By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Three residents received cease-and-desist letters earlier this month from the Steiner Ranch Master Association board and the SRMA attorney defended this action at the annual meeting on June 21.
Some 30 residents attended the annual meeting at Towne Square Community Center. At times, discussion was heated when residents asked the SRMA board about certain topics, especially about the legal letters sent on June 7.
“I don’t like to send those letters,” said Clint Brown, attorney from law firm RMWBH. “Be upset with the board but don’t accuse them of stealing. You can’t say a board member is stealing money on social media.”
Naren Chilukuri, president of the SRMA, confirmed, “three homeowners received C&D letters for spreading false, financial allegations that SRMA HOA, board members and GrandManors are getting kickbacks, which is a crime.” He emailed Four Points News on June 18, five days after being asked about it.
“It’s truly unfortunate that few homeowners are spreading false information across many aspects of HOA (board management, board directors, decision process, finances, maintenance etc),” Chilukuri sent via email. “This is not only going to impact our Steiner Ranch community brand and reputation in larger Austin but also discourage good members wanting to run for the board for fear of being smeared with false information.”
The homeowners who received letters were accusing the SRMA board, board president or the community management company GrandManors of kickbacks.
Amy Yukich was one Steiner resident who got a cease-and-desist letter while she was running for the SRMA board. She ended up winning the at-large director seat decisively on June 21.
Prior to the election, Yukich built awareness through many social media posts about the election and issues needing to be addressed within the community. She shared that the SRMA needs to take care of what it has – landscaping, picnic tables, pool fencing and furniture, park benches, etc. – rather than doing things like embarking on a multi-million dollar community center expansion.
She edited some of her posts slightly after the cease-and-desist letter.
But nonetheless, Yukich’s posts helped bolster online voting for the board elections, which garnered a third of the households in Steiner or 1,240 votes. A third of the households in Steiner voted in this election, more than any other time in SRMA history.
The cease-and-desist letters were a hot topic at the annual meeting.
“The cease-and-desist letters were outrageous… (are our HOA dues) a slush fund to have yourself defended,” one resident said. “Don’t use my money to send letters.”
Several residents asked why the HOA was using money collected from homeowners to send cease-and-desist letters. Some asked what makes this board different from other boards where social media posts are made about volunteers or actions boards make. One resident shared they felt like the letters were used to stop the open dialogue. Another questioned what volunteers on the SRMA board are being defended.
But attorney Brown said the cease-and-desist letters were justified because posts were being made that basically stated that volunteers on the board were in essence stealing.
“How would that make you feel? It affects your ability to get a job to get a raise,” Brown said. Basically the posts were stating that “our board members were committing crimes… alleging the board members are stealing money.”
Christina Morales, outgoing SRMA board member, said some posts “accused me personally, saying what I was doing was illegal. Some accused us, as an association, of breaking the law. I would never do that.”
At times, discussion was heated during the 2022 annual meeting when residents asked the SRMA board about certain projects like the new dog park, new fencing around the Steiner Lake Club parking area, and landscaping that lacks curb appeal.
There were also questions about the $3 million+ budget and processes in picking vendors.
Multiple residents shared that GrandManor was not doing a good job at following up with residents on complaints. Canyon Glen residents spoke up about issues in their subdivision with parked cars and brown mulch beds. The SRMA board shared they plan to follow up.