Five directors of the HOA board at The Villages at Rancho El Dorado are stepping down as the association’s management company said it was ending its 16-plus-year association with the community.

The resignations of the five directors, including board president Antonio “Tony” Crisostomo, came during a more-than-four-hour Zoom meeting on Wednesday night, according to residents on the videoconference. All of the resignations – including those of board members Mick Barlow, Greg Hatch, John Martinez and Robert Sperry – are effective July 31, they said.

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Two directors, Nina Insalaco and Rose Garcia, apparently will remain on the board. The positions are volunteer.

Carla Helmstadter, vice president of East Valley operations for Associated Asset Management (AAM) of Tempe, joined the Zoom meeting to announce – in very simple terms – the end of her firm’s relationship with The Villages, saying it was time to move on, also effective July 31. AAM has worked with the community since shovels went in the ground.

“Over the weekend, the AAM executive team met, had much discussion and consideration, and has made the decision to terminate the management agreement between AAM and the Villages at Rancho El Dorado, effective July 31, 2020,” Helmstadter told the board during the meeting, according to a snippet of video shared with InMaricopa.com. “Specifics regarding staff and their roles will be shared with the board of directors as well as a written termination letter.”

“Once the board has selected a new management partner, AAM will begin the transfer of records,” she continued. “We wish the board and residents well and thank you for the opportunity to have partnered with you for the past 16 years.”

In a letter to residents in its July newsletter, however, AAM executives pointed to recent dissension between some residents and the HOA board and management company as a reason for its decision.

“Over the years we have actively managed your community, we have respected its nuances and shared in its successes…. The recent events that have transpired led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue our management partnership with VRED. AAM cannot continue to be a partner in what now has become an adversarial and unsettling environment perpetuated by inaccurate accusations and embellishment….

“We wish the community all the best in the future and hope it can move forward from the recent events as well as from the false and defamatory statements that have been made in both social and print media.”

The letter was signed by Amanda Shaw, AAM president, Ercell Sherman, chief operating officer, and Helmstadter. The firm provides management services for a number of other Maricopa HOAs, including Cobblestone Farms, Glennwilde, Homestead North, Rancho Mirage and Sorrento.

InMaricopa.com reached out to Helmstadter and community manager Diane Zavala on Friday morning for comment about AAM’s exit and a subsequent decision to drop a health screening form as a requirement for residents to use Villages amenities. In an emailed response, Helmstedter said AAM would have no further comment on the situation.

In the past two weeks, InMaricopa.com reported on the recent experiences of two Villages residents.

On Monday, Bryan Ott shared his account of a June 17 run-in with Zavala at the community clubhouse office. According to Ott, Zavala grabbed his cellphone and refused to give it back. Police were summoned to the clubhouse – twice – on a report of a threatening man.

Police said no charges were filed in the incident.

A week earlier, InMaricopa.com told the story of Heather Walter and her husband, Ryan, both hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The couple, who have four young daughters, signed the waiver, but was told that unless they went two weeks without exposure to the virus, the family could not use the pools and other amenities.

When they asked the HOA to waive or reduce their homeowner fees of $285 per quarter until they could use the amenities again, they were told no, according to Heather Walter.

AAM refused comment on both of those stories when they were published.

On Thursday, Zavala informed Walter that the health screening requirement had been lifted from the HOA’s “Reopening Plan” and that her family could use the amenities if a Waiver and Release of Liability form was signed.

A special meeting of the board has been called for Tuesday.

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