart votes to vote in an annual election other than for quorum purposes only. The NPOAN Board approved this change. Rampart currently has 405 votes under the Voting Rights Agreement and in accordance with the Agreement, executed a proxy voting those votes for quorum purposes only. I repeat, RAMPART AND ALL OF ITS RELATED ENTITIES COMPLIED WITH THE VOTING RIGHTS AGREEMENT AND CAST 405 VOTES FOR QUORUM PURPOSES ONLY.
Companies related to Rampart hold lots that are not subject to the Voting Rights Agreement. I, as a principal of these entities, cast those votes. However, those votes cast for quorum purposes represented a significant majority of all lots collectively owned by Rampart and any of its related entities.
As for the January 5 meeting of Concerned Members of Newport, a resident of Newport who is an employee of the developer attended the meeting. There were 25 persons in attendance, not 250 as reported by Mr. Spearman, who was not at that meeting. Further, at that meeting she informed her fellow residents that the Rampart votes subject to the Voting Rights Agreement would be used for quorum purposes only.
Since Mr. Spearman was not present at either meeting, it would appear that someone is “ghost writing” his articles, perhaps even someone that might have some motivation to intentionally misstate the facts. The misstatements, hopefully made unknowingly by Mr. Spearman and the Star Courier, could have been prevented if the Courier had contacted the NPOAN board or Rampart regarding the proxy votes. I was at the annual meeting and answered multiple questions from residents – not one of which was from any reporter from the Star Courier.
In the spirit of accurate reporting, I would hope that all future articles in the Star Courier would attempt to include both sides of an issue and that the Star Courier would attempt to verify the facts. Since these election issues began, at no time has Mr. Spearman or anyone from the Star Courier attempted to contact myself or a member of the NPOAN board to verify facts or to provide alternative comment before any article has been printed. Does this represent “fair and balanced” reporting?
I have contacted Mr. Hoffman, owner, editor and publisher of the Star Courier, to request a meeting with him and Mr. Spearman, to discuss the matter.
s/Jim Carpenter, President
Rampart Capital Corporation
We thank Mr. Carpenter and others for their comments, which we take in a constructive manner.
However, some of the points made in the letter require a response, as follows:
Reporters from the Star-Courier have attended NPOAN meetings, at least part time on many occasions. Mr. Carpenter’s reference to the Jan. 5 meeting was not correct, we were present for part of the time, and interviewed others who stayed the whole time.
We develop our stories from many sources, even though we have not questioned Mr. Carpenter directly. For last week’s story, we used several interviews, the Newport website at CIA Services, and our own firsthand information. On previous occasions we have interviewed NPOAN board members/officers and reported their words. Sometimes calls for information are not returned in a timely way, and this affects our available data.
We do not use ghost-written stories, and try to present all sides of a story if there is a controversy. In last week’s story, we clearly stated that spokespersons for Concerned Members of Newport “contended” that there were voting irregularities. In his criticism Mr. Carpenter ignored this attribution and qualification.
Although our story said that “nearly 250” persons attended the Jan. 5 Concerned Members meeting, Mr. Carpenter’s employee saw no more than 25. We agree that we saw a small number at any one time, but many more were coming and going to the evening meeting, in addition to an afternoon meeting not attended by Rampart’s person. We regret any misunderstanding of this representation.
We welcome letters or emails of criticism or clarification, on this issue or anything of interest to the community. Although our work may not always be perfect, we strive for fairness and accuracy in these pages for the benefit of our community.
s/Gilbert Hoffman
Publisher, Star-Courier