The magic number was 2,256.
But in their effort to remove a board member for his homophobic comments, Lake Monticello residents came up 143 votes short.
Months after Don Polonis called homosexuals “demonic” and “satanic” in social media posts, he barely survived an attempt to oust him from the board of his Fluvanna County gated community’s homeowners association.
Over the summer, 400 people signed a petition demanding he step down from his role as director of the board, and his colleagues unanimously voted to censure him.
In addition to his disparaging online remarks against homosexuals, Polonis also took to the internet to share the names and addresses of people who condemned his rhetoric.
At an emotional meeting on Tuesday before the final vote tally was announced, members of the community spoke out against Polonis. Not one speaker defended him.
“Every speaker we had expressed their disapproval of Don Polonis,” Marieke Henry, a spokeswoman for the Lake Monticello Owners Association, told The Daily Progress. “Speakers all said that whether they won or not, they felt the community had pulled together; they knew neighbors better had better relationships with their neighbors now.
“They felt like whatever the outcome was, they won.”
According to state law, in order for a homeowners association to remove a board member, 50% of property owners have to vote in favor of the decision.
In this instance, Polonis’ critics came up 143 votes short.
Polonis did not attend the meeting. But in May he refused to apologize for his homophobic remarks.
“I am a Christian, and I hold traditional Christian views. As a Christian, I believe in God, I believe in Satan and I believe that homosexuality is immoral,” Polonis told a crowd of assembled residents at a May meeting. “People disagree with these views, and I disagree with them. I seek to do them no harm though my beliefs may offend others and I stand by my beliefs.”
He did, however, apologize for posting the home addresses of his critics.
Fifty people attended the Tuesday meeting, less than Henry was expecting. She said she suspects that some people chose not to attend because they worried the meeting might become rowdy.
But 200 people did watch on Youtube, and an unknown number watched through a Comcast broadcast.
The event was peaceful and civil, and although speakers felt the controversy had brought the community closer together, watching their vote fall just short was difficult for the crowd, Henry said.
“When they heard the results, they were very quiet,” she said. “You could tell from their faces they were pretty heartbroken.”
Polonis is still censured, which according to Henry effectively means the rest of board continues to disapprove of his behavior. He also is not allowed to serve on any neighborhood committees nor can he run for president, vice president or treasurer of the board.
But because members serve three-year terms, his critics will likely be stuck with him for two more years.
The other option would be for property owners to hold another election. But this time around, they would have to pay for it themselves. Putting together the election can cost between $6,000 and $7,000, according to Henry. The Tuesday election was funded by the dues paid by homeowners.
“If they wanted to do the whole process again, they can, but they would have to raise money outside of dues and pay for it out of pocket,” Henry said.
There is one final course of action — though it’s a lofty one. Residents could petition the General Assembly to change the state law. Board President Larry Henson reminded his community of that after the vote.
“While it may seem undemocratic that a vote of 85 to 15% in favor of removal failed to succeed, the board reminds the residents that this is due to the rules laid down by the Virginia Nonstock Corporation Act,” Henson said. “If you are feeling aggrieved, the board encourages you to petition your legislators to change this law and create a fairer system of board membership removal, not just at Lake Monticello, but across the commonwealth.”