A Foothills Community Association resident has launched a petition drive to recall the HOA board’s longtime president and two members who were added when it expanded.
Keith Smith said he mailed notices of the recall drive to about half the HOA’s approximate 4,100 homeowners and another 300 member-businesses, seeking to oust board President William Fautsch and recently appointed members Gary Walker and Mark Moskal. He figures he needs 10 percent of the property owners – about 440 – to secure an election on the recall.
Among the issues Smith has raised against Fautsch, who has been president of the HOA for 12 years, is that he doesn’t live in the community.
Fautsch, who owns two homes in the community and rents them out, said by-laws don’t require members to live there, only own property. He also said he moved to another home he owns in Tempe when the housing market tanked because he was having trouble finding tenants. He described his Foothills tenants as long-term, but added he eventually hopes to move back to Ahwatukee.
Smith also has raised questions about several other board moves – including the approval of a monthly increase in payments to Premier Management Co., bringing to $180,000 the cost of having the firm run day-to-day affairs at Foothills, as well as other vendors’ costs and the board’s refusal to address public safety issues.
And he contends that the board last year voted to increase the number of its members from five to seven without seeking HOA members’ approval.
Although Smith said no law forbids the board from expanding or appointing members, he asserted the move was to bolster Fautsch’s support on the board in case upcoming board elections “don’t go his way.”
Rejecting that assertion, Fautsch said the board needed to expand in order to have a sufficient number of members at every meeting to conduct official business. He said the board members looked at the coming six months and realized their personal schedules conflicted with scheduled board meetings.
Although Smith’s petition said the two new members were appointed to two-year terms, Fautsch said they’ll have to seek election next year.
Smith and Fautsch also disagree on the fees that the HOA pays to Premier Management Co. to run day-to-day matters at the community.
Smith said the recent increase raises Premier’s annual compensation to $158,000. Fautsch said that when Premier first bid on a contract with Foothills about six years ago, it quoted a “below market” price for its services and kept that price unchanged for its first renewal.
“We interviewed six different management companies,” Fautsch said. “We chose Premier because of their services and what they were offering us.” He also noted that the latest contract gives Premier a 4 percent increase, which he termed reasonable.
Smith also has taken aim at the length of time Fautsch has been president and said it’s time for new blood on the board.
Fautsch said partly the reason involves the South Mountain Freeway.
He noted he has been involved in four years of negotiations with the Arizona Department of Transportation and Connect202Partners, the design-build firm building the freeway, that have yielded a number of favorable outcomes for residents.
“I felt it was necessary for me to stay and see this through,” he said. “We negotiated something incredible, not only for unusable common land but the sleeves under the freeway and at 24th Street that will provide an alternate source of water if we ever need it.”
Former Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee chairman Chad Blostone, who for a time served on the Foothills board with Fautsch, said the board president’s efforts yielded about $750,000 in cash payments and “valued-added work” from ADOT.
“The community is lucky Bill has agreed to stay on through completion of construction of the freeway,” Blostone added. “Continuity is important. So are the relationships with C202 and ADOT that Bill has built over time.”
Fautsch and Blostone also took issue with Smith’s contention that the board’s reserves are overfunded.
“If I recall correctly, prior to Bill being president, the reserves were underfunded. Now they are overfunded – that’s a good thing,” Blostone said. “No special assessments needed,” he added, stating “dues haven’t been raised for two years” and that past increases “will be used to improve the community.”
Fautsch also noted an ongoing $1 million project the board has undertaken to replace the HOA’s aging irrigation system – which the board expects will save the HOA more than $100,000 in water bills.
Smith also claims the board has refused to address safety concerns and that it has merely suggested residents create a block-watch program.
“The HOA is responsible for our safety and welfare,” he said, asserting the board could afford to hire neighborhood patrols.
But Fautsch said that by law an HOA is responsible only for properly maintaining common areas within the community and that Phoenix Police have noted a decline in property crimes.
He said Smith and others have asked for a security company to be hired and possibly street cameras mounted on city-owned street light poles. Fautsch noted such things “would come at a cost” and that all security companies can do is call the police.
With the HOA’s annual meeting slated for April 29, Smith said he is hoping to get enough signatures to force a recall vote before then. He created a website, foothillsmaster.com, for the recall and another, hoacandidate.com, with information on three board candidates he’s supporting.
“Since the FCA annual elections have just started and ballots are soon to be mailed, it is also very important to convey challenging candidates’ bios,” he said. “The current board limits candidate bios to only 150 words. This limitation to only 150 words makes it very difficult to address issues and the candidates’ interests.”
Smith also said he had run for the board last year, but that his defeat has nothing to do with the recall campaign.
“A lot of things didn’t go my way,” he said. “I got involved last year because two members contacted me. We can’t control this board. Last year he (Fautsch) had support of the commercial properties and the builders, but some commercial members have already approached me and are behind me.”
Smith is not running for the board this year, saying “I’m spearheading this recall drive” and felt it might be a conflict of interest if he also ran.
He added, “Our response is really good so far. We have nearly a dozen concerned individuals working on this effort.”
Blostone called the drive misguided, saying it would end up costing money.
“They simply have philosophical disagreements about how the Foothills HOA should be managed. That’s what board member elections are for,” he said. “An expensive and time-consuming recall election is unwarranted. It should be rejected.”