HOA boards and political name recognition: How does that work?

What happens when an aspiring political candidate runs for an HOA office to build name recognition? Is it, or is it not, a conflict of interest?

HOAs manage millions of dollars in revenue from dues (i.e., revenue), and board members have the power to raise and lower dues (i.e., taxes). Just as they expect school board members to be apolitical, most residents expect HOA board members to be nonpartisan.  HOA officers are expected to be responsible fiscal stewards in a rising tide that lifts all boats.

But some residents wonder if there is a conflict of interest, or perception of same, when an HOA board member runs for political office without first resigning from the HOA.

Lansdowne HOA vice president and former HOA president, John Whitbeck, is now serving his third term on the HOA board. He lost the Aug. 23 Republican primary election to Randy Minchew in a three way contest to represent the new 10th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.

A list of political contributions to Whitbeck, posted online by the Virginia Public Access Project, shows donations of $1,000 each from ConServ Industries and Climatic Heating and Cooling and $500 from Associations, Inc., Lansdowne`s Dallas, Texas, based management company, as well as $250 each from Lansdowne HOA President Hani Elnaggar and Treasurer Larry Miller.

Candidates for political office at any level accept campaign donations from friends, family, businesses, political action committees, and anyone else who makes a contribution. This practice is legal, proper, and required to be reported (see www.vpap.org).

Whitbeck was first appointed to the board in July, 2007, to complete the term created by the resignation of Lansdowne developer Hobie Mitchel, the same person who holds easements that are now under challenge from a federal lawsuit against telecommunications provider OpenBand.

Whitbeck was later elected to a two year term in 2007 and a three year term in 2009; he has one year left remaining to serve in that term.

Should he resign? He and the two Lansdowne HOA board members who donated to his political campaign control three of the five votes on the board.

This is a link to the list of Whitbeck contributors:

http://www.vpap.org/candidates/profile/money_in_donors/73173?end_year=2011&filter_schedule=all&industry=all&limit=50&locality=all&lookup_type=year&order=amount&page=1&start_year=2011&submenus=cands_state&zip_code=all

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