In a statement to MHProNews, a representative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave their reactions to allegations flowing from a discussion among industry members in Tennessee, discussing the recent Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) winter meeting.
Part of those allegations are that a ‘representative of HUD’ spoke with one or more ‘representative(s) of MHI.’ In that discussion, an MHI source claimed that HUD told them that they would not be very cooperative with the industry, ‘until the industry spoke “with one voice.”’
Rephrasing, that claim by the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) to members at their recent winter meeting means that other voices, i.e. the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), et al, had to go.
If followed to its logical conclusion, it would de facto silence other voices. Per sources as reported, it is yet another example of an alleged bold, semi-public monopolistic maneuver. It arguably violates MHI’s own anti-trust guidelines.
Given the gravity of the claim and impact for thousands of MH industry independent companies – retailers, communities, producers, and others – MHProNews reached out first to the person who reportedly gave that briefing to members of the Tennessee Manufactured Housing Association (TMHA, TnMHA) board of directors, James McGee.
Shortly after MHProNews’ email outreach to McGee, the following message was circulated to the Tennessee association’s board members.
———- Forwarded message (note: brown text used for quote, added) ———-
From: Marla McAfee <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 11:25 AM
Subject: THA – Board Code of Conduct Reminder
THA Board of Directors:
This morning I received a call from one of our Board of Directors, who has been approached by a representative of the press. The press inquiry was relative to specific conversations/updates given during our February 8, 2019, Board of Director’s conference call.
As a professional reminder, discussions held and conversations or statements made by your fellow Board members, within the context of Board meetings or conference calls, are not to be shared outside of the Board, in general, but especially with members of the press.
Sharing of information or providing specific names and content of commentators, is prohibited under your Code of Conduct agreement, as a Board member, as well as some provisions within the Anti-Trust Guidelines.
Marla Y. McAfee
Tennessee Housing Association (THA)
Tennessee Manufactured Housing Foundation (TMHF)
Tennessee Manufactured Housing Political Action Committee (PAC)
1002 Meb Court, Suite B, Mt Juliet, TN 37122
615/256-4733, ofc; 615/255-8869, fax
— end of forwarded message —
The Daily Business News took the emailed statement above, which came in as news tips to MHProNews, and shared it with others for feedback, insights, and reaction. Among them, was McGee.
McGee’s employer DVLY – per sources – effectively barred McGee from speaking to MHProNews. In fairness, given that DVLY reportedly sells millions of dollars of product to various Clayton Homes retail locations, perhaps DVLY wanted arm’s length, in part out of fear that they might lose those millions in sales?
Another source, a member of the TnMHA association that wasn’t the first to send the tip to MHProNews, made the following, very succinct statement.
“They think they own us.”
The Tennessee Housing Association then sent out yet another, more strongly worded statement, that specifically named L. A. “Tony” Kovach – referencing this pro-MH Industry trade media.
That second TnMHA message, which sources say was designed to intimidate members, was then reported to MHProNews by only one TnMHA member-source as a news tip. As noted, it contained what some believe is yet another veiled threat to their own association’s members. Thus, the comment from another member, noted above, “They think they own us.”
Federal officials, legal minds, and some among the manufactured home (MH) industry’s independent (non-major corporation) members may or may not grasp just how chilling these kinds of intimidation tactics could be.
Another MHI ‘affiliated’ state association executive was asked about the above message. Part of a longer reply said in part as follows:
“I’ve always believed MHI does the bidding of the big manufacturers and now REIT communities.
The answer is for the states to rebel. But they won’t for reasons I’ve only lately understood.”
Asking Marla McAfee, TnMHA Executive Director
Following the second email to TnMHA board members, MHProNews promptly contacted Marla Y. McAfee, who sent out both messages. The MHProNews message read as follows:
——- emailed message to Marla McAfee, TMHA ——-
I’m told that you’ve sent out yet another email, and this one specifically names me and our organization.
I’m hereby requesting that you send that to me, asap. Also, that you retain all of your records on this subject.
Please forward asap any and all emails or other documents regarding communications with media, MHProNews or that names myself or anything associated with our enterprises.
——- end of emailed message ——-
With no response from McAfee after 3 hours and 20 minutes, a message like the following was sent to her and to Matt Kerlln, with 21st Mortgage Corp, a Berkshire Hathaway owned company, based in TN, with Kerlin as an association board member.
——- emailed message to Marla McAfee, TMHA & Matt Kerlin, 21st Mortgage (brown color added) ——-
date: Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 2:49 PM
Marla and Matt,
I’ve not yet heard from Marla, so I’m going to address you both in this message. I’m also bcc’ing several people, to document the ask.
While I’m not an attorney, it is my understanding of the law that when a public official speaks or meets in an official capacity with someone or the representative of some group, that’s not privileged or confidential information.
Thus, that communication is a matter of public interest, as it is reflective of public policy. It can’t be confidential.
Frankly, I was skeptical about the claim being made, which is why I reached out to James McGee in the first place, to determine its accuracy, and to understand the purported source of said briefing statement between HUD, MHI that was conveyed to your board members.
McGee in turn reached out to you, and you sent 2 different messages I’m aware of to date on this topic. Matt is in that cc loop, we know each other, and he clearly carries weight with 21st.
The logic of the law is that your members can’t be barred from speaking about an item of this nature, as it reflects an alleged public policy position.
As a heads up, we intend to dig into this with appropriate federal authorities.
Before we publish a report on this topic, I’m giving you an opportunity to:
1) Encourage James [McGee] to tell me what he told the members of your board,
2) Encourage your other board members to do the same, as a matter of transparency,
3) Provide me with any and all emails or other materials that mentions communications with the media, myself, or with industry trade media, etc.
4) That as a matter of law – again, as I understand it – you can’t bar a member from speaking about this, given that it is a claimed public policy position that ought to be – public!
Let me state the obvious. The fact that TN MHA is trying to squelch this discussion is disturbing.
As a pro-industry trade media, it seems obvious and logical that you’d encourage the sharing of information, if in fact it is relevant and important to the industry.
To say that TN MHA are discouraging communications, with what might be construed as a veiled threat to your members, ought to be a wake-up call to all, if in fact you fail to do the four steps noted above.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC
Parent company to MHProNews.com, MHLivingNews.com, et al.
——- end of emailed message ——-
“Cover Up” Plus “Command and Control”
“Tony, this smacks of yet another cover up by MHI and their puppet masters,” said a source asked by the Daily Business News to comment about the TnMHA issue.
Another legal source told the Daily Business News, “The fact that they are using fear and intimidation tactics could suggest that one or more of these associations are behaving more like a protection racket, than a traditional association,” which according to what legal sources have told MHProNews, could make MHI and all who behave in such a fashion, subject to a claim under federal and/or state RICO laws.
Readers are reminded of the “Command and Control” comment from an attorney studying the manufactured housing industry controversies, notably over anti-trust concerns, as has been reported.
MHProNews Asks HUD for Reaction to MHI’s Claim
MHProNews reached out to several sources at HUD. HUD was provided with the emailed message shown above, from TnMHA to their board, along with some background information. They were then asked the following emailed questions for HUD’s comments, clarification on the claims by MHI, and their reactions.
——- except from longer emailed message to HUD (brown color added for quote) ——-
…That said, my questions to you.
1) What do you know about any such meeting between HUD and MHI where such a statement may have been conveyed by a HUD rep to MHI?
2) As a matter of policy, is HUD in fact seeking only one association to deal with?
TNMHA is trying to stifle this discussion, as the below and another like message reflects. For some inside MH baseball, the TN association is the home state of Clayton Homes and 21st Mortgage. To say that they influence that board would be accurate.
Your reply can be on or off the record, but it would help us to sort this out if we could get to the bottom of:
- IF such a statement was made,
- who at HUD might have made it,
- and if dealing with a single MH association is a HUD goal?
Thank you so much,
——- end of emailed message ——-
A call from HUD to MHProNews rapidly followed the email, shown above.
The MHI Claim Would “Not Comport With HUD Policy”
During that call from Washington, D.C., a HUD representative told MHProNews that the alleged claim of a HUD staffer ‘expecting the industry to speak with one voice’ would ‘not comport with HUD policy.’
Further, the HUD source said that the reason they have asked for public comments about the manufactured housing program is precisely to hear from ‘the widest possibly array of voices’ – mentioning manufactured home owners, industry members, and others interested in manufactured housing and affordable housing. Both MHI and MHARR were named by HUD official as among those they want to hear from.
When the Daily Business News asked during that call if Pam Danner may have made such a statement, MHProNews was reminded of the obvious by that federal official; that Danner was no longer in the role of HUD Code manufactured housing program administrator.
A HUD official acknowledged that ‘at some time in the past,’ such a statement ‘might have been made in a very unique circumstance.’ However, as a matter of policy, HUD ‘does not believe it is even possible‘ for the manufactured home (MH) ‘industry to all be on the same page,’ must less, ‘to speak via any one industry association with a single voice.’
That was part of a longer discussion with that HUD source.
Within an hour of the discussion with said HUD official, the call was followed up by the following emailed formal statement, which was requested by MHProNews.
——- emailed from HUD to MHProNews (brown text color added) ——-
HUD is keeping an open mind as we seek the public’s comments about our manufactured housing rules. Right now, our only interest is to hear from anyone and everyone who has an opinion to share.
HUD’s Office of Public Affairs
——- some information following the title has been edited out, end of emailed message ——-
MH Industry Monopoly Concerns, Impact
Such dominance – and how political, non-profit, and other forces are aligned by monopolistic powers – are seen as stifling in their effects by economists and others as harmful to the economy, jobs and society. Those points and others are made by the experts in the video feature posted on the market recap report, linked above.
That’s precisely why anti-trust laws exist.
What That State Exec Believes
The solution, said that MHI connected state association executive cited above and linked below, is for the states to rebel. See the report that was originally cited in, below, which explains that exec’s point on why quitting MHI is so difficult for most state associations.
There may be one or more states that eventually quit supporting MHI – as the ones linked below did. But arguably, most states are no in a position to quit MHI, given the domination by Berkshire Hathaway, as the association executive in the story linked above detailed.
What Options Remain for MH Industry Independents?
Every state, every company, and any professional – including those currently or previously working for Berkshire Hathaway firms, and/or their competitors – have the ability to supply information to MHProNews with news tips, which is how so many of these news stories originate.
What has already been noted in other reports is that MHI – after sufficient and ongoing public pressure – tends to pivot.
As a reminder, MHProNews assures anonymity to sources, unless the source wants to be acknowledged.
If a source wants to be particularly careful in how the deliver a news tip, they could create or use a private email account using gmail, yahoo, etc.
There are other options, of course, such as the one noted above.
For example, it is always possible that anti-trust, RICO or other legal actions may be initiated by federal and/or state(s) officials, which are among the reasons MHProNews reports such incidents. That’s another reason why tips, emails, and documents provided by industry sources is necessary for such news and analysis posts.
But failure to act by independents is arguably the riskiest course of action of all. MHI’s own data, or comments such as those by former Clayton manager Ken Corbin linked above, prove it. ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
The Manufactured Housing Institute has finally provided a series of written responses to concerns raised by a number of industry members. MHI did so to via an email to their members, as they ask them to renew their annual membership dues. Let’s make this hyper-simple.
Thousands “Get It.” Sign Up Today! Click here to sign up in 5 seconds for the manufactured home industry’s leading – and still growing – emailed headline news updates. You’ll see in the first issue or two why big, medium and ‘mom-and-pop’ professionals are reading them by the thousands. These are typically delivered twice weekly to your in box.
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.com.
Soheyla is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.