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Gilbert HOA is threatening to fine residents over critical social media posts

Gilbert HOA Val Vista Lakes
Posted at 5:03 PM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-25 14:18:26-05

GILBERT, AZ — "If I didn't love this community, I wouldn't be fighting this fight," said Ashley Nardecchia.

Nardecchia lives in the Val Vista Lakes (VVL) community off Greenfield and Baseline Road.

Since 2019, she's been the admin of a private community Facebook page called Residents at VVL.

"It's all about bringing that community together," said Nardecchia.

It's your usual neighborhood page, full of events, lost dogs and safety updates. But when board elections kicked off last year, the debate over who should be seated got heated.

"It was disagreements about how certain members of the board run the board, where they're spending our money, things of that nature," said Nardecchia recalling the posts on the page during that time. Those disagreements played out in the comments on the page.

Following elections, the board proposed a social media policy restricting opinions about the board on Facebook. It was vehemently opposed by the community and quickly tabled.

Then a letter from a law office representing the board showed up at Nardecchia's home.

"They are threatening if I don't remove any content that frames certain members of the board in a negative light," said Nardecchia.

Threatening her with $250 daily fines as well as taking away her access to community amenities.

The letter was sent from a law firm paid for by HOA fees to at least eleven residents.

"They are asking me to basically censor the speech of the 650 members that belong to that page," said Nardecchia.

"Clearly it's an overreach by the board," said Keith Faber.

Faber, a ten year resident of the community and former board member, received a letter too. He says the board has no right to restrict free speech on a private Facebook page.

"It's improper and they need to address, and maybe there should be some resignations," said Faber.

The letter demands posts that are disparaging, speculative or defaming to board members be removed immediately. It also cites past incidents including posts that said that board members altered or manipulated votes in annual elections and that board members purposefully retaliated against members in the association. Opinions that now come with consequences.

"I really do believe in that freedom of speech. We are a diverse community with diverse opinions and views, and we should be able to share that and have a discussion about that." said Nardecchia.

ABC15 spoke to a board member over the phone who said he would speak with others on the board and get back to us with a statement or comment regarding our story. They never called us back.

At least two attorneys focused on constitutional law, told ABC15 the board is over stepping their authority and may want to take a closer look at the protection found under the first amendment.