ARIZONA – N4T Investigators: Hostile board?
Tucson – Michelle Ruffo says her homeowners association board has hit her with $2500 in fines because she’s a whistleblower. “They’re just physically and mentally trying to destroy me,” she told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, referring to a couple of board members.
Ruffo lives in the Reflections in the Catalinas condos in the foothills. Back in 2012, she found out almost a thousand dollars in HOA funds were used for a board member to fly here for an HOA meeting, from his other home in another state. Instead of using Skype or a different video conferencing method, the HOA’s management company, Lewis Management Resources, in 2012 reimbursed the board member $768 for his airfare, $114 for his hotel room; $96 for his rental car. That’s to attend one board meeting, using money that’s supposed to pay for homeowners’ property maintenance and improvements, for which they pay $195 a month. The current management company for Reflections in the Catalinas, Associa (Lewis is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Associa), declined an interview and sent us an email on behalf of the board of directors, saying the travel expense was “…approved by the board…” Really? The board president at the time, Carolyn Fike, said in an email to us, “that’s a flat-out lie.” And in an audio recording of the 2012 meeting obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, Fike blasted the travel reimbursement.
“Even if there were justification for this reimbursement, ” Fike says during that meeting, “it should have been brought to the board’s attention, which it never was. It would have been voted on. But it was slipped in and that’s absolutely unacceptable.”
The board member who was being criticized for the travel expenses responds by saying, “Sue me.” We are not identifying him because he has not been charged with a crime. We approached him last week at the condos and asked, “Do you have anything to say about the HOA paying for your travel expenses?” He said, “That is not a correct statement.”
But Ruffo, who is a former member of the HOA board, says if the board wasn’t called out on this, the money would not have been reimbursed. “Nobody knew about it” before it was brought up during that 2012 meeting, Ruffo said. “So he kind of came in through the back door, slipped this in and from that point on when I made mention, all of a sudden I’m getting all kinds of fines that are outrageous.” Read more: