LAWSUITS TO PROTECT PRESIDENTS' BRUISED EGOS?
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published February 15, 2011
One of the problems community associations are facing on a daily basis is the "EXCHANGE OF OPINIONS." Owners and board members often don't see eye to eye, frequently caused by board members with dictatorial attitudes and/or nosy owners who want to know it all -- depending on who you ask.
Especially in associations where boards create rules that limit owners' RIGHT TO SPEAK and/or ask questions and associations where owners need a crowbar to pry out documents [RECORD REQUEST] which should be easily available, owners fight back by creating Websites, Internet Forums and/or Community Blogs.
And, as you can imagine, the statements and comments made on these websites and blogs often donít shed a favorable light on presidents, board members, community association managers and association attorneys.
We have seen various kinds of attempts to shut up these homeowners -- even if they are often enough correct and are making factual statements -- from trademark infringements to libel, presidents have tried it all -- trying to heal their BRUISED EGOS.
But it takes a willing association attorney to file these most often frivolous lawsuits. Every attorney will tell you that these kinds of lawsuits are very difficult to win, and mostly end with a total waste of money -- and more bruised egos.
As long as the Webmaster or Blogger is not using the exact copy of the letterhead of the association as banner, even the best attorney has a really hard time to prove trademark infringement, even if the name of the association is a registered trademark, which is barely ever the case. In one case, an attorney even attempted to sue a homeowner who used a picture of the entrance of the association as head-banner.
The photo was taken from the street -- showing a wall with the name of the association. I guess you know where that lawsuit ended up? In the trash can after valuable funds were wasted.
Latest example of a "BRUISED EGO": Michael Perkins, President of the Board of the SOUTHWIND LAKES HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION, INC. in Boca Raton. In a board meeting on December 15, 2010 Perkins announced that the board will be meeting with an attorney from the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff to discuss "statements and untrue things that are being said about this Board and about members on this Board." Perkins even warns board member Lucille Warrell and tells her: "You might need to recuse yourself because you might be a part of all of this, Lucille, and certainly the people that you are affiliated with are a part of all of this."
Please listen to the recording of this part of the BOARD MEETING [see as well TRANSCRIPT] Even if it's interesting to listen to the discussion regarding the need to see an attorney at all owners' expense, it's amazing to hear that CAM Colleen Cooney always feels inclined to interrupt owners and board members. When will CAMs learn that they are just hired hands who should only speak at a board meeting when being specifically asked?
The meeting took place -- but nothing happened. It's hard to sue for libel and/or slander if the folks only write and speak about facts. Even if the truth hurts -- the hurt and bruised egos are definitely not sufficient to win such lawsuits, especially not if the board president, who is a CEO in his own imagination and often acts like one, gives the opposition sufficient cause to attack his actions, verbally and in writing.
The meeting with the attorney came and went, and besides blowing smoke it was just more waste of homeowners' good money in an attempt to shut up owners who oppose the actions of the board president. Obviously, the "statements and untrue things" were not as untrue and not as serious as Perkins claimed them to be.And the question is: Who decided that there would be such a meeting at considerable expense? It's pretty obvious that Perkins thinks that he alone can decide when association funds are being spent on attorney's fees. Otherwise, how can it be explained that he used the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff to create a form [REVOCATION OF BALLOT AND PROXY] to revoke earlier votes for other candidates and to vote for the candidates of his choice -- the Yea-sayers -- definitely not an expense that served the welfare of the community. It was clearly self-serving in order to stay in power. Especially the elderly owners will give in to arm-twisting if the president of the board shows up at the door in person.
In most cases the board presidents wouldn't consider taking legal actions if it would take their own money to defend their bruised egos. But it's easy to do, if association money can be used. You know: "Oh heck, it's not my money!"
Sometimes I get the impression that some of these board presidents had been schoolyard bullies when they were kids -- and now they just can't help themselves.