Coup de Condo

Looking back, Sharon Kratze says, she should have asked more questions. When she decided to run for the board of the Cedar Pointe Condominium Association, she thought she was simply campaigning for "constructive change" in the way her community was managed and maintained.

Nobody told her that she was also courting the wrath of the powers-that-be in Glendale, the Naked City.

Kratze is a fairly recent arrival at Cedar Pointe, a 269-unit complex of modest condos off East Kentucky Avenue. Built in the early 1980s, the place offers one of the few opportunities for home ownership in Glendale, an enclave best known for its heavy concentration of apartments, strip clubs and low-blow political brawls. A real estate broker, Kratze moved to the complex in 1999 and soon began attending homeowners' association meetings and volunteering on committees.

Like a lot of Cedar Pointe residents, Kratze had questions about the ever-increasing dues paid to the association for water and sewer service, trash collection and other expenses. The complex has no pool, clubhouse or other pricey amenities, yet the homeowner dues have been hiked three times since Kratze moved in; for her 1,100-square-foot unit, they're now more than $170 a month.

She had concerns about where the money was going, particularly the fees for Tyler Management, the company that administers the complex, and a whopping $72,800 paid annually to a maintenance company to look after the grounds and perform repairs. So last spring, backed by a group of like-minded residents called Homeowners Actively Leading Together, Kratze and two other women decided to run for three seats on the association's board of directors.

The HALT candidates -- Kratze, Christine Weatherly and Heidi Verhey -- worked closely with the group's volunteers to gather proxy votes. Their effort was successful, giving them a majority on the five-member board. Just what the trio promised to do for homeowners has since become a matter of bitter dispute; but at the time, Kratze, who soon became president of the board, had every reason to believe she had the will of Cedar Pointe behind her.

Yet something happened during the campaign that did give her pause. One day Kratze came across an anonymous flier posted in the complex's mail kiosk, urging homeowners not to vote for the HALT group. To do so, the flier warned, would be to place Cedar Pointe in the hands of the Tea Party -- the contentious political faction formed in 1998 by strip-club backers that went on to wrest control of Glendale's city council and several other official positions in the town ("The Glendale T&A Party" January 20, 2000).

Kratze was baffled by the charge. True, some of the HALT people who'd campaigned for her were also members of the Tea Party, but what did Cedar Pointe have to do with city politics?

"I was offended, frankly," Kratze says. "After our first meeting, I pulled Heidi and Christine aside and said, 'Look, I'm not going to be anybody's puppet. We were elected to do this job, and I'm going to make my own decisions.' And everybody agreed that we were all on the same page."

Nearly a year later -- after the shouting matches, the accusations of betrayal, the failed attempt to install a Tea Party associate as the board's attorney, the claims and counterclaims concerning misinformation campaigns, post-dated proxies and a canceled board election -- not many people at Cedar Pointe are on the same page anymore. Now it's Kratze who's lamenting the influence that the Tea Party seems to be exerting in her community, while several of her former supporters charge that she's become a puppet of the management company.

The situation came to a boil two months ago, when two homeowners -- both city officials with close ties to the Tea Party's inner circle -- announced their intention to run for the board. City councilman Larry Harte and community development director Chuck Line say the current board has failed to deliver on promised reforms, and the two have pledged to oust Tyler Management if elected. Their campaign tactics alarmed Kratze and her supporters, who accuse the two of misleading homeowners about the board's actions and plans in order to obtain proxy votes. Citing "certain irregularities in the solicitation of proxies," the board decided to postpone its scheduled election at the end of February -- and that, in turn, outraged Line, Harte and their supporters, who say they've been denied their rightful seats on the board.

"I don't think they had the power to cancel the election," says Line. "I'd love to debate these people in front of the homeowners. We just want the best decisions made."

"This is not a political thing," Harte insists. "The Tea Party has nothing to do with it. This is a group of homeowners who are fed up with the lack of results. It's pretty obvious that we have a tremendous amount of support. People just want a change. If the current board's not willing to do it, we'll go in and make the appropriate changes."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast