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The Garage Waiting List

March 2006: The most recent incarnation of the GWL, dated November 2005, was just posted on SPHC.net. See the analysis of that list here.

My investigation into the Garage Waiting List (GWL) began on August 23, 2005. I have heard rumors and assurances of progress, but after more than six months, the errors that characterized the list continue to characterize it, and I have received no official word that improvements are actually being adopted.

My analysis of the changes between the May and August versions of the Garage Waiting List (GWL) yielded several people who were wrongly removed from the list and one who received a spot out of order. I am among the more than 300 on the list. I am prepared to wait the years it will take for my turn.... But I expect the list to be managed properly, fairly and accurately. For this reason I set out to investigate details of these irregularities. I sought documentation on what spots became available, who got those spots, when those spots were assigned, and any paper trail that exists with regard to the irregularities. I am sure the Garage Committee's patience with me is wearing thin. I'd like to point out that I am not pestering them for one detail after another. I simply haven't wavered in my determination to understand the irregularities on the GWL. Their frustration can only stem from their inability or unwillingness to address these regularities. My findings follow.

I received several requests to substantiate my conclusion that spots were assigned to people who were not on the waiting list. There were eleven shareholders whose names were removed between the publication of the May 2005 and August 2005 waiting list. These people occupied list positions 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 22. As of my meeting with the Garage Committee, only only three of the shareholders who had been removed (those occupying positions 8, 12 and 14) had received spots. CONSIDERING THAT 6 OR 7 SPOTS WERE ALLOCATED DURING THE PERIOD IN QUESTION, THIS MEANS THAT 3 OR 4 SPOTS WERE ALLOCATED TO PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT ON THE WAITING LIST.

I was very impressed by my meeting with the Garage Committee. Many Board Members were assembled, all concerned, all sincere, all intent on demonstrating their hard work and the sincerity of their efforts. Still, our very first exchange (paraphrased below) left me with a feeling of dismay:

These answers made it clear that the information I came in for — the facts and figures needed to document the irregularities I noted in the August list — would not be available. There would be no list of spots that were assigned, no list of shareholders who took those spots, no record of which Board Member contacted which Shareholder on which day to allocate which spot. Instead of a getting a quick printout from a disinterested clerk, I had six Board Members heartfully demonstrating their hard work and good intentions. I would have preferred the printout.

The management of the Garage and Garage Waiting List is based on the sincerity, dedication and honesty of members of our Garage Committee. During our meeting, Stanley Friedland accurately stated: "we're elected to the Board to do the jobs that we do." I understand this view more profoundly now than ever — but I am frankly dismayed that their self-created job descriptions don't recognize the lack of formal controls as a problem. I am not accusing any Board Member of wrongdoing, but the ambiguities and unaccountabilities that exist leave us wide open to all sorts of accidental and intentional errors.

I appreciate that many Board Members don't have backgrounds in technology, but the fact remains that basic systems that have been in use for decades would seamlessly automate the process of adding people to the waiting list, alerting people on the waiting lists when their numbers were up, billing shareholders who were allocated spots, and maintaining the list without errors, duplicates, or any of the sort of "human errror" that Committee Members acknowledged arise from the manual management of the list. Not only would a database have provided the information needed to investigate the irregularities, but it would have had the controls built in so that most irregularities would not have occured in the first place. Perhaps more importantly, automation of this sort would enable our Board Members to spend their many hours of dedicated service doing things more noble than trying to emulate a database! A lot of this was understood, and Board Member Eric Mandelbaum repeatedly referred to his database and asserted "we can already do that". This is at odds with Carlos Rosado's assertion [in a later email] that a database has yet to be delivered.

Database or not, our Board did commit to two things — providing receipts to shareholders that would serve as a "paper trail" for people to track their position on the waiting list and written notification to shareholders when their numbers are up (letters which can serve as an audit trail if people claim to have been wrongly removed from the list).

The meeting was wrapping up, and Stanley Freidland suggested that rather than publishing articles, I should have approached him directly. Full of good will, he exaggeratedly said he'd be glad to meet with all 1700 shareholders as he met with me to resolve any problems. I think this remark captures my concerns precisely — it would be untenable to meet with 1700 neighbors individually! Such neighborly, good will-based management is not appropriate for a corporation of this size. It is obvious to me that we need robust management processes — processes that include two way communications, receipts, automation, controls, audits and reports — and that we need to base the Job Descriptions of our Board Members on more than just their interpersonal character.

As a Shareholder I am very vocal in expressing my views on how my intersests should be represented here. But I want to make sure I am separating the issues from the personalities. I am personally grateful to all the Board Members who attended the meeting. I learned a lot from them and appreciate the abilities and the many hours they invest to maintain and improve our homes.

The Inquiry & Pertinent Correspondence


Meeting Attendees

  • Freda Fried (Member of Garage Committee)
  • Stanley Friedland (Board President, Chair of Garage Committee)
  • Eric Mandelbaum (Board Secretary, Member of Garage Committee)
  • Fran Marino (Board First Vice President)
  • Carlos Rosado (Board Second Vice President, Member of Garage Committee)
  • Karen Suss Wolfson (Member of Garage Committee)
  • Dan Strum (Shareholder)

Summary of Findings & Actions

  • New Spots allocated between May 2005 and August 2005 lists - 6 or 7
  • People removed from May 2005 list who were allocated spots before the publication of the August 2005 list: 3
  • The Garage Waiting list is not published on a regular basis.
  • Reasons for Removal from Waiting list:
    • People were removed because they could not be contacted by phone after numerous attempts. No log was been made of call dates.
    • People no longer needed spots.
    • People were not eligible, ie they are subletting their apartments.
    • People who were wrongly removed were reinstated on the list.
  • Duplicate entries on the list will be removed.
  • All records on the GWL include the date they were added to the list. There are a number of out of sequence entries are those for which the list order does not correspond to the date order. Out of sequence entries will be investigated & resolved.
  • Garage Committee Members agreed that people up for spots will receive written notification.
  • Garage Committee Members agreed that some sort of receipt would be given when Shareholders requested inclusion on the Garage list.