That October 2018 board meeting marked a big change, as Mike's attempts at controlling the board were clearly evident to everyone present, as was his contempt particularly for Sally and myself.
I also managed to get approval to hire an HOA attorney.
John LaSala said he would help me find someone, but over the course of three months, he ignored all my emails to meet, so I looked for myself.
In the middle of all of this, we had a board election. Judy was running, but Alan Jolley also wanted to run. He was a friend of ours and had been visiting for years, and had also worked on some of the earliest Earthships at Greater World. The closing on his house was delayed, but he did get it done before the election deadline. Several board members prevented his name from appearing on the ballot, because they did not think he had lived at GW long enough (there was no duration requirement in the by-laws.) These board members did not use the board email to discuss this issue, so I don't know who specifically kept Alan's name off the ballot, but I do know it included Mike and Amy.
Judy Sutton won a board position and within hours, she filed a complaint against me: apparently some anonymous community member did not like my fencing (fencing that had been in position since 2014). You know what I say to that? Laches! You waited too long. I talked to all of my neighbors and asked if they had any issue with anything on my property and everyone said they were fine, so the anonymous complaint apparently wasn't anyone who lived near enough to actually see my property. Of course, Judy could have come to me privately first, but she didn't choose to do that. The board discussed the issue and I stayed out of it. They finally concluded that there was nothing wrong.
Back to the lawyer...
It was clear there was no one in Taos who was qualified, so I ended up choosing a law firm out of Albuquerque: Vance, Chavez and Assoc. It took another three months for the board to agree to spend money on the lawyer, despite the fact they had agreed to hiring a lawyer in October 2018. Amy and I finally signed the contract with the lawyer in March 2019.
I immediately sent Chavez an introductory email covering the issues of concern. My entire correspondence is in the pdf file linked here. I tried to cover al the pertinent issues as succinctly as possible. I was keenly aware that every communication was costing the community money, so I tried to be as efficient as possible.
I was sitting at my computer on 3/20/2019 when Chavez's email came in. I knew he was sitting at his desk, and that the GWLUA was still on his mind for at least a few minutes. I contemplated closing my shop and driving back to Greater World to find another board member to listen in on the call I was about to make. I also recalled that I had been told that Chavez only wanted to deal directly with one person, and I was already that contact person.
I called him.
Chavez emails and notes of conversation:
I was unprepared for what he told me. I've tried to commemorate as much of the conversation as possible. (There is an error in the discussion: in email #8, Chavez says that the limit on the GWLUA is 14 years, it was actually 20 years, and the expiration should have been 2014.)
On 3/27/19 I was deposed by both lawyers in the lawsuit against Mike. That meeting again impacted my perspective on everything that was happening. Several things of interest: Amy denied that we had a lawyer (she had been deposed earlier on the same day), and Natelson (Mike's lawyer) told me that Judge McElroy had not ruled on whether the GWLUA was legal.
Back to the GWLUA: Now we were in trouble. Not only had we expired according to Chavez, but we needed to incorporate if we were to continue as an HOA. Chavez made it clear that we were NOT to spend any more funds than necessary to meet our current financial obligations.
I knew I had to talk to the board about this, but I also knew that Mike was going to bite my head off and Judy was going to gnaw on the pieces. I ended up confiding in the only board member I thought I could trust at the time, John LaSala. I explained everything and he decided to go to a local lawyer that he considered to be a friend, for a second opinion. That lawyer, Chris Stachura, concluded the same thing, via a different path: that the GWLUA was not a legal entity and therefore not a valid HOA.
John was going to officiate the next board meeting set for 4/31/19, so we agreed that we would present this information to everyone and also discuss incorporation. That isn't what happened though. I presented my conversation with Chavez. But John did not back me up with the information he had obtained from Stachura! In fact, he minimized what Stachura had said. John had a pet project going and he wanted to put time into the High Speed Internet proposal, so he breezed as much as he could on all of the other issues we had to deal with that night. See board minutes.
One thing not reflected in the minutes of that night was that Mike said that the Judge had ruled in his favor that the GWLUA had NOT expired. I had checked the judicial website earlier that the afternoon and there had been no rulings between the date of my deposition and the date of our meeting.
Minutes from 4/31/19 Board meeting: https://www.greaterworldcommunity.org/file/document/421124291/aVOLXyyAvvWgfFu4.pdf