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Rebelling Now a Senior Activity at Leisure World

The Region

Seal Beach 'dissidents' take their battle with project's management to the courtroom.

July 04, 2004|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Zeller wrote a letter to her mutual board. It was returned unopened. Residents lobbied on their behalf, also requesting answers. Instead of answering, board members wrote columns in the Golden Rain News saying that residents are responsible for homeowners insurance to cover personal property.

Kornelia Brewer contemplated selling her house. But instead of moving, Brewer is fighting back. The retired nurse is a member of the rabble-rousing Concerned Shareholders of Leisure World, whose 150 members Golden Rain officials have repeatedly called "dissidents," both in writing and at meetings.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 08, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Leisure World -- An article in Sunday's California section on Leisure World in Seal Beach incorrectly described how representatives are chosen for the Golden Rain Foundation Board, which oversees 16 nonprofit "mutual corporations" that run the community. Any resident could run for election to the Golden Rain board, not just members of boards that govern each mutual corporation.

Recently, the rebels have turned to the courts for help. Furlong-Swenson sued Golden Rain last month, alleging fraud and seeking $200,000 in damages. "I'm tired of being treated this way," she said. "Everybody ignored me."

Other residents are following the same tack. Last month, seven took the Golden Rain Foundation to small-claims court for refusing to provide access to its financial records.

Armed with copies of the California Civil Code, the California Corporations Code and Leisure World's bylaws, the band of residents sought financial penalties from Golden Rain Foundation for each violation.

But even in court -- and after repeated inquiries from Judge Kirk H. Nakamura -- Golden Rain Board President Shirley Burns refused to explain why the board would not comply with legal requirements to provide the information. She first said an attorney did not believe the board was obliged to comply. Later, she suggested that revealing salary information would violate employee privacy.

Speaking from the bench, Nakamura sided with the plaintiffs and described Leisure World's response as a "kiss-off letter."

He said Golden Rain was stonewalling, called it an "unreasonable position" and fined the board $1,400 -- $200 for each plaintiff. Then he told residents: Keep requesting the information. If they don't get it, he'd see them back in court.

"I don't think a month is going to go by when we don't sue them," said Loritz, a critic and one of the plaintiffs.

"We are going to hold the board accountable to the law. That's all we're asking. If they do [follow the law], there will be peace and harmony in this community."

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