Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Chronicle - Five Questions For Potential Board Members


The King Farm Chronicle asked all of the candidates five questions. They'll publish all the candidates answers in the March edition of the Chronicle. But here are my answers if ya'll want to read them. Leave a comment/suggestion/idea in the comments!

Tell Us About Yourself (where you live, how long you have lived in King Farm, family, children, career, employer, etc.):


I live on Longhorn Crescent with my wife and our two daughters, ages 9 and 11. They’re both enrolled at College Gardens Elementary. We've lived in King Farm for over eleven years now. We have other members of our family living in King Farm and hope to be in the neighborhood for many years to come. I am employed by AARP in the office of the Chief of Staff. It is a job I love, as I get to be at the intersection of communications, strategy and financial decisions.
We’ve come to appreciate all of the friendships we’ve formed, the activities we’ve attended that are conducted by the HOA, and now with two girls of swimming age – the Swim Team. Go Geese! I became involved with the King Farm Citizens Assembly nearly 10 years ago because I want to make sure that our neighborhood is the best it can be. 


What do you feel are the greatest benefits residents receive from living in King Farm?
There is a strong sense of community within King Farm. Our family is part of the Community Garden and takes advantage of the activities provided by the HOA. The swimming pools, the Swim Team, the Community Center at Saddle Ridge, the shops in the Village Center, the shuttle buses and various other things all help to bring people together and give us reasons to get together face to face. I really want to ensure that we don’t lose that feeling of being one community. We have to nurture our community and find ways to sustain it - we cannot take it for granted.
What are your long-term visions for King Farm?
I want King Farm to be seen as the premier neighborhood in Rockville. I want to see a diverse community that is well-maintained, with stable property-values and with a well-managed, and well-budgeted Homeowner's Association. I would also like to see a community where residents’ input is valued and sought-after and where volunteers are appreciated and able to assume meaningful roles. Specifically, these are the four areas I want to focus upon: Transparency, Civility, Communications, and Volunteerism.
King Farm's financial state is THE most important item I'll be focused on in the very near-term. I also have some other specific items I'd like to focus on during this next Board term. The first is improved communication between the leaders of King Farm and the residents. I believe that the intent is there, but the execution could be improved. I'd like to see an overhaul of King Farm's communication platforms and a new plan to ensure there is communication and engagement - and that it is transparent and two-way. We need to make sure that, as best we can, we engage the entire community on matters of importance.
Second, I would prioritize rebuilding our volunteer committees – I believe it is hard work but not impossible. I believe that the Board and President should be listening to and engaging residents across our community.
We have to re-establish trust with the HOA and residents. 
What is one project within King Farm that you feel strongly about that needs to be addressed?
I think it is important to do more to make the HOA accessible to people by utilizing new communications methods to reach more of the citizenship of King Farm. Communication can be hard, but I think we have to try new approaches to be able to ensure that citizens both are informed in a timely manner and have outlets to express how they feel about the issues. The diversity of King Farm is something that I think we can do a better job of recognizing and tapping into for King Farm’s benefit. By involving more people and volunteers in the HOAs work, we make it more effective in the short run and keep it strong in the longer term.
King Farm, as you know, is a large place - really like a small town. There are multiple needs to be addressed, decisions to be made, and some issues will come up that we can’t even begin to anticipate. We need to make sure that we have a communications structure and a plan in place to ensure that residents are informed and engaged.
Due to its financial and other resources, King Farm should serve as a model for HOAs in how to run a large and complex HOA. We always can improve and be even better.
What do you feel your role as a Trustee on the Board of Trustees will be?
I believe that at its core the role of the King Farm Citizens Assembly is simple. Respect residents' financial stake in their property and the duty to spend dues wisely, keep up the overall appearance of the neighborhood, and create a sense of community through amenities, activities and volunteer opportunities. 
To this end, I see my role on the Board of Trustees as one of helping to make a fresh start and help to bring a fresh perspective and voice to the King Farm Citizens Assembly. 
Volunteer committees are important as well - I see my role on the BOT as one of listening to what they have to say, and giving or receiving guidance as they go about their tasks - whether it is the Budget & Finance Committee, External Affairs, the Architectural Design Committee, the Board of Code Compliance, or other various community committees or groups. 
A community leader should always remember that people choose to live in King Farm and they make that choice because they believe it a great place to live. The role of the Board and that of President is to keep it that way - now and in the future.
To read more or contact me with ideas/questions/comments at dbjackso1@gmail.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/barryforkingfarm or at https://kingfarmbarry.blogspot.com/
Q: What do you feel are the greatest benefits residents receive from living in King Farm?

A: There is a strong sense of community within King Farm. Our family is part of the Community Garden and takes advantage of the activities provided by the HOA. The swimming pools, the Swim Team, the Community Center at Saddle Ridge, the shops in the Village Center, the shuttle buses and various other things all help to bring people together and give us reasons to get together face to face.

I really want to ensure that we don’t lose that feeling of being one community. We have to nurture our community and find ways to sustain it - we cannot take it for granted.

On Rebuilding Trust

A friend was talking about the rancor in this country with people dividing up into their groups and not coming together. He said that the problem was trust between groups and trust between legislators.

That got me thinking. It isn't perfect, but there are similarities to King Farm's situation.

In this case, the HOA got used to it being quiet and turned their attention elsewhere. They slowly let their connection to the community become almost an after-thought. And the community let them - after all they thought things were going well. But, then that wasn't the case when it became apparent that there was a crisis. What to do?

The rule of thumb should be, "How can we communicate what we know?" rather than "how can we keep it quiet?" - and in the rare cases that it was important to remain silent to explain why there is a need for that silence. The decision was to remain silent. They had their reasons and rationale.

We won't go into all the details of the crisis. Needless to say, many disagreed over how the HOA Board and President handled things and their reaction to being questioned by the citizens. Now there is a desire for healing. There is a need to address other areas that led to the fraying of trust between citizens and the HOA. What we need to ensure is systems are in place so that 1) our finances are secure and 2) that the HOA adopts a fresh approach to communication and engages with citizens. 

So in addition to reviewing our financial procedures (which I understand is ongoing), the HOA should also do a rigorous communication review.

It will take time to restore the trust in the HOA. I believe that King Farm is a great place to live. But I also believe that we can do better. Our community is a vibrant one - children get older, new ones are born, neighbors come and go, new businesses spring up while old ones close, new developments are proposed. It is an active place and deserves an active and engaged HOA. We deserve a fresh approach to issues and a new commitment to King Farm - that is why I am running for the Board.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

King Farm - How Do We Make It Better?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments about King Farm.  What do you like?  What could be improved?  Send me a FB message, leave a comment or send me an email at dbjackso1@gmail.com

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Contested Seats!

I received this the other day from Management. It occurs to me that you guys should know this info as well.

From Management - "Good Afternoon 2018 King Farm Citizens Assembly Candidates,
I received a request from 2 candidates today requesting the list of all candidates. Please see list below.
The 2018 Candidates are:
Martin Green President
David Pratt President
Tom Curtis Trustee
Barry Jackson Trustee
Nancy Paul Trustee
Ric Ricciardi Trustee
The final election mailing to the community is going out this week."

I'm really glad that we have contested elections this year. Good luck to all. It takes a bit of courage to put yourself out there in public.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

King Farm - Starting The Healing Process

The person responsible for the theft of $360,000 has been caught, charged and pled guilty. Now we should as a community focus on a fresh start. 
A fresh start from an auditing standpoint. A fresh start in new procedures for accounting for King Farm's money. A fresh start for procedures so that no one operates on the basis of "trust" any more.
King Farm has revenues of about $2.5 million per year. In addition to a reserve fund that is quite large. We owe it to the citizens of King Farm to have a system of checks in place so that this never happens again.
There is much defensiveness in the HOA, due to how everything was handled. I know it isn't their fault, but the fault of the criminal. Hopefully with the coming election we can get rid of our anger and reset to start over again with residents.
To regain the trust of the citizens we also need a fresh approach to communication, volunteerism and civility. I think these things coupled with strict non-trust based accounting and frequent audits can go a long way toward making this a community that we know it can be.
Statement from King Farm:

"As many of you may already know, on Friday, February 16, 2018 former KFCA employee, Melvina (Liz) Shipe, entered a guilty plea to the felony charge of theft/scheme greater than $100,000.00. Sentencing will take place April 17, 2018. The total amount submitted under the charge was $360,983.00. This amount included checks she diverted to her own personal checking account from 2011-2017 as well as items she had delivered to her home which she charged to King Farm accounts by forging approval signatures and date back to 2008. The Criminal Information (charging document) and a written version of the proffer of facts were filed with the criminal court file; Criminal No. 133277C. This is public information. We secured a copy today from the court and have attached it here for those that wish to view it. 

The Assembly continues to work with our insurance carrier to recoup the loss. While the first portion of coverage for the claim has been paid out to KFCA, $50,000.00, the second portion of coverage is still in progress. We have updated the claim amount based on Friday’s court events where Ms. Shipe plead guilty to the charge. The timeline for completion of this process by the insurance carrier is unknown as they work through their own investigation.

As a result of this incident, we have begun to institute changes that will make it more difficult for this type of thing to happen again. We have hired a new auditing firm. Not only will the new audit firm perform an annual audit and tax services, they will perform an internal control assessment and make recommendations as to the current controls and their effectiveness and/or changes needed. We will begin the process of researching financial management firms to be considered for hire.

The Assembly wishes to work together with the community to rebuild from this incident. The constant finger pointing, blame game and innuendos suggesting “others” were involved in this scheme are destructive to this community as a whole. This has been a very painful process for all involved and it is time to lay down the swords and look towards rebuilding from this and our future."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Barry Jackson For King Farm Trustee




My name is Barry Jackson, and I’ve decided to run for a position on the King Farm Board of Trustees. I have lived in King Farm for 11 years with my wife and two daughters. We have enjoyed our time in King Farm – we have a plot in the Community Garden, take the King Farm shuttle to Metro, shop in the Village Center, enjoy the parks and numerous activities put on by the HOA. 
I am the webmaster of the King Farm Swim Team, which my daughters are on. Go Geese! I have been on various committees of King Farm such as the External Affairs Committee and the Budget & Finance Committee. I’ve also served on various committees of national organizations and volunteered for different causes.
I started the King Farm Neighbors Facebook group, which has grown to over 450 people. If you are not on it, I urge you to check it out. I have been on the King Farm Board previously, from 2007 until 2011. In that time I met many people who I am proud to call friends to this day. There are four issues I would like to focus on if I am fortunate enough to be elected:
  • Transparency – I believe that this HOA can be more transparent. Rather than reacting to events, our HOA Board and President should be more proactive and make a better effort to inform residents about what is happening in King Farm.
  • Civility – The HOA is here to serve residents. We need to foster an environment of mutual respect between the HOA and residents so we can address issues and work to make the King Farm community even better.
  • Modernizing Communications and Processes – I believe that there is much we can do to let people know about what the HOA is doing and to open up ways for people to make their voices heard without physically having to go to a meeting.
  • Volunteerism – The volunteer core of King Farm has withered away somewhat in recent years. We need a diverse group of volunteers lending their life experiences and technical skills to our community.
King Farm is a great community, but I think our HOA, President and Board can do even better. That is why I am running for the Board. I ask you for your vote. Please feel free to reach out to me with ideas or questions at dbjackso1@gmail.com or on Facebook. Or just follow this blog if you don't want to use Facebook.  I will try to keep both of them updated!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bring back the Community Survey

I wonder whatever happened to the King Farm Community survey? It was simple, easy and quick. A great way to get input from the community on issues, events, etc.

It is one more thing I’d like to address. I see no reason at all not to do it.


On The Relationship With The City

I don't know what happened with our relationship to the City of Rockville. We are a big part of the city - with approximately 8,000 residents. In addition to our businesses, schoolchildren and recreational areas.

But we need to make it a priority to improve relations with them. There is too much going on to not have a clear dialogue on many different levels. It seems like this isn't happening. 

  • There is the issue of private KF streets versus public streets with snow removal, paving and traffic control.
  • There are discussions needed on traffic signs and control on several different streets.
  • There is an issue of bicycles and building and maintaining bike lanes.
  • There is a rising issue of a Town Center type construction being built on the Gaithersburg/Rockville border - and that abuts King Farm.
  • There is the issue of a storage facility that is proposed at the exit ramp of 240 and Shady Grove. Not only will there be concerns about traffic and lower property values and perhaps crime - but the road possibly will need to be shut down in order for 1) construction of the facility and 2) in order for the road itself to be widened and access/egress built to the facility. That means closing or severely limiting traffic on Redland Road - the prime entrance to King Farm from I-240. 
  • There is an issue with proposed construction at Ingleside. Or at the intersection of 355 and Gude Drive. 
  • Obviously the CCT is important as well, and should be monitored too. And we should work with the city to make sure we have one voice on it.
I'm sure I have missed some things. But that list is just off the top of my head. 

All of this construction isn't bad. But we need a good relationship with the city to make sure that we are talking and our concerns are heard. I don't know that we have that anymore. We need to get it back.

Communications 101

Here is a tip for the HOA President and Board - put the agenda out early and post it on the website and send it out to the community. Maybe with enough notice that residents could attend the meetings if they are interested. 

Unless you don’t want people to come. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What the HOA could have said....

What the HOA could have said months ago, when the theft was discovered:

"We are sorry that we are limited as to what can be discussed about this at this time. What we can share with you is that during the course of collecting data and information to draft a 2018 budget we noted a discrepancy in the Assembly’s receipts for additional income items (advertising income for the Assembly’s newspaper, resale packages fees, and community center rentals).  After verifying that we did not have a simple general ledger coding error with Zalco, the Assembly’s financial management company, the findings were immediately reported to the Assembly’s President, Board of Trustees,  attorney, insurance carrier, and to the proper legal authorities. This matter is currently part of an open ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office.  We were advised by all of the legal authorities involved in the investigation to await the results, before the Board and Management could make any comprehensive public statement about the issue. 

There was never any intent to “hide” this as seems to be the accusation.  We simply could not discuss the details of the incident while it is an open investigation.  We would love to speak open and freely about this but we must remain focused on ensuring we cooperate with the authorities and the independent auditors to ensure the Assembly is made whole in the end and the person(s) responsible are held accountable. 

Once an arrest is made, it is my understanding that we can then disclose the details of the incident and feel free to answer questions. The Assembly is not, nor has it ever been, under investigation.  Once the details are released and the process is completed all will have a better understanding as to what happened, by whom, and the steps the Assembly has taken to ensure it is made whole by their insurance carriers and what steps can be taken to ensure this does not happen again."

I suppose they could have said it a little differently... but you get the gist.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

On The Current State of King Farm's HOA

It turns out that the financial impact of what a former employee stole from our King Farm accounts was much more than I'd ever dreamed possible.

$360,000 - some of it in cash, some of it in checks and some in.... wait for it... office supplies. 

It is even rumored that this former employee pilfered the Toys For Tots bag at the annual drive for toys put on at the Community Center. It is just a rumor and isn't in the charges against her. But that is something I wouldn't put past someone who has proven to take everything else.

Make no mistake - the act of criminality and the subversion was on the former employee. Totally.

But the HOA - and by that I mean the President, Management, and Board - need to lay out what exactly failed, what they have done to make sure we are whole, and what controls and changes are in place to make certain that thieving like this doesn't happen again.

The King Farm community is angry and upset. The HOA is angry and upset too. Fairly so. They trusted this person, and perhaps overlooked warning signs because of that trust. But the worst reaction the HOA could have is to circle the wagons, look to cast blame, and clam up. That will only make the anger worse. 

The HOA should put out a statement. Say that they could have said more sooner, but were being cautious because of the amount of money involved and the investigation that was occurring. Tell what has happened in the ensuing months both to recover the money and to put in place controls to ensure that the HOA can verify exactly what money comes in and goes out. So that this never happens again. Hold a meeting and profess a desire to handle things better in the future and give full disclosure now. Don't be defensive or silent but listen.

I know that the President, professional Management and the Board will all have to examine how they missed an amount like $360,000 going missing. And that isn't fun. It can be messy and painful. But it is necessary. 

If I was to take a crack at a King Farm statement, that at the very least is what I would try to say.




Monday, February 12, 2018

Candidate Statement - Barry Jackson


My name is Barry Jackson, and I’ve decided to run for a position on the King Farm Board of Trustees. I have lived in King Farm for 11 years with my wife and two daughters. We have enjoyed our time in King Farm – we have a plot in the Community Garden, take the King Farm shuttle to Metro, shop in the Village Center, enjoy the parks and numerous activities put on by the HOA.
I am the webmaster of the King Farm Swim Team, which my daughters are on. Go Geese! I have been on various committees of King Farm such as the External Affairs Committee and the Budget & Finance Committee. I’ve also served on various committees of national organizations and volunteered for different causes.
I started the King Farm Neighbors Facebook group, which has grown to over 450 people. If you are not on it, I urge you to check it out. I have been on the King Farm Board previously, from 2007 until 2011. In that time I met many people who I am proud to call friends to this day. There are four issues I would like to focus on if I am fortunate enough to be elected:
  • Transparency – I believe that this HOA can be more transparent. Rather than reacting to events, our HOA Board and President should be more proactive and make a better effort to inform residents about what is happening in King Farm.
  • Civility – The HOA is here to serve residents. We need to foster an environment of mutual respect between the HOA and residents so we can address issues and work to make the King Farm community even better.
  • Modernizing Communications and Processes – I believe that there is much we can do to let people know about what the HOA is doing and to open up ways for people to make their voices heard without physically having to go to a meeting.
  • Volunteerism – The volunteer core of King Farm has withered away somewhat in recent years. We need a diverse group of volunteers lending their life experiences and technical skills to our community.
King Farm is a great community, but I think our HOA, President and Board can do even better. That is why I am running for the Board. I ask you for your vote. Please feel free to reach out to me with ideas or questions at dbjackso1@gmail.com or on Facebook.



What Is This? An Eyesore Is What It Us.

Update: Now they have put up a screen so that you no longer can see the equipment and other things in the fenced-off area. That is good, ...