SLW Staff Resign Amid Contract Dispute


Insider Staff Writer

Four of the five staff contracted to manage operations within Seven Lakes West resigned in June amid contract questions between their company and the association’s Board of Directors.

The dispute centers on the board’s management contract with CAS Inc., which provides community management operations to a wide number of homeowners associations across the state.

Seven Lakes West has a multi-year contract with CAS, headquartered in Pinehurst, to manage day-to-day operations. That contract is up for renewal in September, and the board in May asked to seek bids from other vendors. CAS and two other vendors have submitted bids the board of directors is considering.

But CAS officials protested the process recently, saying the board had been negotiating with them over the last few months for renewal and had come to an agreement when the board decided then to seek competing bids.

The conflict spilled out into open view during the Seven Lakes West Board of Directors meeting on May 30 when community manager Sharon Hodges, during what was to be her usual monthly report, instead stood with three of her staff to say they were resigning due to conflicts with the board.

Two of the staff, front-desk associate Sarah Nichols and Architectural Review Committee administrator Andrea Hostetler, resigned June 2. Hodges said she and assistant manager Kim Lewis, were scheduled to step down June 16.

In a statement to members after the resignations, the board of directors said that it “had not received any prior notification that they would be doing so.

“We would like to assure the community that the Board is working with CAS to replace these individuals per their contractual obligations, as their current contract does not expire until September 13, 2023. We will continue to keep you apprised as we move forward. We appreciate the community’s patience and support as we work through this process.”

CAS CEO John Stone said replacements have been found for all staffers and either were already on the job or being trained on site.

“It’s business as usual,” he said.

Stone said the mass resignations were a surprise to him — “a bit of a fire drill,” he called the situation — but said the staff were talented and he understood their concerns. Given that CAS manages several other local homeowner associations, including Forest Creek and MidSouth, the departing employees would likely find jobs elsewhere within the company, he said.

In her resignation statement May 30, Hodges had said her departure put in jeopardy keeping the Seven Lakes West community pool open, since she was the county’s certified coordinator for the pool. But board officials said the certification to operate the pool had been successfully transferred and its operation would go uninterrupted.

While new CAS employees settle into their Seven Lakes West assignments, the board is moving ahead with determining whether it will retain the company as the property management firm or turn the task over to another vendor.

The board heard presentations on June 12, 15 and 16 from CAS, Grand Manors and HRW, respectively. Seven Lakes West switched from CAS to Grand Manors in 2020 but switched abruptly back to CAS after homeowners complained of numerous management issues.

But the relationship between the current SLW board and CAS has grown tense in recent weeks. Property owners within Seven Lakes West have received back-and-forth emails from the board and CAS regarding the staff resignations and contract status.

Stone sent an email on June 2 to residents saying the staff offered their resignations because they were concerned about their futures, given the uncertainty of the contract.

After Stone’s June 2 email, the board responded on June 3 with a response that said, in part:

“Ms. Hodges substituted her unprofessional commentary and notice of the resignations in lieu of the scheduled Community Manager Report.

“Coincidentally, Mr. Stone received a letter from the Board dated May 30 2023, via the SLWLA Attorney, with an offer of retention bonuses for CAS staff members.

“Finally, for CAS Inc. to attack the Board by overtly misinforming the membership is disgraceful. The sender is clearly frustrated that the contract, worth over half a million dollars, was sent out seeking competitive bids in accordance with our SLWLA finance policy.”

The email then said Stone had acted in “bad faith.”

That then was followed up with a June 9 email from Stone to residents.

“I never said it was ‘bad faith’ to competitively bid the management contract,” Stone wrote. “What I said to (board president) Jack Roberts and the board was; ‘if you decide to bid the management contract after months of contract negotiations, I will consider this bad faith on your part and you can consider this my termination notice.’”

Stone wrote that the decision to seek other bids “only came after I agreed to all of the board’s contractual terms.

“I spent thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and SLW spent thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, paid for with your HOA dues, going back and forth with changes to the contract. So yes, I do consider this bad faith.”

The board has not said when it expects to choose a vendor.

Contact John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or