When Andrew Harrison saw the HOA board president helping to spruce up the landscaping at an entryway to his neighborhood on the first weekend in June, he took to social media.
In a post in the closed “Homestead North Community – Maricopa, AZ” Facebook group, Harrison said he acknowledged the dedication of Lashon Swiggins, who goes by Shon, as he was “out there working, getting his hands dirty for the neighborhood.”
Nearly a month later, the bloom is somewhat off the rose.
The July newsletter for the Homestead North HOA, which arrived last week, features a photo spread of the landscaping work done at the entryways. Under the title, “Community Entryways,” it read: “Enhancements to Homestead Community entryways have now begun …. Fine tuning yet to take place due to seasonal conditions. Thanks to all who brought this to fruition! Our HOA President Shon Swiggins worked fervently beside the landscapers from Acquire Management Services. Accolades to them!”
Harrison was elected to the HOA board in August as a write-in candidate and stepped down in April to spend more time with his family and on his business. He owns his own landscaping company.
The newsletter item piqued his interest since he wasn’t familiar with Acquire.
“I decided to see who the competition was, so I looked on the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) website,” Harrison said.
He put the business name through the public entity search on the ACC website and found the owner’s name – Meseret Z. Dessalegn – and address – 16922 N Verde Place in the Santa Rosa Springs subdivision.
Harrison said he recalled Swiggins mentioning that he had a rental property in Santa Rosa Springs, so he decided to run the address through the Pinal County Assessor’s Office online search and found the Verde Place home was owned by Swiggins and Dessalegn.
Finally, he looked at the HOA’s general account ledger – he still has access to ledgers from May and earlier from when he was on the board – and found that check #6847, in the amount of $2,997.26, was paid to Acquire Management Services LLC on May 22.
Last Wednesday, he posted the screenshots of the records highlighting the relationship between Swiggins and Acquire in the “Homestead North Community – Maricopa, AZ Facebook” group.
That same day, according to the ACC website, a document was filed to change the principal address or statutory agent information for Acquire Management Services. That request is pending.
Resident Dan Becker posted Harrison’s screenshots in another Homestead North private Facebook group created and moderated by resident Richard Quinn, who sits on the HOA board.
Harrison said he had a mixed reaction to his discovery.
“If it was reimbursing him for the cost of the plants, that’s fine,” he said. “But if they made labor costs on top of the cost of the plants, then that’s going too far.”
Harrison said uncovering the relationship between Swiggins and Acquire has him thinking about running for the HOA board again.
For his part, Becker said he was quite surprised by Harrison’s revelation.
“I thought, isn’t this criminal? I just couldn’t believe that it was that dumb,” he said. “I actually wondered if it was real, to be honest with you. I had to actually check and verify it before I was convinced it was real.”
‘THAT IS ON ME’
According to Swiggins, Meseret Z. Dessalegn is his mother-in-law, and she owns Acquire Management Services. He said she is listed as co-owner of the Santa Rosa Springs home with the intention that she will eventually buy the home outright at some point.
The Verde Place residence was purchased in March 2019 for $202,500, according to Pinal County property records.
On March 1, 2019, as part of the transaction on the home, a corporate warranty deed was conveyed from D.R. Horton to the buyers. That public document identified the buyers as “Lashon Swiggins and Meseret Z. Dessalegn, husband and wife.”
And both signed an “Acceptance of Community Property with the Right of Survivorship” as part of the transaction, dated March 4, 2019, that identified them as husband and wife.
Swiggins said the Pinal County Appraiser’s Office made a mistake by identifying him and Dessalegn as “husband and wife.”
He made the claim during an interview Thursday.
Swiggins admitted that he put forth Acquire Management Services to the HOA board as a cost-effective way to spruce up the entryways to the neighborhood but did not disclose his ties to the company.
“If that’s a fault, it’s my fault,” he said. “That is on me.”
He said the cost of the project was much less than if its regular landscaping company, Sundance Landscape Maintenance Inc. of Chandler, did the work, but Swiggins would not discuss the specific costs for supplies and labor. He acknowledged the $2,997.26 payment was made before the work was done.
And now some people are making an issue of it, Swiggins said.
“I just can’t get my head around that part,” he said.
In his view, Swiggins said he was being fiscally responsible. Homestead North residents pay $48.50 in monthly HOA fees.
“I didn’t see no harm in it,” he said. “I know somebody who can get it done.”
Seven entryways were improved with pottery, plants, flowers and cactuses, said Swiggins, who also sits on the HOA’s landscaping committee. In addition, he said, repairs were necessary on the sprinkler system.
He said he would recommend Acquire again for landscaping work in his community
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said.
Swiggins has lived in Homestead North since 2014. He said he was very “passionate” about his community, and worked to keep it “safe, beautiful and a good environment for children.”
“A lot of people don’t take pride in our community … I’m going to stand by this community,” he said.
‘VOID AND UNENFORCEABLE’
Almost since his election to a three-year term on the HOA board last August, Richard Quinn and his fellow directors have had a contentious relationship. The board claims he disclosed the personal financial information of a couple of homeowners to members in the community and says it has spent about $12,000 in attorney’s fees to protect the association and the community.
The board removed him as vice president, but a recall effort to remove Quinn from the board failed in March. When Quinn, citing HOA bylaws, suggested the board had to remove Igo as director for allegedly owing money to the association, the board refused to discuss the matter despite multiple requests, he said.
As a result, he filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Real Estate through its HOA dispute process. A judge reviewed that petition and deemed it worthy of a hearing, Quinn said, though ultimately the claim was denied, and he did not appeal the ruling.
The Acquire Management Services matter is only the most recent concern Quinn has about the HOA and Associated Asset Management of Tempe, which provides management services to the association.
Quinn said he has never seen a quote for any work from Acquire.
“As far as I can recall, a quote from Sundance Landscaping was approved for this work during our April 14, 2020, open session with the community,” he said. “I was not aware that this company (Acquire) was ever proposed to the board nor was the relationship that Shon Swiggins, board president, had with the company.”
Quinn said that while it may be legal for a board member to propose using a vendor that would create a conflict of interest, that board member also has a fiduciary duty to the HOA to disclose a personal relationship to the vendor before any vote is taken to hire that vendor.
“This is to ensure that the benefit that the board member receives from the relationship does not unduly influence the decision to select that vendor,” Quinn said. “In the absence of this disclosure to the board, the contract between Homestead North Homeowners Association and Acquire Management Services is void and unenforceable.”
Quinn said the contract between the HOA and Acquire Management Services is already void and unenforceable, citing Arizona Revised Statute 33-1243 C. “Immediate legal action should be taken by the board and its attorney to recover these funds from Mr. Swiggins, Acquire or both,” he said.
That section of the statute reads:
“If any contract, decision or other action for compensation taken by or on behalf of the board of directors would benefit any member of the board of directors or any person who is a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or sibling of a member of the board of directors or a parent or spouse of any of those persons, that member of the board of directors shall declare a conflict of interest for that issue. The member shall declare the conflict in an open meeting of the board before the board discusses or takes action on that issue and that member may then vote on that issue. Any contract entered into in violation of this subsection is void and unenforceable.”
HOA directors Igo, the board treasurer, and Marsha Quinter did not respond to a request for comment about Swiggins’ ties to Acquire Management Services.
Neither did April Nemeth, the Homestead North community manager for AAM.
The “President’s Corner” of the July HOA newsletter features a quote: “Don’t ask permission to help improve the lives of the people you’ve pledged to serve. Instead, march through the doors of red tape, make bold moves, and get it done.”
Swiggins spoke to his critics in Homestead North.
“If they can do it better, then step up,” he said. “We just need to get it done.”
He said he will address the landscaping matter at the next HOA board meeting on July 14.
“I don’t have a problem with transparency,” he said.
Disclosure: Andrew Harrison is the husband of Jaime Harrison, an InMaricopa employee and member of the Homestead North HOA social committee.