In a groundbreaking ruling by the Jalisco Institute of Transparency, Public Information and Protection of Personal Data (ITEI), the president of Fraccionamiento San Juan Cosala Raquet Club A.C. (FSJRC) is under the gun for failing to comply with the requests of one of the subdivision’s property owners.
While the details of the case may appear irrelevant to many lakeside residents, the issues constitute a cautionary tale for other local homeowner associations, and indeed for any organization registered under Mexican law as a non-profit asociación civil.
Announcing the formal admonition against acting FSJRC Board President Rodrigo Armando Estrada Nuñez on June 7, ITEI President Cynthia Cantero stressed that it was the only decision of this type taken since transparency laws were enacted in 2015.
“This is the first time that the president of a civil association has been sanctioned,” she stated, noting that private parties who exercise authority are subject to penalties for denying obligatory information. Estrada could be subject to fines and even arrest for violation of the law in failing to comply with the ITEI ruling.
The case stems from a petition for a long list of information filed with the FSJRC board on February 24 by a lawyer representing homeowner Brian Keck. He asked for the full names and positions of all members of the board, the registry of property owners who are legal associates, minutes of prior board meetings, the registered act of the 2017 Annual General Assembly (AGM), and a copy of the contract with the Jocotepec municipal government regarding the concession of public services for the subdivision.
Keck has been a thorn in the side of the board since he was suspended as an elected director earlier this year. He told the Guadalajara Reporter he wanted the information to prepare for the AGM, eventually held in late April.
The statutes of the FSJRC specify that books and documents related to matters to be addressed in the annual assembly are kept at the office at the disposition of associates who are entitled to see copies and other data of interest.
When Keck’s petition was ignored, his attorney contacted ITEI. So far, the board has defied ITEI’s notifications to comply.
In an email sent to residents on July 19, the board acknowledged that it originally ignored the ITEI requirements. The English version of the missive states, “No attention was paid at the beginning because we were asked for the names of all the associates. We found this request of Mr. Keck too absurd because what is requested is strictly confidential and, as a board of directors, we are obliged to respect and take care of the privacy of our associates, and in no way will we give the information.” Estrada reiterated this viewpoint during an interview with this newspaper Wednesday, August 1.
A long-time Raquet Club resident, Estrada is no newcomer to the operations of the homeowners’ association. He has previously served as a board director and president, and stepped into the top post again in March after his predecessor, Pedro Arrellano, resigned due to ill health.
Yet his response to questions regarding Keck’s petition and the FSJRC’s obligations to adhere to transparency law were vague and evasive. He was unable to provide dates in the chain of events and refused to show any of the pertinent documents. He stated that the association’s books and records are open for associates to review on site, but they are not permitted to take away copies, suggesting it would be imprudent to do so without assurance the information would be put to proper use.
It remains to be seen how the Raquet Club saga will end, but it should provide some enlightenment to leaders of similar organizations who may not be fully aware of the intricacies of state transparency rules that will inevitably applied with increasing stringency.