San Mateo County Times

SAN MATEO — Tuesday, May 7, 1996 — Charges of fraud and rigged elections have wracked one of San Mateo's normally quiet condominium communities.

Residents of Edgewater Isle have been bitterly divided since an April homeowners association election, which critics say was rigged.

At issue is why Kerrilyn Cane, one of five candidates for three seats, was not proclaimed a winner election night, even though tally sheets showed she earned a position on the board.

Cane said she believes board members, who represent 224 homeowners, wrongly gave her seat to incumbent Matt Loar because the liked his credentials.

"Believe me, if I lost fair and square, I'd eat humble pie and the whole issue would be over," Cane said. "But it's pure election fraud."

Edgewater Isle North Homeowners Association leaders, however, say they acted in good faith. And if there are questions about election night results, a subsequent recount should have put the issue to rest, they said.

"I have tried to resolve this," said association President Janet Migliore. "I feel really bad that this has gone this far."

While homeowners association elections usually go unnoticed, Edgewater Isle North's has sparked controversy for several reasons, homeowners said.

Cane's contention is that association leaders purposely didn't include her in the winner's list election night, even though tally sheets show her ahead of other candidates.

Cane also charges association leaders with tinkering with ballots during a subsequent recount, which confirmed her loss.

Association leaders, however, say those tally sheets do not take into account the proxy votes cast, as well as other paperwork that was included in determining the election results.

Throw in the fact that Edgewater Isle is involved in a contentious lawsuit over construction problems and emotions already are running high in the development, and the dispute widens further, neighbors say.

The bottom line, some say, is that mistakes have been made by people on both sides of the the issue — and there is no clear case of right and wrong.

"This is no black and white issue," said attorney Tom Fier, who represents the homeowners association.

Part of the problem, Fier said, is that there were no strict rules governing the Edgewater Isle's homeowners association election, which is typical among such groups.

So when a question arises — such as whether votes were properly counted — there is no official recourse for examining and remedying such disputes, Fier said.

"Homeowners association elections are very informal, so when you do have a dispute or a conflict come up and you start looking back at what happened, you're bound to find mistakes," Fier said.

"The question is: Does it really matter in the end?" he said.

It does to Edgewater Isle residents who said the clash is simply another example of a homeowners association that doesn't listen to neighbors.

"This is not the first incident," said resident Martha Garza. "This is the straw that broke the camel's back."

Resident Charles Fisher said that dispute goes deep into the community.

"It concerns all of us," he said. What happened is not fair."

Migliore said she is trying to resolve the issue, and plans to hold a special board meeting to find an answer that both sides could agree to.

But Cane said she wants nothing short of her seat.

"The only acceptable solution is for me to take my seat on the board," Cane said. "It's my seat and I think I should take it."