Persecution Complex

Windsor Place resident Pat Snyder wages a jihad against the homeowners' association, which she accuses of cronyism, racism--even hastening the death of an elderly black woman

Though not as impassioned as her friend, Gahagans has backed Snyder from the beginning, saying that the homeowners' association has made life "hell" for Snyder and, before that, Rosa Anderson.

"I know Pat [Snyder] can come across a little strong, but she has a good case," Gahagans says. "She's not just doing this to stir up trouble."

Snyder is a nonpracticing nurse and a real estate agent with an encyclopedic memory for the finer points of laws covering multifamily housing. She grew up in Connecticut, where she worked as a real estate broker.

"Taking care of people and property is something I'm very familiar with," she says in a voice that still betrays traces of her Yankee roots.

She became enmeshed in Windsor Place politics shortly after she moved in and took a job with a property management company that oversaw 40 condos on the property belonging to California investor George Beebe.

If the board members are the dukes of Windsor, George Beebe is its distant king. Because he owns almost a quarter of the condos, Beebe can hand-pick up to four of the condo board's seven members.

One of Pat Snyder's original allies was Don Snyder [no relation], who sat on the board. Both agreed that the assessment for the new pipes would hit property owners too hard, and wanted the association to get a loan that would allow homeowners to stretch payments over 12 months instead of three. On September 15, Snyder and Snyder met with an attorney to see if they had any recourse against the board's actions.

"We seem to do everything in a closed meeting," Don Snyder complained during the tape-recorded meeting, "because there's a clique of four or five people. And this has been going on constantly now."

Don Snyder also complained that Joe Wilson's wife, Patty, was the board's treasurer, which placed her in the position of paying her husband. He added that when he spoke against the board for overcharging homeowners, he was "isolated" from the inner circle.

Within 90 days of that meeting, however, Don Snyder was whistling a different tune. Beebe fired Pat Snyder and hired him in her place. Don Snyder was also made the board's treasurer.

"He clammed up real fast," Pat Snyder says of her former ally. "And the reason is obvious: They bought him out."

Don Snyder denies being bought off. He says he simply grew tired of Pat's crusade. "She bleeds on people," he says. "That's her leverage. She gets you all worked up, and she has so much energy, it's hard to resist her."

Don Snyder says he's satisfied with the way the board's business is conducted, and that a new, shining era of open governance has taken hold at Windsor Place.

If anything, Pat Snyder counters, things are hitting a new low. She says Don Snyder has a conflict of interest in serving both as an employee of Beebe's and as treasurer, overseeing the association's $550,000 in annual receipts.

Pat Snyder has another ally in homeowner Dan McCabe, who served on the board five years ago but stepped down after two years, he says, because he grew frustrated with the board's lack of professionalism.

"When you've got money going out that you can't account for, when you're paying subcontractors for labor and you can't produce the 1099s [tax records], wouldn't you say that's a problem?" he asks.

As further proof of the board's abuse of privilege, Pat Snyder presents The Theiss Incident.

Kathryn Luella Theiss had lived at Windsor Place for 15 years. When she died in September at the age of 85, Scott Schaible, who works as a mortician for a Chandler funeral home when he's not busy with homeowners' association affairs, was hired to handle the arrangements.

Because Theiss was to be laid to rest out of state, Schaible arranged a visitation so that her many friends at Windsor Place could pay their last respects.

It was held in the Windsor Place clubhouse on September 14.
Schaible says he did it to accommodate Kathryn's friends, many of whom are elderly and would have had difficulty traveling off the property for a visitation.

Pat Snyder doesn't buy it.
"We can't even get into that clubhouse when we're alive," she says. "But he can drive his friggin' hearse right up to it. He used that clubhouse to further his personal business, and that's illegal."

Snyder says it shows how much members of the board and their cronies can get away with.

"These guys have more power than the federal government," she says. "The feds can't just slap a lien on your place without due process, but these guys can. They're judge, jury and executioner."

To be sure, homeowners' associations are probably one of the more imperfect forms of government ever conceived. Staffed by part-timers who often have little or no experience overseeing the large budgets they inherit, the potential for abuse is very real.

Occasionally, a homeowners' association makes the news. Recently, a Chandler couple was convicted of embezzlement after police determined the wife, who served as treasurer and property manager, had paid her husband thousands of dollars for work he had never done.

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