Just two months after four homeowners lost their bids for seats on the Pebble Creek Homeowners Association, the woman who unwittingly beat them resigned from the board.
"I had some personal commitments that got in the way of me serving," said Nazi (pronounced Nah-zee) Tayyari on Monday. "Nothing mysterious here. I just couldn't devote the time I thought was necessary to do a good job on the board."
So ended the two-month term of Tayyari, who won enough votes in a November election to nab the last seat on a five-member board that oversees a $400,000 annual budget paid for with $350 annual association fees.
Her November victory was something of a stunner. When reached the day after her election, Tayyari said she didn't know she had won. Tayyari's election iced out four homeowners _ Kori Billings, Sherry Dixon, Thais Forbes and Roberto Vega _ who stumped door-to-door, held a candidate forum and designed a Web site touting their campaigns. Meanwhile, Tayyari acknowledged she had done no politicking whatsoever.
"She didn't campaign, and nobody knew who she was," Dixon said. "She showed no interest, so we're not surprised to see her resign. We assumed she would."
Forbes said the board should have filled the vacancy with one of the four homeowners who ran for the board in November. Instead, the board last week appointed Consuelo Lauer, a former board member who resigned two years ago.
"I would have tried to make peace with those who ran but didn't get elected," Forbes said. "Consuelo has already served, and she resigned. That doesn't look good. We don't have a democratic process here."
The board's first vice president, Michael Carricato, said the board can appoint whomever they please.
"It's up to the board," said Carricato, who calls the four homeowners "The Fearsome Foursome." "Consuelo was a good choice because she had already been on the board, she was a known commodity, and she had been active in the community."
Pebble Creek is a deed-restricted community of 1,049 homes near the Pasco County line that is governed by a five-member board. Board members have the authority to hire contractors to manage and improve the community's common areas. They also have the power to fine homeowners for violations, such as overgrown grass and cracked driveways.
In January 2002, the board removed and replaced the sod of a lawn that it deemed unacceptable. The board then charged the couple who owned the lawn $2,212 for the work. When the couple refused to pay, the association sued. The couple countersued, saying the association overstepped its authority. That case is expected to go to trial in March before County Judge Paul Huey.
For some neighbors not involved in the legal showdown, the sod case raised troubling questions, such as: "Wasn't it a conflict for the board to hire one of its own members _ Michael Meggison, a landscaper _ to replace the lawn?" Meggison, who is also paid as the community's maintenance manager, stated in a deposition that he didn't vote when the board awarded him the job, therefore, it wasn't a conflict.
As a group of homeowners started meeting with each other last summer to discuss the association's finances, they started digging deeper into the board's billing statements. They learned that Meggison got paid $109,217 by the association in 2001 _ but many of the invoices he submitted to account for his work were vague.
As they tried to learn more, Billings, Dixon, Forbes and Vega were met with resistance by board members who didn't make certain records available, Forbes said. So, they decided to band together and mount a challenge to unseat the board members.
But they were no match for the community's voting system. While those homeowners who attended election night at Clark Elementary School were allowed to vote, so too were those who couldn't attend. And those absent voted by proxy, in effect assigning their votes to the association secretary, who selected for them.
Board members overwhelmingly received the majority of proxies, while the four challengers won most of the votes of those who attended. The proxies won, and all four board members seeking re-election won.
At the time of her victory, Tayyari dismissed rumors that the board helped elect her to ward off insurgents critical of how the board spends its money. She vowed she wouldn't be a pushover and that she would ask the tough questions.
She called association president Rick Mainville the night before the Jan. 12 monthly meeting to tell him that she was resigning. Mainville then called Carricato and the two discussed who should replace her. That's when Lauer's name came up, Carricato said.
"I offered Consuelo's name, among others," Carricato said. "So, it was up to Rick to find out if Consuelo was willing."
The next day, Lauer attended the meeting, along with Vega. Lauer nominated herself, as did Vega. Billings' husband stood up and told board members that they should appoint Vega, who received 101 votes in November. Undeterred, the board voted 4-0 to appoint Lauer.
"To change things around here, we need to get more people involved," Dixon said. "People just aren't paying attention, and this board won't listen to anyone who disagrees with it. This is the way things are done in Pebble Creek."
Carricato said the board gave the seat to the best candidate.
"Consuelo is a positive force," he said. "We were all familiar with her."
_ Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 269-5312 or mvansicklersptimes.com.