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NPOA Newport clarifies action

CROSBY – Newport has mostly packed away distinctively beautiful holiday decorations that during its season gave the regularly nature adorned subdivision one of the most warm and charming ambiance in the Greater Houston Area as residents again raise issues with New Property Owners Association of Newport (NPOAN) board.

Residents just received their booklets to pay $40 maintenance fees along with the realization that the local sales tax is the same as Houston now and on January 12 there is a board election to be held at Newport Country Club.

Newport is a fantastically idyllic place to live with high quality water, a fire station on the entrance, new bridges, light infrastructure, remedied electrical power supply, sidewalks near the elementary school, beautiful central reflecting pool entrance to Port–O–Call, with more and better on the way. Amenities now fixed are to be the envy of any neighborhood. The dispute seems to come down to doing private business (with all needs of confidence between parties) inside public business (with all demands for disclosure for the public trust.) The entity of the board must walk the tightrope between enforcing property codes without being able to disclose every details of keeping the grass mowed and everything maintained within a budget.

The board publicized its having blocked a strip center from being placed not far inside the subdivision, the lakes and river section was repaired from vandalism and now is completely captivating for family outings. NPOAN announced Rampart Capital Corporation donated playground equipment for the park on Port-O-Call which the board restored and leased the park near the bayou. The NPOAN made changes in their practices since an October 13 election voted down a Fitness Center, attempted to recall board members and the membership tried to limit powers of the board with by-law changes.

Voting amends

The changes implemented in the election process by the board “due to input from several residents,” followed the entire election process being questioned about improprieties by certain residents. The board denied that there were improprieties.

NPOAN board indicates that in the future, proxies or ballots must be mailed or delivered to C.I.A. services or placed in the drop box before 5:00 p.m. the day before the meeting. Only originals will be accepted that have the homeowner’s name, property address and signature. Proxy will be valid for one session only. Each ballot is now to be numbered for tracking purposes. Resident/members will now be registered by signing in at each voting meeting and photo identification will be required to confirm residency.

The board itself and C.I.A. Services, the management company for the NPOAN, reviewed the election process and disclosed that 123 ballots were cast of about 220 attendants on the night of October 13 special called meeting. Eighteen proxy votes were determined invalid that represented 24 votes.

Thirty five votes assigned to the discretion of the President of the Board were not counted due to “a miscommunication between the management company and the President.” The post office returned 87 proxies as not having valid addresses: delinquent and parties not located. In spite of accusations, the board found that 78 builder votes were cast by the builders themselves for their own lots and that no proxies were assigned by builders.

Open Meetings

Brewing now is an old question about secrecy and what is done in closed session. Some of the source of suspicion toward the board and possible source of misunderstandings between board and residents is related to the Open Meetings Act. From a copy of an October 27 minutes, the last minutes currently made available by the board, the Board’s attorney announced that the Texas Open Meetings Act did not apply to Homeowners’ Associations and that the board retains the right to closed meetings.

The Government Code Chapter 552 of the Texas Public Information Act provides certain Property Owners’ Associations are subject to Act if membership is required for owners of private property in a defined geographical area in a county of 2.8 million or more or in a county adjacent to a county with a population of 2.8 million or more. That must be somewhere near Harris County. The act also defines as subject property owners’ associations that have the power to make mandatory special assignments for capital improvements or mandatory regular assessments.

With the exception of emergency, imminent danger to the public, consolations with attorneys, purchase or sale of real property, medical records, public personal records, “every regular, special or called meeting of a government body shall be open to the public.”

Bylaws require quarterly open meetings, according to the minutes. There was a suggestion to move the open sessions to the beginning instead of the end of the meetings. That rearrangement would accomplish an open meeting for about half an hour then go into executive session.

The open meetings act requires that executive sessions be posted prior to the meeting. During previous meetings the board went into executive sessions to hear challenges to the voting procedure and other activities without declaring executive session as the board believes it is not effected by the Open Meetings Act.

Residents/members are invited to tour the changes of Bylaws enacted since the October special meeting. This month on the CIA Services Inc. website: (www.ciaservices.com)then “Select Community” then “Newport” in the list of communities, find “Community Documents” the Old By-Laws were posted as “By-laws” and the newer bylaws as “Seventh Amended By-Laws.”

One change is that the board is now allowed to cast the developer’s property votes that are in transition to builders in an election. This increases the board’s advantage in determining election outcomes including for maintenance dues, deed restrictions, how money is spent and who is ultimately elected to the board.