Raising two step-daughters, at least living in the same house as them, provides an education beyond any university. The primary course of study was “fairness”. If one got one more pencils than the other or any less breakfast cereal the principles of justice were broadcast with great alacrity. The emphatic statement “That’s not fair” was declared on what I remember to be a daily basis if not more often. I never discovered their law book that determined what was fair and what was not but it made perfect sense to ensure domestic tranquility that both got the same size and weight stockings stuffed with the same items, it not exactly the same then of the same value at Christmas. Any improvement to the house or new car had to satisfy both daughters and pass their sense of fairness that it was mutually beneficial.
Larger human living arrangements, such as communities, cities, states and countries require a clearer understanding of what is fair than a small family. States and Countries adopt constitutions. Cities have laws and ordinances, nonprofit member corporations have bylaws. All of these documents are meant to spell out the rights and what is fair to each individual who is a member of the corporation, city, state or country. They are contracts, not guidelines or suggestions. One such contract is the By Laws of the Diamondhead Country Club and Property Owners Association, Inc., the very document we find ourselves asking a Mississippi court to interpret concerning the rights of an officer of the corporation and how he is allowed to perform his duties. The very beginning of DHCC&POA bylaws contains the title ARTICLE 1.PURPOSE. It’s meaning needs no court to decipher and states: “Diamondhead Country Club and Property Owners Association, Inc., a Mississippi nonprofit corporation, herein referred to as “the Corporation,” shall conduct its affairs for the mutual benefit of the membership…” That’s the first line, not some add on or edited entry. It remains unchanged and unedited for over forty five years. It needs no translation or interpretation is necessary. There is no exception, no footnote, no misspellings or misplaced conjunctions. Plain and simple, “the mutual benefit…”
This was not the case with the Yacht Club. The Diamondhead CC & POA leased the facilities that it spent over one million dollars of insurance money from Katrina reconstructing. It did not hire a controversial consultant (HMS) to manage the facility. Instead it leased the property and actually was paid a guaranteed amount to have someone else run the facility. Imagine if the board of directors was comprised of gourmets or gourmands that seek only Classic French cuisine. Forget that this type of food has gone out of favor with the general public as most now prefer lighter fare with less sauce. These “foodies” (Board of Directors) insist that is was the original purpose of Diamondhead since Bill Vrazel was the original chef at the development and he specialized in rich, buttery sauces, five course meals and heavy desserts. They get some restaurant consulting firm to completely renovate the dining room and kitchen, rebuild the Yacht Club so it doesn’t look like a double wide in the sky and then hire the same firm at $10,000 dollars a month to ensure that only the finest and freshest is served. These culinary aficionados (or so they claim) then proceed to get the best tables at the best times for a ridiculously low annual fee that guarantees all they can eat at each sitting. How long would that arrangement have endured?
Then there is Diamondhead Tennis. Tennis was played in Diamondhead from day one. Courts were located next to the country club when it opened. Tennis was booming in the 80s. But now my racket along with others is gathering dust in the garage. Maybe we should elect six tennis players to the board to help resurrect the sport nationwide. Hire a tennis consultant, build a tennis academy and renovate the tennis courts for the next 3 years. Damn the cost! Get custom nets woven from alpacas.
How about the marina? POA member dues subsidizing deep sea fishing charters, sailing excursions on Clipper ships and diving adventures in Bay St. Louis could be funded with the right board member majority. As far as the airport, imagine if we had six pilots on the board of directors. The runway would be lengthened. Why not a second runway to accommodate private or even commercial jets or a flight school with modern day flight simulators and mahogany lined pilot’s club house? All at members’ expense. We aren’t supposed to make a profit so a two to three million dollar a month loss is exactly what we need, right?
Or take the case of Diamondhead’s riding stables. What if, while in decline, the board had been comprised of six avid equestrians? Would they have hired the famous and now very expensive “Horse Whisperer”? We could have contracted Churchill Downs as a consultant firm and renovated the paddock area and riding trails. Maybe even a polo field complete with personal riding lessons at the new, built with members’ dues, Diamondhead Riding Academy given by Willie Shoemaker.
Diamondhead was never a “golf community” just as it never was a retirement community or a tennis community or an equestrian community or a boater’s community or an aviation community. It was always marketed as a resort community that featured golf, tennis, stables, a marina and an airport. Board members were supposed to act in the best and mutual interest of the resort community and ALL of its amenities.
If the same business methods, logic and reason were to be fairly applied to golf operations in Diamondhead that was applied to other “amenities” we would not be paying to have someone “consult” with no means to gauge their performance. They would either be downsized, leased out, sold or closed altogether.
Where does it stop? The real question is how did it start? It started with the ludicrous idea that losing money in a nonprofit corporation was a good business practice and the result of excellent management. Of course this unique business practice is so revolutionary that it must be kept from the membership and hidden from all competitors who may copy this innovative modus operando. All around the country businesses would file for nonprofit status and start losing money. Stock would no longer be valued on profit but loss basis. Management would be graded on how much they spend without any return on the investment. What insanity!
The fact of the matter is, despite what has been claimed by former and present board members, Diamondhead CC & POA has never been properly managed. Good management does not mean that you and your buddies get what they want. It means that all members are treated fairly and that the corporation is run for the mutual benefit of the entire membership.
And then there is the new football/soccer field. How is it if I decide to play golf, I have to pay a greens fee? If I want to play tennis, I must rent a court. If I want to eat at the country club or yacht club, I have to pay the tab. If I want the use the community center, the pavilion at Twin Lakes, or the picnic tables at East Rec, I have to pay for them. I know that if you kept a horse at the long gone Diamondhead stables you had to pay for stall and feed. How is it that even though my dues pay for the creation and upkeep of the new “sports complex” I can’t use it. If I wanted my football team to practice there who do I see? And most importantly, how much does it cost? As it is now the organization which one POA director serves as president (and finally admitted he has a conflict of interest) gets exclusive use of the facility. His organization charges each participant a fee to play on the team. The Diamondhead Country Club and Property Owners Association gets none of that revenue and does not charge for the use of that facility it paid to be built.
The word is “mutual”. Even with the library and continuing education closing, the “Collective” should be able to locate a dictionary to find its meaning or they could just consult my two step daughters. They would be glad to advise them on the subject, free of charge.