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Baitball Blogger

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Gender: Do not display
Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 39,544

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Oh, I'm taking baby steps.

It would help to find a lawyer to confirm my conclusions. Meanwhile, I continue to gather documents and that requires filing public record requests. I'm at the stage of needing a lawyer to take it to the next level.

A major step for me is to build a platform. This matter will need to go public before I have any chance in court. This case has several layers and involves a municipality which had a total government breakdown.

It cannot be summarized easily, but I will try, once again. Since the seventies, our local government violated many laws they felt were too intrusive, which is what you would expect from an area that was Republican and leans to the small government format. For example, they ignored state zoning laws and failed to file important documents with the state. One of those documents was an important blueprint for their city, called a Comprehensive Plan. Without this plan it gave the city way too much latitude to resolve conflicts through court settlement agreements, which was a process that usually excluded the public. It was re-zoning by court order. There was one settlement agreement in particular signed in 1991 or 1992, which would become the city attorney's downfall.

In the nineties the residential leaders of a 3500 acre P.U.D. began to organize in order to influence the city's arbitrary process. For example, in the early nineties they organized a massive protest and managed to stop the plans to a grocery store that was zoned by their own P.U.D. In the mid nineties they used the court systems to stop an exit to an overpass that would have connected an expressway with one of their main roads. They did this by hiring an attorney that also represented a private client who was in opposition with the city's agenda. And by 1996, the leaders of this residential area began to win elections. Once elected, they began to use what they learned about the city's corrupt process and would take it further. With the help of their private cronies, lies and/or misinformation were spread in the community to expedite projects that came before their commission. It was a legal mess that involved fraud and conspiracy.

The city attorney was no help because his failings were exposed in the spring of 1997. Once exposed, there was no moral high ground for him to work from. In fact, the mayor would essentially fire him at the end of that year.

Frankly, the city attorney should have faced disciplinary action for the way the city was run under his watch. As a city attorney, he should have counseled the city about the legal jeopardy they were in because they had no Comprehensive Plan to back up their zoning decisions. He was also in trouble because there were at least two major conflicts of interest that involved private clients. This is where he would look the worst (in my opinion), but the elected officials would be given enough rope to hang themselves and it would end up with a Mexican stand-off between him and the corrupt elected officials of that time.

Those elected officials and the community leaders were on shaky ground from the beginning, which makes it curious because they had attorneys they relied on for counsel. Let's just say it leaves room for a lot of speculation when you note that their counselors came from the same law firm as the attorney that the city would bring in as a special counselor. What seems to be obvious in retrospect is that their objective had no chance of prevailing in a federal court, but no one seemed to anticipate that the developer they were fighting against would opt for a federal judge and avoid the local process.

What the community leaders and elected officials were trying to do was exert their rights through the 1991 Settlement Agreement which gave the developer the right to build residential property along designated areas around his private golf course. In that agreement there were conditions that were established. One of them involved the tennis courts on the private Country Club. (And since it was a private Country Club, you can guess who was behind the opposition.) What seemed to be the disquieting factor for this group was the discovery that the settlement agreement was written in a way that gave the developer the right to remove the private tennis courts to build his new properties, but ALSO GAVE HIM THE RIGHT NOT to reconstruct them. And this is where the whole thing began to get nasty. For reasons that I can't explain, no one had picked up on this wording even though the 1991 Initial Settlement Agreement had an amendment change in 1994.

It is important to understand that this was not a David vs. Goliath story. What makes the opposition group less sympathetic, was a devious plan hatched in inside circles that intended to benefit from the developer's misfortune. So, at the same time that the elected officials were exerting their influence to delay the developer's projects, their cronies were taking the initial steps to look for local investors/partners to purchase the bankrupted property. The perception does not look good.

The course of events began in a Planning and Zoning board meeting held in November 1996. With the city attorney's knowledge, the board stalled the project with the excuse that they needed a legal opinion regarding various legal matters before proceeding. As the local leaders were waiting for that opinion, they were also organizing within the community. Most notably, a political HOA group was bringing in ALL the presidents from ALL the HOAs inside of their P.U.D. I couldn't tell you what they discussed in those meetings because my HOA president never called us in for a meeting that year. In fact, in 1997 we didn't even come together to vote in new officers.

From those meetings that were sponsored by the political HOA group only sign-in sheets remain. So I can tell you that our HOA president attended at least two of those President meetings, and another member of my community, ( a friend of the Mayor's), attended the meeting, identifying himself as a realtor.

The legal opinion that the city was awaiting would finally arrive in the spring of 1997 and it was obvious (to me) that it was a delay tactic. The opinion stated that the developer had to file state zoning amendments before they would even consider his plans. I mean, how could the city require these time-consuming filings, when it did not have a solid foundation of filing the proper paperwork with the state? The city had a small government mentality and had a track record of doing things their own way. It would have been easy to expose their arbitrary nature in court.

Everything began to fall apart for the city when the plaintiff's lawyer turned up in a city commission meeting that took place in April of 1997. He pointed out that the 1991 Settlement Agreement was a contract that essentially made the city and the developer partners because it was the city's responsibility to file any necessary filings. That was clearly stated. If there was any paperwork required, the city had the obligation to file it. This is something the city attorney should have known since he represented the city when the 1991 Settlement Agreement was put together. But all this time he had stayed mum about that fact, and in the meantime he had brought in law firm in after law firm as special counselors, and they would eventually become co-defendants with the city. With all these legal minds brought in to represent the city's side, this would later make it near impossible for any ordinary person to locate a lawyer in the area, who wasn't touched by this conflict. (A further complication was finding lawyers who would not volunteer the fact that they had a conflict of interest.)

In the case filed by the developer, a federal judge would render a ruling in the summer of 1998 which would be interpreted by the city's litigators that the plaintiff prevailed in making a case for estoppel. In other words, by signing that 1991 Initial Agreement the city had made promises to the developer, so now the city must be stopped from adding additional requirements and the commission should approve his projects.

All this would reflect badly on the city attorney, but he would not go down alone. He ratted out the elected officials, giving the litigators enough information to confirm there was a conspiracy perpetuated by the elected officials which had undermined the developer's rights. Before this information became public, the litigators quickly closed the case with a two million dollar settlement which also contained a confidentiality clause.

That confidentiality clause allowed the elected officials to complete out their terms and win their next elections. It also allowed their cronies to get away with "a story" that included fraud. That fraud involved one of the developments that the developer had tried to develop. It was the final phase of the development that I lived in. The Mayor's buddy, who lived in my development, had lied to us from the beginning and deprived us of our legal standing when the final phase of our development went up for city review in 1998--about the same time that the federal judge was making her initial judgment. Ten years earlier the Mayor's buddy had signed the papers that turned our Association over to us and gave us control of our own Association. But he kept this information to himself. Instead, he convinced us that we had no legal standing and that our best chance of winning concessions from the new developer was to forgo a replat of the property. He claimed that our leverage would come from saving the developer time and money. As it would turn out, the replat would have also exposed his fraud.

I am not naive. I know there were older residents in the community who must have known he was lying, but they kept this to themselves.

In other words, many of us were as much victimized as the developer who won a two million dollar settlement agreement from the city and its co-defendants.

Since then, the bonds between the co-conspirators have strengthened over the years, creating a dual society. One is bound to keep the secret, and is rewarded for that effort; and the rest of us are left to play the "I got mine, you get yours" game, or we live our lives short of the promises of the American dream.

Through every step of the methods they use in this city, you will find several examples that would support a case for RICO.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Sat Oct 19, 2013, 01:19 PM (1 replies)
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