The Villages at Rancho El Dorado Maricopa
An entryway at The Villages at Rancho El Dorado.

The HOA board at The Villages at Rancho El Dorado voted in a new president and board member on Thursday night as its management company prepares to move out.

Members voted, 5-2, to install Nina Insalaco as their leader after Tony Chrisostomo tendered his resignation as president, effective immediately, during a special meeting held on Zoom. Chrisostomo and director Mick Barlow voted against Insalaco.

Earlier, the board appointed Vickie Kuchinski as a member to replace Robert Sperry, who recently resigned. Speaking before the vote, Kuchinski said she has lived in The Villages “since Day 1” and wants the community to “get back where it needs to be.” A commercial property manager, she has been an HOA manager in the past.

In addition to Kuchinski, five residents – Robert Foster, Edward Michael, Chris Monteiro, former board member Leon Potter and Brandon Walsh – had submitted their names for consideration to join the board. The positions are volunteer.

Some of those names were not made public until a new agenda went out late Thursday afternoon, though an earlier agenda listed Kuchinski and Peg Chapados, a former Villages director and city councilmember, as prospective members. Chapados withdrew her name from consideration before the meeting.

Meanwhile, Insalaco will be looked at to repair months of community dissension with the board and Associated Asset Management of Tempe, or AAM, which had managed the HOA’s affairs since shovels went into the ground at the development.

After a couple public controversies led to resident backlash in June, AAM announced it was ending its relationship with The Villages after 16 years.

In fact, today is the last day AAM will provide onsite management, though it will stay on for as long as 30 days to provide critical services while the HOA’s RFP committee seeks a replacement. As a result, it is expected that some services, such as pool maintenance, will not be done until a management company is hired. The board also discussed changing the locks at the community office.

Member Rose Garcia said she wanted some amenities – the pools, and tennis and pickleball courts – to remain open and made a motion to add an item to the agenda to make that happen. The motioned failed, 2-5, with Insalaco in support.

A dozen prospective firms have a deadline today to submit bids for their management services. The committee will respond with counterproposals.

The board on Thursday night voted to pay a reduced $4,800 monthly fee to AAM for August – minus the salaries of employees who will no longer be on site – though it is unclear if those services will be needed for the entire month with a new management company coming in. Residents pay a $285 quarterly fee, and the HOA has about $2.5 million in reserves.

Insalaco and Garcia, who nominated Insalaco for president, were the only two board members who did not announce their resignations at the end of June. Of the five who did say they were stepping down – Chrisostomo, John Martinez, Mick Barlow, Greg Hatch and Robert Sperry – all but Sperry said this week that they were rescinding their resignations.

On Thursday night, Chrisostomo and Hatch said they still intended to resign but only after a special election is held for their seats. That election has yet to be scheduled and was not on the agenda for the meeting.

Hatch said he decided to stay on temporarily “so the board will have five members to have a functioning board for the good of the community.”

“I really did not want to return,” Chrisostomo said. “But there was no choice.”

At the top of the meeting, both Insalaco and Garcia had said they did not accept the special board meeting to rescind the four resignations.

HOA counsel Mark Sahl, of the Carpenter, Hazlewood firm in Tempe, who was on the videoconference, said The Villages bylaws did not address the rescinding of resignations. He said the resignations could be pulled back before they became effective today, the end of the month, and there was no need for the board to approve or accept their resignations.

A number of the candidates for the board position said they threw their hats into the ring due to “recent events,” as Walsh termed it. “I decided to put up or shut up … and lend a hand,” he said, “to get us back to normalcy.”

Foster noted he was a member of HOA boards before moving to Maricopa and had previously built a “cohesive group of folks and gotten back on track.”

Potter said he would bring a “willingness to listen to others with a different point of view.”

Michael, who cited a background in finance and noted his past disagreements with Chrisostomo, said, “at this turning point it is critical we have people” with business acumen.

“The community now is having issues,” Monteiro agreed.

AAM’s exit came after reported on two controversies in the community involving residents, the board and AAM.

Bryan Ott, a veteran and new Villages resident, shared his account of a June 17 run-in with AAM manager Diane 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 but no charges were filed in the incident. Ott called the incident “appalling.”

Earlier, Heather Walter shared her family’s experience of being locked out of the community’s pools because she and her husband work on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic at a Phoenix-area hospital. AAM subsequently lifted a health screening requirement for residents from the HOA’s “Reopening Plan” so that amenities could be used if a Waiver and Release of Liability form was signed.

AAM declined to comment on both stories when they were published.

About 90 residents in the nearly 2,000-home community tuned into the Zoom meeting on Thursday night.