Cover-Up by Improvement Association?

On May 8, 2009, the Vice President of the Improvement Association was arrested on 144 charges including identity theft, forgery and fraud.

Several news organizations, including this web site have asked for a statement, including regarding integrity of La Habra Heights Improvement Association members payment information, procedures for security of checks sent to the association for payment, and other standard information.

In cases of identity theft and forgery; the name, address, phone number, checking account number, and signature of an individual, particularly from an upscale area, are very valuable.

No Comment from La Habra Heights Improvement Association

In a story in the Whittier Daily News, the President of the Improvement Association states that the arrested VP had been on the board less than a year.

The Improvement Association President declined to make any other comment to the Whittier Daily News.

In fact, their December 2007 publication, Heights Life, shows the VP was a director at that time, and for all subsequent issues, so the Vice President has been on the La Habra Heights Improvement Association Board at least a year and a half.

Why did the Improvement Association minimize their association with the Vice President?

Statement Finally Made

At the June 17th Annual Members Meeting, President Pam McVicar announced that the arrested Vice President had no contact with members finanacial information or personal data, relieving those who had been wondering what was going on.

Quick Rise to the Top

The future VP moved to La Habra Heights in late 2006, was appointed La Habra Heights Improvement Association Director in late 2007, and was made Vice President in 2009. The Vice President was in charge of the Easter Egg Hunt and the Improvement Association Welcome Wagon.

When asked for a statement by the Editor of this website, we were told by President Pam McVicar the only statement they would be issuing is:

The Vice President "is on leave of absence from the Board of the LHHIA”.

Why does the Association not offer any statement of reassurance to members that their financial information is safe and handled in a secure manner, even in a general way?

Shift in Focus of Story to Improvement Association

With the continued reluctance to offer any further statement to members and the public, focus on the story has shifted from the Vice President to the Improvement Association itself.

Most residents know of the Improvement Association for Music in the Park, Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Haunt and other Social events.

The La Habra Heights Improvement Association receives thousands of dollars in public funds annually from Los Angeles County Supervisor, above and beyond member dues, advertising revenue, and merchandise sales.

It is not unreasonable for the public, or the County Supervisor who arranges the payment, to know that the Association has standard and proper financial controls in place to ensure that public funds are not used for purposes other than that for which they were intended.

Verbal Improvement Association Financial Reports in 2007 and 2008 stated that the ticket limited Jingle Bell Ball did not cover costs, and surplus funds, including from Music In The Park, were used to cover the difference.
See 2008 LHHIA Financial Report

Article 9, Section 2 of the 2001 LHHIA Bylaws states that in any year that the revenue exceeds $35,000, the Annual Financial Report SHALL be sent to members. It is not known what was the last year that the Association complied with this requirement.

The latest known extant version of the Improvement Association By-Laws is the 2001 version.

Over the years, the By-Laws have been changed, giving almost total control to the Board.

The 1984 By-Laws and 2001 By-Laws, are available here for comparison.
The 1965 By-Laws and 1979 By-Laws are also here for historical reference.

Have there been changes since 2001?

The 1984 By-Laws require members to approve changes to the by-laws. The 2001 version lets the Board change them.

When did the members approve of letting the Board change the By-Laws?

At the June 17, 2009 Annual Members meeting, President Pam McVicar reluctantly admitted that the By-Laws had been changed, but would not let anyone other than a board member see them.

Annual Meeting

The 2001 Board By-Laws (Article 13, Section 4) requires first class mailed notice of the annual meeting between 10 and 90 days prior to the meeting, along with an agenda of items requiring action of members.

This has not occured in a number of years.

There will be an annual meeting June 17, 2009 at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room at City Hall.

Leave of Absence

There is no provision in the 2001 Improvement Association By-Laws for a Director to take a "leave of absence".

PAC - Political Action Committee?

As a 501(c) Non-Profit, the Improvement Association is not supposed to be involved in political matters.

A 2008 email by Association long-time leader/HL Advertising person Jean Good Lietzau, in response to a faux press release on the financial collapse of the city, revealed her own thoughts.

"This Press Release indicates that La Habra Heights continues to
reap the harvest of seven years of incompetent city managers and city council members.
Since 2001, Councils concentrated solely on stopping all building up
here with no regard to the disaster they were creating to city finances.
They hired expensive staff who did not perform their duties. Bruce Douglas, Ed Borrowe, Tela Millsap, Fred Klein, Brian Bergman, Stan Carroll, should take a bow for bringing our small city to this place in time.
What a sad day this is for La Habra Heights as we prepare to celebrate our 30th anniversary of being a city.
I have complete confidence in Council members Layne Baroldi and Howard Vipperman.
I know that they can lead us through this challenging
time and we will remain an incorporated city."
Jean Good Lietzau, First Mayor"

Did the Improvement Association try to sway discussion toward these issues in the 2009 Council election?

The February 2009 Heights Life posed questions to all candidates for City Council.

Two of the four questions were:

How would you address the current budget crisis?

Should the current building ordinances be relaxed,
especially with regard to impervious cover?

The questions were interesting because the City has had a run of budget surpluses for several years, and another large surplus had been predicted at the January Council meeting. What "budget crisis" were they asking about?

The Community has steadfastly supported our rural environment and the General Plan and Codes that support it.

At the May 2009 Council Meeting, Code changes weakening view protection, and allowing more grading and impervious coverage were supported by Councilmembers Vipperman, Westerhoff and Baroldi.

Several public comments opposed the code changes, which reduce view protection, allow more grading, impervious coverage, and subdivisions, and give more control over residents' property to City Staff.

The Code changes were supported by a Fullerton architect and Improvement Association Director Paul Spothelfer .

A Line Crossed?

The non-political line was possibly breached in the May 2009 Heights Life , with an article attacking legal, informational political mailers, and their author. The article was supplemented with an over 500 word "Letter to the Editor", further castigating the flyers and their author. The letter itself appeared to violate the Improvement Association's own Editorial Policy, excerpted below:

"A letter should be limited to 250 words, and an article should be limited to 500 words. (Longer articles may be run in more than one installment.)
Submitted letters and articles must not contain material that is libelous and must not subject any individual or group to intentional ridicule, contempt or abuse."

History of Improvement Association

In the early days of La Habra Heights, the Improvement Association was the force that fought to create and preserve our minimum one acre zoning, fought off attempts for high density housing, and led the march to Incorporation.

Since Incorporation, the last effort against inappropriate development, inside or outside of La Habra Heights, that the Improvement Association was involved with, was the Shea Homes project in 1986 (Link to "Story of La Habra Heights video segment).

Opposition to inappropriate development has since been in the hands of residents and various groups have been formed to oppose over-development, using tactics such as organizing , lawsuits, referendum, and voting out of office Council members who consistently voted against our rural environment and for inappropriate over-development.

One of the most famous was the defeat of the Powder Canyon high density housing. Residents overwhelming opposed the project. (See the "Story of La Habra Heights" video segment on Powder Canyon)
The resident group at that time was the Committee to Protect the General Plan. They published newsletters called "The Sentinel".

Supporters of the 10 million yard grading and tract homes included several current Improvement Association people; Jean Good Lietzau, Paul Spothelfer, and Claire Spothelfer. One Flyer supporting the vote in favor of the Powder Canyon development came from the Spothelfers' address.

The Future

Residents are once again rising up against the inappropriate development they are seeing in the City.

Residents are opposing the devastating Code changes being proposed to increase development, allow more subdivision, and reduce view protection.

Once again, the Improvement Association is not the leader or participant in opposing over-development.