MESA, AZ - A routine Homeowner's Association meeting at Superstition Lakes Condominiums in Mesa turned ugly recently.
One of the homeowners, Kathleen Daurio, said her phone was hit out of her hand and her face was brushed with papers by another homeowner just after the meeting.
"I was frightened," she said. "They had kept my husband out of the meeting and I had no idea what was going to come next."
How did a seemingly calm community get to that point? One word: Money.
Daurio and a few other homeowners thought they were being hit with meaningless violations by their HOA board. So, they decided to look into how their money was being spent, and requested financial records from the board.
What they found shocked them.
RECEIPTS AND REIMBURSEMENTS
They went through years of receipts, invoices and account listings and say they started to notice some unusual purchases.
"I mean, they bought laundry detergent and almonds and vodka and baby wipes and, just about every time, they bought air fresheners!" Daurio said.
All of these purchases were reimbursed – with HOA money – to board President Michael Cassady. And Daurio said she could find none of these items were used by the HOA for the benefit of the condominiums.
"We found out that the president turned in receipts for items that he purchased in New Jersey!" Daurio said.
That's not to mention the restaurant receipts.
Daurio and her fellow homeowners listed out the restaurant expenses. "Old Chicago's for $79, P.F. Chang's for $100, On the Border, $85, O'Sullivan's, $73, Old Chicago's $116," she read from the list.
Records obtained by the homeowners show Cassady was reimbursed for these and other meals with HOA funds and listed many meals as "HOA meetings" on invoices.
"One of the biggest things was we saw $640 to the Salt Cellar for the annual meeting, and there's three board members," Daurio said.
One receipt Daurio found even included $121 for alcohol.
Daurio said she and other homeowners she knows weren't notified of any of the meetings and that they could have been held in the HOA's clubhouse, instead of at restaurants.
"He has turned in other receipts and been reimbursed with no proof that he actually paid those bills," she said of Cassady.
She points to an invoice from a company called ParkPro. Records show Cassady was reimbursed $591 from HOA funds for gate repairs he paid to the company.
But, ParkPro later said, they never did the work.
In an email, ParkPro Accounts Receivable Manager Amelia Carlton wrote, "I do not show ParkPro performed any billable work at Superstition Lakes Condos in 2012. We did, however, provide (4) different estimates for repair options."
"We don't know where our money is!" Daurio said.
In all, homeowners say they found Cassady had been personally reimbursed by the HOA for approximately $38,000 in the last two years.
After trying to vote the board out with a petition signed by more than 40 homeowners, one of them, Jan Stuart, decided to take them to court. Daurio was one of the witnesses called to the stand.
In front of the judge, Cassady and his lawyer fought the allegations and explained many of the reimbursements. But, they continued to deny my request for an interview.
When I tracked him down outside the courthouse, Cassady wouldn't say anything about the allegations against him. He only referred me to his lawyer, who again denied my request, saying it is against his firm's policy to comment on matters still in litigation.
But, Kathleen and her fellow homeowners aren't stopping now.
While the judge rejected their request for a receiver to take over the HOA's finances, he demanded the board release all financial records to homeowners and hold a special meeting to reconsider their petition to oust the board.