Donna Hopley accounting executive fighting for fiscal responsibility
In August of 2010, the Oakmont Village Association (OVA) Board of Directors held its first ever retreat. The day-long meeting was devoted to setting goals and identifying policy and procedures that would govern OVA’s activities. What became the primary focus was the long overdue upgrading of the administration’s computer operation to an Information Technology (IT) System. Oakmont had managed its business in 20th century mode, with information stored on hard copy. Bits and pieces of data were saved on personal computers and the software programs had long become inadequate and outdated. Membership accounting, handled by a contractor, remained inaccessible via digital network. Of equal importance was the computerization of events scheduling. Oakmont has to accommodate meeting spaces for 120+ clubs, a time consuming task with pen and paper.
As a result of the above deliberations an IT committee was formed, and on March 27, 2012, its chairman Mike Noble presented his report on the research that he and his colleagues had pursued. Having investigated four software packages, two programs remained under consideration since they offered, in addition to accounting capabilities, the Hospitality/Scheduling function. The choice lay between one program called ASYST and another one named TOPS. In the end, the former offered an advantage over the latter, namely that of program integration of accounting and events scheduling. TOPS, on the other hand, needed an additional Hospitality package.
Thus started a chapter in Oakmont’s history that foretold the “Summer of Discontent.” Selecting the ASYST package necessitated the cancellation of a 20 year relationship with a local business, Oakmont Accounting Services (OAS), and transferring OVA’s computerized activities to Condominium Financial Management (CFM) situated in Contra Costa County. OAS was not invited to bid, therefore facing a certain financial loss.
Enter Donna Hopley, a successful accountant and executive and member of the OVA Finance committee. She was exceptionally dismayed by the radical change, convinced that the local firm could deliver the same services that the out-of-county provider offered. Wishing to inspect the financial information, she was denied access to the documents, until OVA’s counsel ruled that she had the right to examine the financial books. Monitoring the billings from CFM, it soon became apparent that the Administration and Oakmont’s membership were paying significantly more for accounting tasks; delinquency fees and real-estate expenditures. For instance, accounting fees increased by 172 percent. Penalties for late payments of dues increased by an equally shocking percentage; and while thousands of dollars in penalties used to benefit OVA, they are now collected by CFM. Real estate fees rose by 63 percent, with hundreds of additional dollars added for homes in association maintained areas.
Hopley’s attempt to address the ever increasing costs with the Board, its president and manager, proved fruitless. On the contrary, the situation turned hostile, preventing her from attending meetings, and, finally, ending with an attempt to expel her from the Finance committee altogether. A year has passed since the change in firms and the books show that we, Oakmont’s residents, paid CFM over $100,000 more than we did in prior years to OAS for the above-mentioned services. Given the enormous difference in expenditure, one has to assume at best that no cost analysis was performed. As for the Events Scheduler, it is not yet in use!
A new OVA Board majority will soon hear from Hopley who remains determined in her civic-minded quest to hold Board and Administration attentive to both residents’ concerns and to fiscal responsibility and accountability.