Laurie Vanover will have her day in court.
Accused of looting nearly $192,000 from the Stratford Property Owners Association where she served as treasurer, Vanover is expected to be charged soon. Police, prosecutors and courts will take care of the rest.
This isn’t the first time, nor the last, that someone associated with a homeowners association is accused of stealing money from their neighbors. The question is how to keep it from happening again.
Let’s face it: If someone broke into your neighbor’s house and stole their television, wouldn’t you be a little more careful about safeguarding your own home?
Yet $192,000 could buy a flat-screen TV for every home in Stratford – and it took nearly five years for anyone to even raise an alarm.
Why? The obvious things: Misplaced trust in someone who took advantage of it, overreliance on leaders who failed to provide oversight – and, at the heart of it, the let-someone-else-handle-it apathy from just about everyone in any neighborhood.
There are few jobs more thankless than that of a board member of a homeowners association. Just like local government offices, few want to serve – yet everyone wants to complain.
In Stratford, for example, we’re confident Vanover was able to serve so long as treasurer simply because no one else wanted to do it. All those homeowners now complaining about the massive theft, and the rest of the board’s lack of oversight, need to also be honest about how much they’d paid attention to the board, if at all, and whether they had offered to serve.
None of that provides a shred of excuse for the misconduct. But just as Stratford residents are awakening to the importance of paying more attention to how their neighborhood is governed, other communities should proactively check out the operations of their own residential areas.
If they don’t, they shouldn’t be surprised if their money disappears, too.