Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain
in the Autumn for a month or so

'Fair and softly goes far' - Miguel de Cervantes

Friday, 19 September 2008

MCC - Presidential Candidate Sandra Newman open meeting

This afternoon Sandra Newman, one of the two declared candidates to be elected President of the Community of Owners of Mazarron Country Club held a public meeting outside the restaurant at MCC to discuss her platform and to answer questions that residents might have. She referred those present to the 'Statement' which appears in her website; I mentioned my plans to attend the meeting in an earlier post in this blog here. The meeting was well attended and got underway at about 3.10pm and finished at around 4.30pm.

This does not pretend to be a complete 'transcript' of the meeting, because my note-taking abilities are limited to 'scribbling' as quickly as I can (I don't do 'shorthand' unfortunately), but I have tried my best to recap all the main points covered as faithfully as possible; I have also tried to keep whatever views I may have myself out of this post and to report as objectively as possible what occurred. Sandra was assisted by a lady who handled the translations from English into Spanish (partial only) and into German; she also translated into Spanish and English the one question that was posed in German - all the other questions were posed, and statements made, in English. I will try and lay out the proceedings as clearly as possible, by highlighting everything Sandra said in red-bordered yellow boxes. Everything said by anyone else is outside these boxes; the names of other persons who either asked questions or made statements is generally not given, although it is mentioned in a few cases where the names of the speakers are known to me.

OK, I hope the 'ground rules' are now clear, so let's get started! Firstly, here's a photograph of Sandra and the translator - Sandra is on the left (the photograph will enlarge if you click on it):


To begin the meeting Sandra introduced herself as 'Sandra Miller' and by asking if everyone had seen the statement on her website; most had, but a few had obtained the copies circulated before the meeting in English, German and Spanish. The few who indicated they had not seen it on the website or a printed copy were handed a copy and Sandra encouraged them to read it, to save time so she wouldn't have to go through it at the meeting. Everyone agreed with this. Then Sandra invited questions; no one immediately volunteered questions of course. So Sandra continued:




Sandra pleads for people to ask questions:

"Come on people! Help me out. Surely not everybody agrees with everthing I've said in my 'Statement'. I want anyone who wants to ask a question to come forward and take a microphone so that everyone can hear your questions and my responses. I believe in openness and good comunication."

Question: How do you feel about the proposal from three people to offer themselves for election as 'Directors' at the AGM, with responsibility for specific functions?



Sandra's response

"I don't want to comment on it now.
"I do not want to make a decision.
"I'm not [yet] President.
"It needs discussion."

Loud applause greeted this response.

Question: Your website shows your name as 'Sandra Newman', but you introduced yourself today as 'Sandra Miller'; I understand one is your married name. Can you tell us which name you would prefer to be addressed and known by? (Point of information - this question was in fact posed by me, as a relative newcome to MCC who had not had the pleasure of meeting Sandra before.)



Sandra's response:

”That's a good question and deserves a response. 'Newman' is my married name and as I got married only recently I'm still getting used to it myself. I haven't yet had all the paperwork changed to record the change of my name, but 'Newman' is my married name and that's the one I will use.”

Question: I am concerned that some of the discussions at committee meetings are not being included in the minutes, but with specific reference to the Community of Owners office rented at a monthly cost of 800 Euros I have to tell you I could not rent my house out (also an 'Antojo') for even 450 Euros a month. How do you feel about this?



Sandra's response:

”I don't want to go back over earlier decisions, but we do need to look at spending less on our Community house.”

Loud applause greeted this response.



Sandra's plea for more questions when none seemed to be forthcoming:

”No More questions?
"Please help me out!”

Question: There is no mention of the proposed/promised golf course in your statement. Have you any comments about this?



Sandra's response:

”I'd love to see it. It's part of what this community is about.
"However, the President deals solely with community affairs such as communal areas, cleaning, rubbish collection and other services.
"It is important, however, to keep links open with the Developer.
"I cannot make promises about the golf course.
"We all want it (MCC) to be finished, all facilities and the roads, etc.”

Some applause at this, but a further question from the same questionner.

Question: I understand, but I have a further question. Why is it not included; included under the same 'umbrella' with the President's functions?



Sandra's response:

”My priority must be to push for completion of all facilities. But as President I would try to push it (the golf course) and to liaise with Huma.
"However, I must be honest with you. My main priority is completion of the roads, because we could end up paying for it.”


A supplementary response followed after a few moments thought

”The laws of Spain, so far as I understand them, are quite clear in separating community functions from things like golf courses, etc.”

Question: What can Sandra Newman do that hasn't been done by the current President?



Sandra's response:

”I will focus on what I want to do. I will be open, there will be no secrets. Individuals should not make decisions alone. I want to represent people and their views. I want to ask and be asked questions and to give answers. I want clarity. The majority may want things I do not personally favour. Nothing should be hidden. The community needs to be responsible for how it develops itself.
"I believe costs can be reduced and this will affect how the community develops itself.
"I would add to that: Services are in place, but things must improve based on what alternatives are out there and competitive pricing.
"We must check that people providing services are doing what they promised.
"We need to be careful that contracts are drawn up carefully.
"Best value does not always mean the cheapest.”

Question: Habitation certificates. What is required for us all to have Habitation Certificates?



Sandra's response:

”My understanding is that problems and uncertainty will continue until both water and electricity supplies are regularised and that Iberdrola (electricity) and Aqualia (water) will not finalise their installations until the infrastructure (i.e. the roads) is completed and my understanding is that the planning department cannot issue Habitation Certificates until all such facilities are in place. Roads are the key.”


A supplementary statement and a second question from the same person:

Question: I understand that at least one lending bank ['Banco Santander' was mentioned] will no longer provide finance for MCC properties without Habitation Certificates. Do Huma owe the Community of Owners money? Do you know?



Sandra's response:

”I didn't know that [about the bank mentioned], but thanks for advising me. We must consult with Huma.
"The debtors list has reduced significantly and there will be a new list in a few days. I believe the total amount is now about 90 thousand Euros. I'm not sure if Huma owe something. The list is there, I don't know about Huma.”

Statement: There then followed a statement by a gentleman who announced he is a member of the 'audit team' and another person present advised me that his name is Alan Buck. He said that on the subject of Huma's debt, arrangements had been made with Huma that charges made by Mazapolis have been offset with Huma's debt and that therefore Huma do not owe anything. I do not know if this is legal under Spanish law. End of statement.

Question: Without access to the internet I wouldn't get to know about anything going on here. How do I find out? Must have [better] communications. Debtors - is enough being done to chase up non-payers?



Sandra's response:

”I am not on internet and I put myself forward as a candidate for President. We need face-to-face communications. We need other sources - Newsletters, Internet, public meetings.
"Meetings like the AGM should be set a year in advance so people can plan their visits here.
"We need to help each other out.
"We need to know what goes on in writing, in contacts with other people.
"On the subject of recovery of debts, lawyers are involved. People have gone to court and dates set. We can't get higher than that. I do pay my community charges, but there needs to be clarity.
"We should encourage our neighbours to pay.
"We must use legal processes.”

Question: When we vote at the AGM, will Huma use a block vote even though he hasn't paid community charge? (My observation: this relates directly to the offset with Mazapolis referred to earlier)



Sandra's response:

”This is a legal thing, if they are not on the debtors' list, that tells you something.”

Question: How will votes [at the AGM] be counted and tallied? In the room or later? How will we know [it has been done honestly]?



Sandra's response:

”The Newsletter says it will take a week. People in the room who are independent will go to Murcia office of administrator for the official counting. I can't say more than that.”

Statement (I'm afraid I don't know the name of the person who made it, I presume one of the existing CoO Representatives, but from what Sandra said below I assume it was 'Rick') Votes are counted by co-efficient so it is impossible to count in room - it is far too complex. End of statement.

Someone else present made the observation that software could be used to do it rapidly.



Sandra's response:

”Because that was a statement we must stick to the question. What Rick has said is always what we have been told. We have been told on the one hand it can be done and on the other hand it can't be done - we need to do further investigation for the future.”

Statement [Not sure now who said this - see * at end of article] On Huma's debt it was voted last year that Huma should be paid. That deal has already been struck. End of statement.

Question: If a deal has been struck with Huma, is it legal?



Sandra's response:

”Whether the deal with Huma is valid from a legal standpoint I cannot say. I cannot do anything about it because it has already been done. It is too late.”

Question: About counting votes on the day, do you have any comments about getting enough volunteers on the day to do it legally?



Sandra's response:

”I didn't say it couln't be done, but according to the Newsletter this is arranged. Four people will be asked to supervise the votes and their placement in a locked box and this will be checked in Murcia after about a week, all according to the Newsletter.”

Statement: [I'm not entirely certain, but I think this was made by Mr Chapman, from a remark made in a subsequent question asked in German - see below.] The only reason for the delay is that under Spanish law anyone has the right to pay community fees upto when the meeting is called to order (i.e. 10 am on the day), so there needs to be a subsequent check with the bank. End of statement.

Question: Has anything been contra'd off (i.e. 'offset'?) or has invoice been seen from both sides? [My comment: as a former banker, the meaning of this is not entirely clear even to me, but everyone else seemed to follow it, just goes to show!]



Sandra's response:

”I cannot answer because I haven't been here for the past few weeks and I don't know anything about it and I won't make up a response.”

Question: About the counting of votes, four people will be chosen to supervise - could it be done by raffle tickets so be completely random?



Sandra's response:

”A lot of questions I cannot answer and I will not make it up as I go along.”

Statement: I want to make the point that they will be held independently and not by someone with vested interests. This meeting is very useful and I hope they will continue. End of statement.



Sandra's response:

”I like that statement.
"I hope the raffle tickets idea will be taken on board.”

Question: You propose that the AGM will always be at the end of June. Why wasn't it in June this year?



Sandra's response:

”It could have been in June, but it could have been before I left in June (in preparation for my marriage); that was fixed and was well-known in advance.
"I'd also like to say, I'd said I was going to go for September so that's why we got a September date.”

Question: Does that mean if you hadn't announced you would stand for President it would have been June?



Sandra's response:

”Answer was no.”

Question: (In German) I got a piece of mail in my mailbox [I think the document he held up was possibly something from 'Forum4Facts', but not certain] which stated the law says AGM minutes must be published in 10 days.



Sandra's response (after looking at the document):

”I know nothing about it. I've not seen it before.”

Sandra then made a closing staement.



Sandra's closing remarks:

”Has everyone had enough? (general assent from those present)
"I want to conclude:

"- I've kept it to me;

"- if you have comments I'm the best person to speak to about it.

"- I will retain focus:

"- we will have to work hard to get what we deserve;

"- we need to maintain our year to year costs;

"- no new business until we can manage better what we have.

"Look at quality, greater communications skills, more public meetings. If you tell me to do something stupid, I will stand up and say it will not be done.

"We still have to continue to fight.

"In terms of motives:

"- I dont' want money or status (I was medically retired when I came to live here), but I believe our community needs help so I have stood up and I will do my best.”

Loud applause at the end.

I hope, in conclusion, that I have recounted this afternoon's events with reasonable accuracy; if anyone reading this who was there too has any comments about that I shall obviously be very glad to have them.

PS/ I have emailed three people who were at the meeting to ask them to take a look at this article to check whether my representation of what occurred today is reasonably accurate. I have also emailed Sandra through the link in her website to ask her if my article is reasonably accurate or if she feels I have misprepresented her in any way. Obviously I want to be as accurate as possible and will gladly correct any errors or misprepresentations that may have crept into what I have written.

PPS/ (Saturday 20SEP08 18.45 RST) I've now had emails and an IM back from the three people I emailed; I'm pleased to say all confirm that, to the best of their recollections, my article is pretty accurate.

PPPS/ (Wednesday 24SEP08 17.35 RST) I had a telephone call earlier this afternoon from Sandra. She thought my report was accurate; she did however query my comment near the beginning of the article about the translations into Spanish being 'partial'. My recollection is that whilst the first couple of questions were translated into Spanish and German (from English), after this most were translated only into German, as were Sandra's responses; as I mentioned, the question near the end posed in German was, however, translated into both Spanish and English. If the recollection of others differs from my own in this or other respects I will be glad to include them here. Alternatively, visitors to my blog are free to leave their own comments by clicking on 'Comments' under the article; comments on this blog are open to all although the guidelines here are brought to your attention (these may also be accessed by clicking on the copyright notice under every article).

* - note added Thursday 25SEP08 00.35 RST - I had originally attributed two staements to Alan Buck, but he has advised me by email that whilst he made the first statement, he did not make the second so I have removed that attribution; I am afraid I therefore do not know the name of the person who said this.

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