Troubles at the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation

As drought continues, will we have enough water this summer and at what cost?

The less than one-year track record of two Board members now in complete control of the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation (WOWSC) is creating serious concerns for the future of Windermere Oaks among its residents, property owners, and Spicewood Airport hangar owners.

While you (and I!) undoubtedly will be pleased to see reduced rates in your 2024 water bills* due to the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) reversal on precedent, this and other actions actually jeopardize the long-term financial sustainability of the WOWSC.

It is impossible to be brief about the complex matters of a locally-run water company. I’m highlighting below the main concerns . Details follow the summary, with references to videos that you could watch too. I’m saving you that trouble, but truly in the segments I picked you can see why I am so troubled at what has been happening. Please consider the following issues:

Will we have enough water?

  • Previous Boards’ plans for an equipment overhaul to make a new clarifier tank have been scrapped entirely, even at a $7,000 loss to WOWSC. No plans have replaced them. The previous overhaul plan could have been completed by April 2024. That will not happen now. Without a new clarifier, the water plant may be incapable of clarifying/producing enough water.

What will delay of the clarifier cost us?

  • Continuation of the drought and low lake levels could require WOWSC to truck in water with 5,000-gallon trucks. The company sells about 50,000 gallons a day. Previous truck-in costs from 12 years ago would add $50-100 to your bill for usage over 3,000 gallons. The Board can adjust those costs to today’s market rates.

Is the Corporation functional after the election of two particular Board members in 2023?

At this time, the WOWSC Board consists of only 2 WOWSC members: Rene Ffrench and Jeff Walker. Since Mr. Ffrench’s and Mr. Walker’s election on April 15, 2023:

  • Seven (!) community members have resigned or changed their mind about serving on the Board with Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench. This is unprecedented in the history of the WOWSC or just about any organization that does not have serious underlying problems possibly related to policies and personalities.

  • In addition, in January the WOWSC Manager of 20+ years resigned. His key contractors for accounting and tax preparation also resigned. Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker changed prior corporate behavior, including: appearing unannounced at professional offices, shouting demands; cancelling payment checks to vendors, payments that had been authorized by other Board members; scrapping previously engineered, approved and partially paid-for plans for a clarifier tank as mentioned.

Is the Board considering more litigation for personal reasons that will cost you more money?

  • Both Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker initiated litigation against WOWSC in 2022 and prior. Now in office, they will consider, at their current two-member March 19 meeting, whether to initiate litigation against WOWSC’s former attorneys. They could use the sale of WOWSC assets to fund their litigation, if those assets don’t get tied up once their litigation starts. Both issues — the land sale and litigation — are to be discussed behind closed doors at their March 19 meeting. (To his credit, thankfully, Mr. Walker seems opposed to Mr. Ffrench’s ideas on litigation, as will be described below.)

I encourage you to read the rest of this post and to watch the video segments that substantiate the points. Then, please send Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker your thoughts about their leadership, or attend the March 19 meeting. You could send notes to them through WindermereWater@gmail.com before or after the March 19 meeting.

Sincerely,

Joe Gimenez

Former WOWSC Board President, 2019-2023

The following observations come from meeting videos posted at Windermere Oaks in the Raw – YouTube. The Secretary-Treasurer, Mr. Ffrench, has not seen to the writing, Board approval and posting of meeting minutes since April 2023, so these videos are all that is available to cite.

Board Turmoil: The Board is unable to attract and retain talented individuals to serve on our community water board:

  • Julie Neumann – Won uncontested election at Annual Members meeting Feb. 24, 2024.  Board elected her President Feb. 24; she presided at March 12 Board meeting, resigned at end of March 12 meeting.
  • Judy Miller – Won uncontested election at Annual Members meeting Feb. 24.  Elected by Board as Secretary-Treasurer on Feb. 24; attended March 12 meeting; resigned March 13.
  • Patti Flunker – Appointed to Board on Feb. 24 at Directors meeting. The Board had not properly put vacancy appointment on the Agenda so the appointment was then ratified at the March 12 meeting agenda, to comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act. Ms. Flunker resigned at the end of the March 12 meeting.
  • Richard Schaefer – Won uncontested election at April 15, 2023, Annual Members meeting. The Board elected him President same day. Mr. Schaefer resigned Feb. 21, 2024, three days before the 2024 Annual Members meeting.
  • Jeff Anderson – Appointed to Board in March 2023. Resigned in October 2023.
  • 14-year veteran Board member – Won election in 2022. Declined to run in 2024.
  • Jay LeFevers – Submitted application for 2024 Board. Withdrew his candidacy after citing “unwelcoming” posts on NextDoor and witnessing a yelling match between Mr. Walker and Danny Flunker at Feb. 20, 2024, Town Hall meeting held by Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker.   

What underlying reasons might account for this turnover and turmoil?

When resigning at the end of the March 12 meeting, consider that Ms. Flunker described an email which Mr. Walker had sent her and other Board members beforehand:

“You guys [presumably Walker] throw accusations at us [Flunker and Neumann] that we’re not doing anything…I tell you what, everybody want to see what this guy [Mr. Walker] is behind closed doors?

This email is horrible. It was based on BS…You accused her of forgery and fraud…

You’re classless, you’re rude, and you’re foul and I refuse to be on any Board with you.”

The entirety of Ms. Flunker’s comments may be viewed in this video segment.

You can get a feel for Mr. Walker’s “style” by watching this segment also. The video starts with Mr. Walker partially off-screen to the left, but he is reading emails with former WOWSC attorneys (breaking the corporation’s attorney-client privileges, by the way.)

Is it any wonder that members of the community don’t want to spend their volunteer time in this sort of atmosphere?

Mr. Ffrench is signaling intent to sue the WOWSC’s former law firm.

At the February 24, 2024, Board meeting, the newly-elected/appointed Board members Neumann, Miller and Flunker followed the recommendations of Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench by:

  • Firing the Lloyd Gosselink law firm which had represented WOWSC since 2018 and won, or helped win, 5+ cases through their direct work or legal references and strategy (list below**)
  • Hiring The Carlton Law Firm, PLLC, for General Counsel.
  • Hiring Griffith Davison PC for litigation on an as-of-yet unspecified matter.

By the firing and hiring, Mr. Ffrench apparently wants to sue Lloyd Gosselink, “to embarrass them.” He said so at his February 20, 2024, town hall meeting:

Because we know that [Lloyd Gosselink], all four of the folks, are ethically bankrupt, and you can say that is a Rene Ffrench-ism, ethically bankrupt.

But the idea is, at this point, I do believe that we need to engage, and even though it may not be cheap it’s going to be a bargain.

We have to engage legal authority that really has some teeth in it. And the organization interestingly enough is the one that Patti Flunker introduced me to. It’s this Davison Griffith (sic) guys who are just absolutely salivating to get a chance to attack Lloyd Gosselink.

My opinion is that we need to engage [Griffith Davison] immediately to go in to address the fact that Lloyd Gosselink is ethically wrong. They did not have authorization [to submit filings and subsequent bills], you’ve got written proof of this. We get a chance to embarrass them. We get a chance to close that docket that’s only going to extend things…” (emphasis added)

See Video segment of Mr. Ffrench at Town Hall meeting here.

Ask yourself, “What could possibly go wrong with Mr. Ffrench’s intent?”

Consider the outcomes of Mr. Ffrench’s five-year legal battle against the WOWSC and eight former directors, in the case Ffrench, Dial, Sorgen vs. WOWSC and former Board directors:

  • A jury in 2023 awarded the WOWSC $70,000 in additional compensation from a former director for acreage purchased in 2016. $35,000 was awarded to Mr. Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial; $35,000 was awarded to the WOWSC.
  • In court testimony in November 2022, the attorney for Mr. Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial said she’d invoiced more than $400,000 to her clients.
  • The WOWSC paid Lloyd Gosselink to defend it at cost of about of $500,000.
  • The WOWSC paid another firm about $410,000 to defend former directors. Prior WOWSC Boards recouped those directors’ legals fees for the WOWSC through successful lawsuit against its insurance company ($410,000). Plus those Boards won attorney fees ($110,000) and interest (approx.: $148,000) paid to the WOWSC.
  • Mr. Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial placed lis pendins on other WOWSC property, preventing its sale by the WOWSC. Their move prevented the WOWSC Board from using a land sale to offset court costs.

It wasn’t cheap, but was it a bargain? 

The parties spent approximately $1.5 million for Mr. Ffrench and his co-plaintiffs to recover $35,000 for themselves, and $35,000 for the WOWSC. ROI bargain? At least Mr. Walker has raised questions about Mr. Ffrench’s plans, as can be seen in the videos. He should be commended for that.

Key water equipment improvements have been unfunded and discontinued.

Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker have now scuttled a plan that had previously been vetted and approved by previous Boards from 2020-2023 for retrofitting an old storage tank into a clarifier tank. Clarifier tanks hold water until silt and debris drop to the bottom and the top water becomes clean enough to treat further.

A previous Board in 2021 secured $200,000 in loan money (for 20-yrs at a 3.5%) to build a new 125,000-gallon storage tank alongside an older 125,000-gallon storage tank in the water plant.

At its March 12 meeting, the Board – before it disintegrated – authorized Walker to seek return of $7,000 already spent on the plan to retrofit. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to get it all returned.

Did scuttling cause the WOWSC’s prior accomplished manager to leave?

The prior water manager George Burriss had established a work schedule with contractors to retrofit the old tank into a much-needed clarifier for use by April 2024, when water demand increases. This is the same manager who, since the early 2000s, gained the confidence of numerous water company Board members to achieve following:

  • Designed and built the current water plant and pumping barge in the 2000s.
  • Relocated the wastewater treatment plant from the airport to the east of Exeter in 2014.
  • Advanced WOWSC’s operational capability by contracting with Corix Utilities in 2015.
  • Reconstructed the pumping barge after the flood of October 2018.
  • Remedied zebra mussels clogging our pipes by adding filtration systems at the barge.
  • Hired contractors to sandblast the old tank to prepare for retrofitting.
  • Had for seven straight years earned perfect water ratings from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Burriss had engineered a clarifier plan that was ready to go.

All of that has been dismantled and discontinued by Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench. They cited other engineers who had doubts about the retrofit plan, yet no alternative plan for a clarifier is evident.

Might the water manager have left the company because of the possibility of imminent water problems caused by Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench scuttling his plans for the clarifier?

Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench are under criminal investigation

The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in March opened investigation into the Criminal Act of withholding information for Public Information Act requests from August-September 2023.

A request was filed August 22, 2023, for certain email and business records of Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench related to the business of the WOWSC. The WOWSC Chief Information Officer and its attorneys at Lloyd Gosselink sought compliance from Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker within the 10-day window required by law.

Mr. Walker failed to comply in timely manner, instead replying two months late after the state law deadline). Mr. Ffrench has not replied as of this posting. Outcomes from the investigation will be forthcoming.

Watch the videos, especially the last 25 minutes of the March 12 meeting and the February 20 town hall meeting.

Would you buy your home or hangar again if you happened to stumble upon the YouTube meeting videos of the recent Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation? 

* I am very pleased that the rates can be reduced. They should be because the Board of 2022 (pre-Walker and pre-Ffrench) won the insurance case and paid off attorney bills ($678,000). Any Board — however it might have been composed — could have reduced rates immediately after the insurance payment was received but because WOWSC had been tied up in the rate case process at the Public Utilities Commission, it did not have that legal ability to do so. It had to let the PUC set the rates — or if the Ratepayer Representatives could have seen fit to work with the company on reducing rates, that could have more immediately reduced rates as well.

**Here are victories achieved by the Lloyd Gosselink law firm since 2018, either through their direct work on WOWSC’s behalf, or their recommendations and counsel on strategy and references to legal partners:

  • Complete exemption from liability of damages against the WOWSC in the land sale case of Ffrench, Sorgen, Dial vs. WOWSC and Directors.
  • A $678,000 judgment paid to the WOWSC from insurance company. Lloyd Gosselink advised the Board that it had a good legal case for winning the award and recommended the insurance firm which secured the victory. (Shidlofsky)
  • Lloyd Gosselink referred the WOWSC to Enoch Kever. Through the work of the firm Enoch Kever LLC, the WOWSC achieved complete exoneration of seven of eight former Board directors who had been lumped into the wide-ranging land sale lawsuit of Ffrench /Sorgen/Dial vs WOWSC and former directors. It would have been a conflict of interest for LG to have represented the directors who were named individually in the Ffrench, Sorgen, Dial land sale case. The style of the Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial case added significant expense ($410,000) to the ratepayers of Windermere.
  • Victory of the WOWSC at the Public Utility Commission by Proposal of Administrative Law Judges (until one Commissioner overturned prior precedents).
  • PUC dismissal of Mr. Walker’s claims of election fraud and attempt to overturn election of his opponent to the Board in 2022.
  • Victory against Danny Flunker’s attempt to see client-attorney invoices under the Public Information Act. The corporation was protecting its legal strategies that could be gleaned from an opponent through analysis of invoices. This was right at the beginning of the Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial lawsuit, when they were amending their pleadings and trying to get a leg up on how they would pursue WOWSC. Eventually, the WOWSC released the invoices in their entirety. The early legal maneuverings had passed and privilege was no longer required. Nonetheless, the WOWSC had to protect its work and the Attorney General’s office agreed with WOWSC claims to protection.

Half-Truth Item in WOWSC Agenda Should Be Noted

The next to last agenda item in the first meeting of the 2024-25 Board of Directors for the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation should become a topic of interest for Windermere water users.

This first post will describe a very mundane matter about the agenda item, but just wait for future posts to get to the meat of the matter.

The agenda item reads as follows:

This item was part of the agenda submitted by: “L. Rene Ffrench”, the WOWSC Secretary-Treasurer. TOMA stands for “Texas Open Meetings Act,” the law which prescribes posting rules for political subdivisions, like WOWSC as a public water utility.

Lawrence Rene Ffrench is a member of the TOMA Integrity LLC which he formed in 2017 with other water customers to sue the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation. I’m not sure whether TOMA Integrity LLC still exists legally, but it did at the time.

Ffrench and his fellow TOMAers wanted the Burnet County District Court to break the contract which WOWSC had with Friendship Homes and Hangars LLC for the purchase of 4.3 acres of land. They contended that WOWSC agendas — December 2015 and February 2016 — were not complete and thus did not properly inform the public about the Board’s intent to vote on a land sale which had subsequently been finalized in March 2016.

To get the result they wanted — of voiding the land sale through court action — Ffrench and his fellow TOMA Inc. members, filed suit in December 2017 seeking the return of 4.3 acres of land sold in 2016 to a sitting director. That was case no. 47531 in the 33rd District Court of Burnet County and titled: “TOMA Integrity, Inc., and John Dial v. Windermere Oaks Supply Corporation.”

TOMA Integrity, Inc., and John Dial lost that case even after their appeals all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. You can view the entirety of the Appeals Court Decision by clicking here.

One of the key sentences from the Appeals Court ruling should be discussed:

[TOMA] is designed to provide an ‘immediate remedy’ for violations. TOMA and Dial’s petition did not seek immediate mandamus or injunctive relief. Rather, after the property was sold, they sought declaratory relief that the board’s past actions were void. Such relief is unavailable.

Josh R. Morriss, III Chief Justice, Court of Appeals, Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana, June 21, 2019

So, had “TOMA Inc. and Dial” filed their case about the agenda violation before the land was officially sold in March 2016, the courts had the authorization by law to have stopped the transaction. But because TOMA and Dial filed their case in December 2017, more than 20 months after the sale, the Trial, Appeal, and Supreme Courts judged that they could not overturn the March 2016 land sale retroactively.

Now let’s return to Mr. Ffrench’s agenda item of February 24, 2024, where he labels “TOMA winnings” as what will be discussed for disbursement.

There were no TOMA winnings.

Mr. Ffrench and his cohorts lost the TOMA suit.

So here he his, now on the Board of Directors, manipulating words and public understanding of history.

The actual case which produced the “winnings” was an Appeals Court case titled “Rene Ffrench, John Richard Dial, and Stuart Bruce Sorgen v. Friendship Homes & Hangars, LLC and Dana Martin, and Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation, Darby Mair, Independent Administrator of the Estate of Johann Mair, deceased; Michael Mair; William Earnest; Thomas Michael Madden; Robert Mebane; Joe Gimenez; Mike Nelson; Dorothy Taylor and Patrick Mulligan.” The final order which released the winnings may be viewed here. That Appeals Court case No. 03-23-00401-CV was the appeal of the original cause no. 48292.

Thus, a truthful agenda for the February 24, 2024 Board meeting would have listed that as the title of the lawsuit which produced the “winnings.”

TOMA — neither the original TOMA Integrity LLC case or the TOMA itself — had anything to do with the “winnings.”

So why is this important?

Well, that will be a discussion item in the future, after more posts on the topic of the agenda item.

“The ACC Had Bad Motives” — Lawsuit against WOPOA Comes into Focus

On July 24, the lawyers for a local developer updated their complaint against the 2021 Architectural Control Committee of the Windermere Oaks Property Owners Association. The developer is Hunter Family Real Estate II, Ltd., which does business here in Windermere as Chris Elder Homes. You can view the updated lawsuit here.

The lawsuit says this: The 2021 ACC Committee of Mark Carpenter, Paul Hischar, Danny Flunker and Micki Bertino didn’t follow the rules — contractual rules — in administering the restrictive covenants. They failed to approve or deny house plans within the 45-day period required of the ACC. That is a breach of their duty to property owners, the lawsuit says

In this case, their flim-flam responses to Elder resulted in building delays which cost the developer. If a court finds against the POA, all homeowners in Windermere may be on the hook for damages. As the lawsuit says:

“The wrongful actions by the ACC, approved by the HOA’s Board of Directors, resulted in [Hunter Family Real Estate] sustaining losses resulting from lower sales prices per square foot, higher material and labor costs, and damages to Plaintiff’s liquidity.”

The 33rd District Court of Burnet County is being asked to make decision about Texas Property Code which says:

“An exercise of discretionary authority by a property owners’ association or other representative designated by an owner of real property concerning a restrictive covenant is presumed reasonable unless the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that the exercise of discretionary authority was arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory.”

The Hunter plaintiffs contend that some of their building plans were held up by the ACC due to the ACC’s dissatisfaction with progress on their other home sites. That linkage was not within their authority. Linking one thing to another — capriciously — is not part of the ACC’s duty. And the Board at the time either affirmed those actions or neglected to conduct oversight of those actions.

The discovery and deposition process for this lawsuit has been underway for some time. It will be interesting to see the POA’s response, which should be submitted sometime soon.

But since the 2020 Board let the website collapse and washed away years of history, let’s do a recap of the players that have been involved.

The POA Board in 2021 was Julie Nuemann, Charlene Friedsam, Marsha Westerman, Greg Szumski, Janet Crow and Michele Christenson. They brought an anti-property rights covenant change regarding home rentals to the voters in the 2022 election.

That anti-property rights initiative was rejected handily by WOPOA members in February 2022. A mostly new Board was elected in February 2022 and, at that annual meeting, members were first notified about the Hunter Family Real Estate lawsuit that had just been filed.

The 2022 Board was comprised of George Pareja, Joe Cohen, Justin Love, Olga Bashkatova, Janet Crow, and Marcus Vidrine. They removed several former ACC members including Danny Flunker and Mark Carpenter. Bertino and Hischar resigned from the ACC. Again, I’m recounting from memory and a few documents here and there because there is no website record of their time in office. There were two very short POA Board meetings where the Directors removed Carpenter and then Flunker, if I recall correctly.

Then, in February 2023, none of the 2022 Board members ran for office again. Who can blame them (Pareja, Cohen, Love, etc)? They were being asked to do damage control on a lawsuit that they did not create. In other words, they were cleaning up the mess of the Neumann Board.

So in February 2023, POA members then had no choice but to elect the only people that ran, including two members of the 2021 ACC group that are being sued. They are our current Board: Paul Hischar, president; Allen Hicks, Vice President; Marda Waters, Treasurer; Oleh Kulas, Secretary; Mark Carpenter and Tom Nelson. And now Danny Flunker is the head of the ACC.

At least they have rebuilt a website for the POA. That’ s been good for Windermere Oaks.

Newcomers reading this post should understand that Chris Elder has been building homes in Windermere Oaks since 2015. The Architectural Control Committees have been compromised of many different people over the years, and Elder was able to work constructively with them to build the nice homes here today. Sure, there were bumps here and there, but they were ironed out. I first joined the POA Board in 2016, and I served as a Board liaison to the ACC committee. From 2016-2020 in my time on the POA Board, Chris Elder was responsive to our phone calls about his contractors’ noise, trash, working hours, etc. He had no immediate control of their everyday actions, but once the nuisances were brought to Elders’ attention, he fixed them.

If the Hunter Family group is correct, the 2021 ACC — Carpenter, Hischar, Flunker, Bertino — somehow thought it right to create powers they did not possess.

Stay tuned for more updates on the lawsuit when they come available on the District Court’s website.

A Con Man Continues the Co-Op Con

The Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation is a non-profit corporation. The articles of incorporation say so. A judge has said so.

Yet, in a recent NextDoor post, one of the neighborhood confidence men continued his errant-wrong-mistaken-false claims that the corporation is a co-op (or cooperative) under law. Here’s his post.

Why is this important? Well, it is not, really, but to demonstrate the ongoing confidence game being waged against the water corporation, I thought I’d dig into it for anyone left in this neighborhood who wants honest accounting of current events.

You can see in the NextDoor post that the con man Bruce Sorgen repeats his ongoing con. He does it every time he can. I remember him saying it at the annual meeting on April 15.

Repeating falsities over and again, time after time, is the way that con men work to convince people about something that is not true. It’s part of his confidence game with people who make the mistake of believing his baloney.

The Co-op con was important to his original case, the 48292 case of Dial, Ffrench, Sorgen versus the water company and seven former directors (myself included) and current director Dorothy Taylor. You can read their 3rd amended pleading (a good piece of fiction as it turned out) here. The word “cooperative” is mentioned 87 times, because they contended the non-profit corporation is a coop.

The reason for their con was simple: By attempting to convince the judge that the water company is a Cooperative, Sorgen and Dial and Ffrench could “(i) seek to recover damages for wrongs done to them individually where the wrongdoers have violated duties arising from contract or otherwise and owing directly by them to the Plaintiffs…”

In sum, Sorgen, Dial and Ffrench wanted money directly from myself and others. And the only way they could get there — through the law — was to con the judge into believing the non-profit corporation is a cooperative.

After our attorneys disproved the con, the judge smote down Bruce’s false claim. Her order against them can be found here. (Look to the bottom of page 2 and top of page 3 and see the image below.)

The attorney for the directors demonstrated to the judge that the Plaintiffs did “not have standing as members of ‘cooperative’ because the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Cooperation is just what its name says — a water supply corporation, not a cooperative. Under Texas law, not only is this WSC not a cooperative, it is prohibited from being a cooperative. All claims based on non-existent standing as a member of a ‘cooperative must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. This would include any claim seeking damages for Plaintiffs or WOWSC members.” (emphasis added, and see page 3 of this document.)

So the con men and their con lawyer tried their best to con the judge. Didn’t work.

You paid for that in the higher fees that were levied to defend directors against bogus claims from Sorgen et al.

Now at least the water company will be recovering those fees from the insurance company. Nonetheless, Sorgen’s con attempt cost the insurance company money.

The water company’s Directors and Officers insurance cost $7,000+ last year, and it will likely go up, because the customers of WOWSC continue to sue the corporation for bogus claims. That is not lost on insurance companies. Nice going, Bruce.

IMAGES OF PERTINENT LEGAL DOCUMENTS

To save you the time of downloading the full documents, here are the pertinent parts of the Defendant directors rebuttal to the false claims that the non-profit is a cooperative. And below that is the judge’s order.

JUDGE’S ORDER AGAINST THE CON

Just remember this every time you hear the con-men and con-women in the neighborhood tell you that the non-profit corporation is a cooperative. They are conning you.

As an aside, did Jeff Walker’s imaginary friends Henry and Harry Haas make it to the May 25 meeting?

Henry Haas – Lawyer for Jeff Walker?

After my last post questioning whether Henry Haas is a fake person who is part of confidence job, I learned that indeed Mr. Haas has many interests and acquaintances, now extending to the airport and as a supporter of Jeff Walker, a candidate for the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Board.

Here is a letter which Mr. Haas wrote in July 2022, bullying for an apology from a person who had felt threatened by Mr. Walker at past meetings of the pilot’s association:

The email begs many questions:

  • Is Henry Haas a lawyer?
  • Does he have a firm? (“Haas and Associates”)
  • Is he Jeff Walker’s lawyer?
  • Who did Haas interview? They must know who Mr. Haas is.
  • How was Mr. Haas able to listen to audio recordings? Whose recordings were they?

So we now know that Mr. Walker — instead of attempting to behave in a less threatening manner, or taking the neighborly action of learning from the person why they had felt threatened and promising to cease those activities — sicced Mr. Haas upon that volunteer Board member with legal threat.

Tomorrow, at the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation Board, the company has hired two security guards to promote a sense of security for all members attending and wanting to hear — without continuous interruption — about the public issues being discussed by the Board.

By the way, remember from my previous post that I had received a letter from a Stewart Nelson of “Haas and Associates” only nine days prior:

What’s the con and how is Jeff Walker involved?

The Latest Con — Fake NextDoor Poster(s)

Remember the movie called “The Sting”? Robert Redford, Paul Newman. Robert Shaw. It won seven Academy Awards for twists and turns of a group of con artists who scored $500,000 on a fake horse race, and then a fake FBI raid on the gambling parlor, and the fake shooting of Robert Redford at the end.

The Windermere Con Job is entering a new phase: fake NextDoor posters.

In recent weeks we’ve seen two new people join the neighborhood page: Henry Haas and Harry Haas. But who are they?

Burnet County Appraisal District records don’t show them as property owners here.

And yet both Henry and Harry — out of nowhere — seem to have in-depth knowledge of all that has gone on here the last several years, and Harry yesterday chimed in with his expertise on the Public Utility Commission hearings. Hmmm.

Henry, before his account was removed, had posted a picture from my business Facebook page, from a 2019 event where I served as the moderator for a candidates forum before a Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board vote. Here’s the photo:

Henry Haas thought that to be evidence enough to link me to a recent indictment of County Judge Oakley on counts related to his use of a Burnet County car to travel to a PEC meeting, and his alleged tampering of evidence by clearing the road of a car bumper at a gas station fender bender. The cases just recently hit the news and the cases are pending. In the photo above, Judge Oakley is behind me. Henry Haas cropped his NextDoor photo so that only Judge Oakley and I appeared together.

Wow!

So therefore, Henry Haas concluded, Judge Oakley and I were “brothers in arms” in corruption. Seriously? Give me a break. What kind of high school dropout logic is that?

But “Henry Haas,” whoever he or she really is, counts on their Windermere Oaks followers to believe their portrayals of corruption / incompetence / whatever. They also count on their followers to ignore other evidence, portraying everything posted by me or the water company or others to be “propaganda.”

Now, out of the blue yesterday, a “Harry Haas” showed up on the Windermere NextDoor scene. I will address his posts later. NextDoor apparently shut down Henry Haas’ account.

What makes all of this so funny and surreal is that last summer I received a letter from a “Stewart Nelson” from a “Haas and Associates.” I received it about six weeks before the first attempt at a trial in the Ffrench, Dial, Sorgen vs. WOWSC and Directors matter.

Notice how fake it is. A questionable PO Box 4567 in Burnet. No phone number. No email address. And go ahead and google search for Haas and Associates. Doesn’t exist.

If anyone knows of this Stewart Nelson, the Democrat Action Network, or Haas and Associates, let me know. Maybe I’m missing something.

To me, it is more evidence of the Windermere Con Job playing out before your eyes. Why are people going to these lengths? What’s their Con?

The Windermere “Con Job” — Installment 1

I moved here in 2014 and while I can’t exactly remember which year I attended my first water company annual meeting, I do remember being amazed at the “passion” expressed by some people who berated and belittled the Board and management of our water company. It caused me to question what was going on! Their “passion” was so convincing, and they seemed to have really deep knowledge of what they were talking about.

It was easy to walk away with the notion that all the volunteer board members who have ever served the corporation and its members have been corrupt, inept, incompetent, whatever. And now that NextDoor has added even more thunder to their “passion” even more community members seem convinced that year-after-after the water company boards are made up of “those people,” a derogatory term that allows neighbors to feel good about setting themselves against neighbors who are actually trying to serve the community.

Over time though I came to understand that it was the same small group of people who were standing up, year after year, loudly berating the volunteers, dissatisfied with one matter or another: Land sale. Company debt. Audit. Online bill payment. Whatever. They change the goal posts year after year, raising new issues to convince new people about volunteers’ supposed ineptitude, corruption, whatever. 

Now that I am four years into being on the Board of Directors for the water company, I have come to realize that the “passion” of some members should be understood for what it is: a “Confidence job.”

The term “Confidence job” got its meaning from William Thompson, a man in the late 1840s who walked the streets of New York asking complete strangers: “Have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?” Many people did! Thompson was pleasant and unthreatening in appearance, and many of his victims thought they recognized him as a previous acquaintance. They misplaced their confidence in him, and he stole their watches. Thus was born the notion of a “con job.” Read more here

To use a dictionary definition, the con job is an act or instance of duping or swindling, of talking glibly to convince others or get one’s way.

In my opinion, we have people in Windermere who have the gift of glib talk, convincing others of one thing or another, to get their way.

It’s truly remarkable, but their ongoing CON JOB continues every day, every month, every year, one email or NextDoor post after the other. The quantity of their emails and posts shows their obsession with continuing their con.

Here are examples I’ve seen on emails and NextDoor Posts regarding WATER COMPANY elections:

  • Two dead people voted last year.  Wrong. Actually three did. Here’s how: Water company memberships and their voting rights don’t “die” with the death of a member listed on a water company account. The widow, widower, heir, or executor to that property is entitled to vote that membership account until the account changes ownership (via sale of the house or hangar). The surviving current account owners voted in three cases last year. In his complaint to the Public Utility Commission (PUC)  about so-called election irregularities, Jeff Walker glibly alleged that two votes of dead people should be thrown out. Eliminating those votes — and disenfranchising those members — would have given him the election. However, he conveniently failed to tell the PUC about a third “dead voter” as that vote would have been from a supporter who had signed a petition in support of Walker’s PUC complaint. 
  •  The company spent $25,000 to keep Walker off the Board. Nope. Walker did not formally ask the PUC or the company to install him on the Board. Instead, he asked for the PUC to possibly take over the WOWSC. Big difference. And again, since all his complaints were shown to be con jobs, the PUC dismissed the case.
  • Some ballots sent in early are not counted. They are. Some members in our community have so strongly believed that pre-meeting ballots are thrown out that they have marked some ballots and envelopes with invisible ink and turned them in to WOWSC ballot box at the pavillion. Then, after the election, they inspect the ballots with the ultraviolet lights, to see whether those envelopes and ballots were somehow tampered with. After their inspection, they found that the invisible ink marked ballots were all there. They don’t tell the community about that.
  • During ballot counting, the Independent Election Auditor can’t mark ballots as “provisional” because it is not authorized by the Bylaws. So what. Marking ballots as provisional for future determination of validity is standard practice by vote counting authorities. But Walker’s complaint challenged the use of provisional counting, again in order to validate a vote that would have been cast for him, even though it would have been cast fraudulently by a non-member. 
  • The water company was caught “red-handed” last year. Wrong again. I’d seen that said many times in emails from one of the neighborhood critics of the water company. That particular critic never informs his marks that the charges were dismissed.

For those who remember the Paul Newman, Robert Redford movie “The Sting,” a con job can be long, elaborate, and detailed to the n-th degree. Don’t count out that con jobs, for whatever reason behind them, are occurring now. 

Today we will see the Mother of All Con Jobs, from the ratepayer’s representatives filings to the Public Utilities Commission. They are going to throw the kitchen sink at us. I can’t wait to read it! Come back for analysis.

Candidate Briefing #1 — Response to WOWSC Board Candidate

Greetings Neighbors,

I am the president of the Board of the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation. I started this website some time ago to address questions which our members have from time to time. Please scroll down to see the history of posts which may address questions. But this post and subsequent posts are specific to some recent NextDoor comments.

One candidate for the Board election occurring March 19 has asked some questions on NextDoor and they deserve attention. If that candidate is elected, I want him to be up-to-speed from day one.

However, the candidate I support, Dorothy Taylor, is already versed in these matters and would make the better choice of candidate. But in the interest of the neighborhood, I will provide this briefing book in the event that the newcomer is elected. Let’s start with the candidate’s second question in his NextDoor post:

“Does anyone find it hard to understand why the person, who collects the election ballots from the office, has an “Elect Candidate…..” sign in their front yard?

I don’t find it hard to understand at all. Our water company manager rents that house from Norm Morse, a former WOWSC director. Mr. Morse has apparently approved the sign’s placement on his yard.

Incidentally, the Board appointed Dorothy Taylor to replace Mr. Morse when he was unable to attend six consecutive Board meetings, per the bylaws. The water manager did not sanction placement of the sign on the rental property, nor did he need to. He doesn’t own the property and is not voting.

By the way, our bylaws only permit property owners to vote in the election. The ballots are sent to the address on file for property owners, not to known renters. The water company manager will not be voting in the election.

Now, let’s tackle the candidate’s first question. There’s a lot there so let’s unpack it, in this and subsequent posts. The candidate says the following:

1) In the past 5 Years our Water Rates have risen 87%. That is a fact. This is mainly due to Legal Cost the WOWSC has incurred defending current and past Board Member actions.

True that the rates have increased in the last five years, but let’s be clear on the reasons and the timing.

There have been two rate increases in the last five years. I’ll handle the 2018 increase in this post and then describe other issues in subsequent post or posts.

After a lengthy year-long evaluation process with the help of the Texas Rural Water Association, the 2018 Board raised rates to keep up with infrastructure challenges that were affecting the company. Look specifically at meeting minutes from March 7, March 12 and March 20, 2018. Please realize those discussions had started some time before — in 2016 and 2017 — because those Boards were being advised that the water system was underfunded and suffering. We have a growing community and WOWSC Boards have always had a pay-as-you-grow-and-improve approach. This has involved the use of debt financing, selling land, and raising rates.

The 2018 Board also was dealing with a lawsuit filed by TOMA Integrity, LLC in December 2017 against the water company. That Board was composed of Bill Billingsley, Bill Stein, Jeff Hagar, Jerry Ingham and Dorothy Taylor.

TOMA Integrity LLC had been formed before the filing of the lawsuit by Dick Dial, Rene Ffrench, Danny Flunker and Bruce Sorgen. Clicking here will show you their company’s filing papers.

That lawsuit was not filed against Board directors.

Dial, Ffrench, Flunker and Sorgen filed suit against the company itself. The lawsuit sought $100,000 from the company, voiding of a 2015 land sale, and a judge’s order to the Board to regain the land. You can view the TOMA Integrity LLC filing here. Effectively, they were asking all WOWSC customers to pay them $100,000 plus the other likely costly remedies. (BTW, Flunker left TOMA Integrity LLC at some point.)

Again, let’s be clear here — the Board was in a defensive position. It could not ignore the lawsuit. It had to evaluate, with the assistance of legal counsel, the implications of either agreeing to all of Dial, Ffrench, Flunker and Sorgen’s demand, or using legal counsel to oppose their demands. That Board was composed of Bill Billingsley, Bill Stein, Jeff Hagar, Jerry Ingham and Dorothy Taylor. Ultimately, they voted to retain legal counsel to oppose the demands. Refer to the minutes previously provided and the other minutes in 2018 that are on the WOWSC.org website.

TOMA Integrity LLC lost the suit in November 2018, and you can view the Judge’s order here. That year, 2018, the Board was required to pay attorneys about $38,000 to protect the company in that judgment.

While raising rates to pay for legal expenses may certainly have been a consideration to Billingsley, Stein, Ingham, Taylor and Hagar when they raised rates, that $38,000 was not part of the calculation in the TRWA rate analysis. In other words, they had conducted the rate analysis on the financials for 2017, when only a small portion of legal fees were included.

The larger point here is simply that the candidate’s broad statement about water rates having been raised exclusively to defend directors is not accurate to the facts in the first case.

Despite losing their case, the TOMA Integrity plaintiffs appealed through the Appeals Court system and then all the way to the Texas Supreme Court throughout 2019 and 2020. On Valentines Day 2020, the Texas Supreme Court ended any further appeals, upholding the decisions of the Trial Court Judge and the Appellate Judges. Just estimating here, but those actions ran up another $40,000-$60,000 in legal expenses to the WOWSC and its customers.

Okay, so that is enough for today. That should provide good background material for briefing of the candidate and any WOWSC member who has interest in these matters. I will tackle more in coming days.

P.S. — I want to nitpick my own post here. The newcomer candidate’s assessment was that the rate increases were “mainly due to Legal Cost the WOWSC has incurred defending current and past Board Member actions.” I did not fully address the “Board Member actions” portion of his sentence. I will do that in a subsequent post.

New Records for Water Company Production

The Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation set new water production record in August 2021, producing 2.6 million gallons for our neighborhood.

To produce that much water, extra costs must be incurred, for chemicals, electricity, pump maintenance and repair, man-hours, etc.

The graphic above shows how much water was pumped in the three hottest months of the year, for the last four years.
The graphic above shows the yearly increase or decrease of water produced in the three months of June, July, and August. This year, June and July were mostly the same as 2020, but August 2021 saw a good 11 percent increase over August 2020. Notice how much more was pumped in the Covid years of 2020 and 2021. Possibly seeing the result of more people in the neighborhood — more new homes and more people working from their lakehouse home. Again, more electricity, more chemicals, more man-hours, more maintenance, replacement and repairs required.