In an unprecedented move, the Boards of both Master Management and CenClub sent a joint, co-signed letter to COOCVE President Carol Freedman expressing serious concerns over her actions as the head of COOCVE.
The letter warned Freedman and COOCVE not to interfere with the operations of the Village’s CVE Reporter newspaper, and to “cease any further actions that involve the newspaper’s operations, finances, or leadership,” writing that the newspaper “must be allowed to continue its mission free from the influence or intrusion of any outside organization.”
“Any attempt to influence its coverage or gain access to its funding by COOCVE will not be tolerated,” wrote the two Boards of Directors.
The letter follows reported attempts by Freedman to replace the current newspaper Board of Directors with individuals hand-picked by Freedman and COOCVE. If successful, a new Board could not only undermine fair and objective reporting of COOCVE and important community issues affecting all residents, but a new Board could also vote to funnel the newspaper’s operating funds to COOCVE.
The CVE Reporter is an independent Florida corporation that does not rely on funding from any Village organization. It is entirely supported by its own sales of advertising. But like many corporations, when it was incorporated many years ago, it issued stock shares. COOCVE is the sole stockholder of the newspaper’s shares. That stock ownership, as well as various portions of COOCVE’s by-laws that mention the newspaper, are what some say Freedman has previously claimed gives COOCVE the right to become involved in the newspaper’s operations.
Despite repeated requests to Freedman via telephone, text message, and email, the COOCVE President refused to speak with the newspaper about the letter and refused to answer any questions.
According to individuals familiar with the situation, Freedman recently asked COOCVE’s attorney to clarify if her organization has the authority to involve itself with the newspaper’s operations. COOCVE’s attorney, after reviewing the case, determined COOCVE did not have the authority Freedman desired. That attorney was later fired by COOCVE.
Both CenClub and Master Management warned Freedman that any attempt to undermine the newspaper’s leadership, or any attempt to gain access to the newspaper’s funds would be considered “serious threats to our community.”
In the letter, both organizations expressed great concern over the possibility that COOCVE would attempt to “pack” the newspaper Board of Directors with individuals hand-picked by COOCVE to gain access to the newspaper’s operating funds.
“We are greatly concerned with recent moves by COOCVE to replace the current CVE Reporter Board of Directors with individuals hand-picked by you and/or COOCVE. While we will not weigh in on whether COOCVE has the legal authority to do so, we believe the CVE Reporter must be allowed to select its own Board of Directors, free from any outside influence. This will ensure its continued independent operation. Furthermore, as COOCVE is the sole shareholder of stock in the CVE Reporter corporation, COOCVE would certainly benefit if a Board of Directors hand-picked by COOCVE voted to distribute any of the paper's earnings to its stockholders (of which COOCVE is the only one) in the form of a dividend. This payoff (or any other attempt to access the newspaper's funds) would be a clear violation of the financial separation that must exist between the paper and the organizations it covers.”
Freedman has told members of the community she already has a list of people she plans to install on the newspaper Board of Directors at a meeting in April. No one at the newspaper, nor any of its current Board members were contacted or consulted about Freedman’s list. This apparent unilateral action, along with previous actions by Freedman over the past year, are part of a pattern that many consider an attempt to take over the newspaper’s operations and gain access to its money.
The letter ends by urging Freedman and COOCVE to “cease any involvement with the operations of the CVE Reporter. Despite any possible links between the two in their respective documents, the CVE Reporter must remain free of any attempts by COOCVE to influence its operations, sway its news coverage, or raid its funding. This is essential to the wellbeing of our community.”