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Baitball Blogger

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Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 39,538

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I don't know. I think the things I've seen here are strictly backwater Florida. Like the lawyers...

In my personal journal, I intend to dedicate a chapter on why I wouldn't hire a local lawyer, and it goes down to the fact that they're so interconnected that they will only stick around long enough to learn what you know. In other words, it's up to you to uncover their conflicts of interest because they won't tell you. So when they leave, they leave you weaker than you were before you contacted them.

I am going to tell you an anecdote, but keep in mind, that this is only one of the experiences I will write about, concerning the lawyers.

Here's the necessary background: On one HOA meeting in late 1998, we managed to clean the board of the two members who were putting their interests ahead of the interests of the Association. In a nutshell, their houses abutted against the Association's common grounds and it was their hope that the new developer for the sister community would just hand over the titles of those properties over to them, in return for their support for his plans. Let that sink in. It was a huge breach of fiduciary responsibility, but fiduciary responsibility is the first casualty in a good ole boy community.

In another part of town, about the same time that we were cleaning out our Association board, the City and its co-defendants were seeing the final stage in a lawsuit filed by the old developer, who tried to develop our sister community. Part of his lawsuit claimed that he had been denied the opportunity to develop the property because of business interference and/or conspiracy. One of the City's co-defendants was the Master HOA, A HOA that empowered itself to represent all the Associations within our PUD borders, including mine.

Keep that information on the back burner.

The old developer's lawsuit against the city and the Master HOA would end with a settlement agreement that included a confidentiality clause. Years back, with the help of a public records request, I was able to go into City Hall to examine boxes of documents that were pertinent to that lawsuit. I spent a pretty penny on copies, and it would take me years to sift through the information, and even more years to finally understand what had happened.

One of the documents that I read was particularly shocking. That one I understood, almost immediately. It was a letter from a local attorney who expressed his commitment to insure that the points that were agreed on in the settlement agreement, would be observed. Remember, that one of those points involved a confidentiality clause, which would have extended to the Master HOA.

In the document, the lawyer would identify himself as the "Insurer". In one line, like a subject line, it was stated that the topic involved "Auto Casualty". To this day, this statement is still jarring to me, because his involvement had nothing to do with auto insurance. And it's that attempted misdirection that stands tall, adding to my opinion of lawyers. But it doesn't stop there.

Remember, that at the same time that the City and the Master HOA was entering into this settlement agreement in late 1998, my Association was cleaning the board of two people who allowed our Association to walk into this debacle. There was a third board member that may have also been partially involved, or at least knew more than s/he led on. In sum, there was no one I could trust, 100%.

Skip to a few months later when our HOA now had a new president who was a homeowner who had never taken part in any of the early events. He seemed to be of the right mindset, imploring us to refer to our HOA documents for guidance. Keep in mind, that we were only beginning to suspect that we had more legal rights than we were led to believe. We needed the opinion of a lawyer to confirm it. And the new president suggested the personal lawyer he had just retained to represent him as a homeowner.

Oh, God. It would be months before I would connect that we were being led down a rabbit hole. The new president of our Association had been referred to the lawyer by someone in our community. And the lawyer was the same one who had insured that the confidentiality clause would be followed. This lawyer had a conflict of interest you could drive a train through and he wouldn't tell us. Months later I confronted him and he acted like he didn't know.

But we didn't know that in early 1999. Needless to say, we went to him for clarification and he read over our documents. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. He poured over those pages and didn't even appear to stop to breathe because he came up gasping for air, almost gleeful when he crossed over a statement that he claimed vindicated the HOA president who represented our HOA when the sister community was under city review in early 1998. In layman's terms, it was a line that claimed that the president had the power to sell property. i don't know how that stacks up against primary and secondary law, since there are plenty of cases and even state laws that supersede HOA documents, but I don't believe we were sitting before an attorney who was giving us the benefit of loyalty. He concluded that a lawsuit against the city would be a "horse race," which put doubt in our minds. In other words, he averted a lawsuit that would have protected his clients in the lawsuit against the old developer.

Months later, I came across that lawyer's name in that memo I described earlier and realized his incredible conflict of interest. I hate him for it. He pushed us off the path that would have revealed just how politically intertwined this community is and, thus, denied us self-determination and justice.

There's more I could write about the tumbling consequences that are directly tied to that lawyer. I'll just mention the following: The new president developed a close relationship with him, and over time, the new president would change. He grew in the belief that he didn't need the rest of the board to make decisions. He felt he had the power to represent our Association, like a CEO.

There is no question in my mind that the lawyer led him to believe that. And it would become the beginning of the end when the new president made a rule that we would hold the board meeting first, followed immediately by a HOA meeting. Do you see how that would work out? The lawyer would have an opportunity to influence the president's direction. We only would learn what he decided at the board meeting, and wouldn't have time to investigate and research the issue to question him. I saw the flaw immediately. The lawyer was turning us into a rubber stamp.

Needless to say, I ended my participation on the board when my term was up. I don't know how anyone can agree to be part of these boards because there is liability, even if you're just a rubber stamp. But I know that part of their boldness comes from lawyers whispering in their ear, "We've got your back."

Of course, over the years this community has been able to hone their strategies to accomplish the same objective -- tamp down on information that would eventually be turned around into a lawsuit against the city and the Master HOA. And the strategy that amazes me the most, is allowing one of their cronies to serve on BOTH boards: Our Association board, as well as the Master HOA Board, which is obligated to follow the confidentiality clause. And this person is Not just anyone, mind you. But someone with military service AND ties to Tallahassee.

Imagine what it has taken to change my perspective in order to find justice. It has not only involved breaking through American sacred cows, but also required dealing with the fear of retaliation from powerful people. Needless to say all the improper board procedures that I have observed and documented over the years, makes for one hell of a curiosity.

In sum, I really do believe I got a front row seat to see how the backwater powerbase of Central Florida operates. And to say that all these machinations have interfered with the enjoyment of my property is an understatement.

Posted by Baitball Blogger | Tue Jan 29, 2019, 12:00 PM (1 replies)

What is it about Florida that we can foster such nasty, crude people who have such influence over

our lives? I don't think it's an accident that such a rotten soul as Roger Stone has a home in this state. It seems that the more connections they have to powerful people, the more arrogant they get. So back to my question, "What is it about Florida that we can foster such nasty, crude people who have such influence over our lives?

It's a rhetorical question, because I know the answer.

In a nutshell, there is a bond that exists between our local government, the state and a combination of private cronies and the agencies that usually restore order and fairness. We're lucky on a national level to have the FBI and the media doing their jobs as the Constitution meant it to be, but it's not like that in Florida. Things wouldn't be this bad, otherwise.

I've already written how my city was compromised back in the nineties. You can find that rant in my Journal. Today it's impossible to break the path that began twenty years ago because people who make it into our community boards are either loyal to the cause, or do not seem to have the resolve or accurate information to break with the backwater methods that rule this community. It's my objective to bring that information to light, eventually. Even then, I think my success will be limited to exposing an entitled, privileged white-flight community in suburban Florida. I don't expect anything will change, because this is a way of life that works too well for them.

What I will share tonight, is how their need for secrecy creates strange behavior from those who are invested in protecting secrets which have long run their course. That's what happens when you have two societies running parallel to each other, and one is determined to retain power in order to keep information from the other.

For background, our community is being sued by our sister community over payments for infrastructure problems. The solution is very simple. The problems were a direct cause from the city's interference with our legal rights back when the sister community was going through the city review process. With the assistance of backwater cronies who lived in my community, the elected officials of that time co-opted the sister development. Their reason: they favored a new developer over the first one that tried to develop the property. Their subterfuge involved withholding critical information from the rest of us who lived here, which would have apprised us of our rights. But keeping us informed would have slowed the approval process. To this day, they go through great lengths to keep information away from us that pertains to our welfare. Except for their cabal.

You would think that good people would distance themselves from a cause that included fraud and conspiracy, but that's not what I have observed. This is more like a virus that spreads. There is never a shortage of people who are willing to join them, if the opportunity is offered. And when they do, it isn't too hard to spot the benefits they receive for their service. It's just the same as you see on a national level.

Meanwhile, I get to observe how they compound their problems by creating a hostile environment. People here are just downright dishonest and mean spirited, and the best advice I could give a newcomer who wants to hold on to their integrity, it is this: if they are eager to reach out to you, look for a disingenuous purpose. You probably won't be wrong.

There are other things that are unique to a compromised community. Like tonight, when I went out to walk the dogs, I could feel the difference. It wasn't an ordinary night. The old guy on a bicycle without lights that drove too close to us as we walked on the sidewalk wasn't the first thing that tipped me off. It was the houselights on the neighbor next door. That only happens on my street when someone is jumpy. So, looking at my security cameras, I could distinctly spot the lone dark shadow of a person walking on the golfpath behind the house. I kept my eye on that camera and the mystery was solved shortly afterward. The other neighbor is a HOA board member and the camera captured the moment he returned from the HOA president's house.

So, tonight it was another illegal HOA board meeting. That would make two in about ten days time. Something is moving quickly.

You know, it's times like this that I think about that lawsuit filed by the developer back in the nineties. I wonder if the federal district court for the middle district of Florida that ruled over that lawsuit and ultimately allowed this community to bury its secrets, did so knowing that it ultimately was allowing a community to function in a manner that was the opposite of what the Constitution had intended.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Tue Jan 29, 2019, 12:41 AM (24 replies)

I know about the fight you're talking about because a lot has been written

about cattle ranchers who have a manifest destiny idea about property. That is definitely a huge problem, and I think the laws should have already been on your side to make it easier to protect your property.

On a smaller scale, I experienced something similar that involved property rights. Something that should never have happened if the laws were meant to protect a homesteader. It was something that revealed the true nature of Central Florida. Except, no one wants to talk about it, so new people continue to walk in without understanding what they're being subjected to. I will make an effort to explain it, because it sounds like you have been through a harrowing experience and can understand it on a personal level.

The problem with my neighbors disrespecting property lines has a history that goes back to the nineties. At least, that's my opinion. It's not just the activity of one bad neighbor. It's a collective mindset of a group that has or had back channel access to the political powers during that decade. It was a crazy time and everything came off the rails, which is what you would expect in a Republican leaning community that had very little respect for government regulation. In their favor, it didn't seem like local government had much respect for government regulation either. By the time they found a purpose for it, it was too late. This story is about what happens when the private sector takes the reigns of our local government. Spoiler: the rest of us end up with the worst of both.

We purchased our home in 1994. The neighbor next door, who was the president of our Association during this footloose era, had already put up a rail fence twenty feet into the golfcourse property. "To keep the golfers off his property," he claimed. They were nice neighbors for the first two years, and then an insanity set into this community that began in 1996.

During that time, one of our neighbors was part of a resistance group that was playing an active role in the fight against the then owner of the golfcourse and Country Club. This resistance group was opposed to the owner's plans to build two properties on the golfcourse. The plans were for single family, upscale homes, which was a huge improvement over the high density vested rights that he had when he first purchased the property. The Country Club owner received approval to build single family homes based on compromises he obtained through prior lawsuits. In other words, Zoning by Litigation.

He also wanted to finish the last phase of the community I live in. This would have been a third property that he wanted to work on at the same time, though he didn't own the property.

You have to pay attention to all the moving parts, and back in the 1996-1998 time frame, there were two major moving pieces to pay attention to. The first: the development of the two properties near the country club had heavy opposition, mostly by its members. It became a hostile situation and strategies ranged from efforts to buy his property, to taking over City Hall through the election process. That's my interpretation of what I witnessed or read from researching public records of that time.

And, we will start by saying that it appears that they intended to use the power of the city to stall or interfere with the developer's right to develop his property. This is what I concluded based on my reading of ample briefs that were part of the developers' latest lawsuit against the City. The evidence of foulplay would have been confirmed if the developer exercised his right to modify the lawsuit and proceed with a jury trial. If he had followed that process, he would have deposed the City Attorney, and it would have been all she wrote.

We need to see the chronology of the lawsuits to see how that would have transpired: I think it was July 1998 when the Federal Court ruled on the developer's lawsuit against the City. The decision would weaken the city's hand because the judge ruled that the city had provided assurances to the developer, therefore it ruled in favor of the developer based on estoppel. Therefore, the developer had his vested right to develop the two properties along the golfcourse in what they called, developable property.

If the developer had followed the next legal option to him, and modified his lawsuit and obtain his jury trial, he would have had the opportunity to also prove another claim he made in his lawsuit. Business Interference. Maybe even conspiracy, but I haven't read the lawsuit in several years, so I am not sure about that last part. But Business Interference I do remember because I can see how that would have related to the development of the final phase of our development.

To prove business interference, and possibly conspiracy, all the developer would have to do was depose the City Attorney, because in October 1998, four months after the judge had made the estoppel ruling, the City Attorney had a strategic talk with the City's trial attorneys. This they did to determine the monetary offer they were going to make to the developer. And in that talk the City Attorney provided details that would have confirmed what we may know today, loosely, as conspiracy.

But, the developer never took that option, because, in December 1998, he settled out of court with the City for two million dollars.

The second moving piece in 1997, (at exactly the same time that the backwater boys and gals were launching their tactical assault to stop those two developments), involved the final phase of our development. The country club developer could prove he had a business relationship with the representative of the private owner of final phase of our development because both the developer and representative showed up in 1995 when the conceptual plans were approved by the Planning and Zoning board. But that property became in jeopardy when the resistance group managed to stall the development of the other two properties. The stall occurred when questions were raised in November 1997 that required a legal opinion. This requirement created a lull, a stall. And it was in this time period that a new, competing developer showed up to develop the final phase of our property.

I went to every "public" City meeting that involved our community and the way things were handled will point to a rush job. I could write chapters on what I saw that smelled, but in short, the development for the new developer was rushed through city hall. Probably the biggest smoking gun of malfeasance was a ground breaking photo taken with two high level City elected officials that took place two and a half months before the first public meeting was held in City Hall.

In addition, we were held back by the member in our community that was part of the resistance group. He asserted and reinforced the idea that our Association was not turned over to us yet, so we believed we had no rights, except for what was negotiated privately.

It was all a lie. Not only was the Association turned over ten years prior, but the legal papers was signed by the guy who was involved with the resistance group.

Like following a plume to a chemical spill, this guy's name kept coming up. One of the few people that befriended me told me that this fellow was the one that made the pitch to buy the Country Clup. I realize this is hearsay, but I can affirm that Resistance Guy told me that "we made an offer for the Country Club, but the offer was rejected." He just never confirmed that he was the one that did the sales pitch, so of that, I cannot be sure.

But I think about it a lot. Can you imagine how much money he would have pulled in as commission? It would probably require a need for a financial consultant. With his political connections, he would also have the power to draw up small sections of the golfcourse, and it makes me wonder when I see people stolid to this day about taking over common grounds or golfcourse property, if someone made promises to them, that were impossible to keep.

All I can say is, back in 1997-1998, some of my neighbors behaved in very strange ways with reference to that new developer. They bent over backwards to facilitate construction and were also very nasty about keeping the rest of us at bay. Even to the point of making rules to keep the rest of us from talking to him. It was an eerie time. Think about it. We had a group of neighbors that worked together to try to get our common grounds deeded over to them, which should sound strange, unprecedented and unheard of, but they acted like it was no big deal and they were hostile to the rest of us who wanted to slow down the process long enough to understand what was going on.

In sum, I believe when the federal court allowed the city and developer to settle the lawsuit that it also stopped the rest of us from discovering just how much our neighbors worked together to compromise our community. And, without a clear line drawn, a lot of what we see today when it comes to encroachments, started back in that time. That's what I sincerely believe.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Fri Jan 4, 2019, 02:58 PM (1 replies)
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