Kerfuffle, Conundrum, and Malarkey

Kerfuffle, Conundrum, and Malarkey

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM / Published November 2018

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erfuffle—Commotion, disorder, agitation, hubbub

     If you want to experience a kerfuffle, just change the deck of cards that the ladies’ bridge group uses every Tuesday morning. These ladies sit at the same table, have the same seats, and use the same deck of cards. They know each other’s favorite beverage and snack and how many bathroom breaks they will take. Each looks forward to the Tuesday morning bridge group.

     The bridge group has reached the point where they don’t need a reminder call. They are set in their routine, and the possibility of change never occurs to them. But change does happen and, though it is a minor change, the result is a kerfuffle. The manufacturer (not the manager) of the game cards has changed the design, and the cards are a slightly different weight. Apparently, through the years, without knowing it, the cards have taken on a sentimental value. That change did not sit well with several of the ladies, and they were angry.

  One night, while some of the bridge ladies are having dinner in the clubhouse, the discussion turns to the change in the bridge cards. You can hear the discussion turn from disappointment to anger. The discussion includes “I remember when…” and refers to “the good old days,” includes a shot at the manager with “well, you know he …,” and is followed by a final attack on his abilities, competence, and intelligence.

     In one final scene during dinner at the clubhouse after all the grumbling and complaining, two of the ladies become so angry they end up in a fist fight right in the middle of the dining room!

Conundrum—Puzzle, mystery, challenge, problem

     Miracle upon miracle! When presented with a violation letter, the community’s most vocal offender (who owns a tree trimming service) goes nuts, makes records requests that take up hours of manager and board member time, and hurls accusations of wrongdoing by the board. Then suddenly he “volunteers” to offer consulting services for the community’s tree trimming tasks, etc. Thinking that might be a good way to turn this owner into a “cooperative” owner, the board agrees. Several weeks later it is discovered the newly converted owner has trimmed association trees and submitted a proposal and an invoice all in the same day. The board is left with this conundrum, trying to figure out what went through the mind of this owner so that he went from volunteer to “job completed and here is my proposal followed by my invoice.” They are certain the newly converted owner will revert to the hateful one when told his proposal won’t be accepted and his invoice is not going to be paid.

     Recently a television station reported a battle taking place at a condominium association that imposed a special assessment of $20,000 per unit for a $1.5 million project to be repaid monthly for seven years. Though for years this association has voted to not fully fund the reserves, they are up in arms over the special assessment to replace the wooden exterior of the buildings that were built in the 1980s. Many of the owners who are on fixed incomes have vowed to “not take this lying down. We have been railroaded.”

     This report leaves you scratching your head. Did the owners not realize either you pay (a little bit) now or you pay (a lot) later? Or have you tried to digest this new language from Section 718.112(2)(p)?

     (p) Service providers; conflicts of interest.—An association, which is not a timeshare condominium association, may not employ or contract with any service provider that is owned or operated by a board member or with any person who has a financial relationship with a board member or officer, or a relative within the third degree of consanguinity by blood or marriage of a board member or officer. This paragraph does not apply to a service provider in which a board member or officer, or a relative within the third degree of consanguinity by blood or marriage of a board member or officer, owns less than 1 percent of the equity shares.

     Have you or anyone you know EVER used the word consanguinity?

Malarkey—Nonsense, absurdity, gibberish, doubletalk

     Board members often put up with residents who spew blame at board meetings, harass them while walking the dog, or question them while sitting at the pool. Some residents create websites so they can spew even more. Here is an example of one:

     Arm yourself against oppression from the myopic views of your nosy neighbors! Protect your privacy! Don’t be intimidated by anyone who thinks that they can control your life, your guests, or anything else in your condominium. I did not move into a place to be surrounded by persons who are my parents’ age and think that because of their age, they can dictate to anyone what they think is right. That is why I moved out of the parental abode and got my own place. Got a clue yet? And it is time for a board change, time for fresh blood, and time for a young thinking, young person under 50 to run for the board and silence the insanity once and for all! Got a clue yet, kids?

     This guy must have broken a rule for which he was corrected! Apparently, he doesn’t remember when he moved into this community he voluntarily agreed (without a gun to his head) to abide by the governing documents and to voluntarily submit to the elected leadership. If there is really a problem with the manager or board of directors, there are legal actions he can take to resolve the alleged problems.

     Spewing a bunch of malarkey is easy. It usually involves half-truths, blame, accusations, just plain lies, and failure to take personal responsibility. After natural disasters—whether they be wildfires or hurricanes—blame is easier to use than taking personal responsibility. After a violation letter is sent, half-truths and plain lies are easier to use than taking personal responsibility.

     Or did you see the postcard circulated by one group of owners before the board member election with this statement:

     Just Say NO to Bill & Don
     They cost the association $1,750 in attorneys fees for a recall petition that was deemed meritless and denied by the court. We need good volunteer board members, not hateful ones. We don’t want people who waste our money.

     Managers and our volunteer board members have to be some of the best people on earth to put up with all this kerfuffle, conundrum, and malarkey.

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact, (352) 326-8365, or