Boards fighting NOT-OFFICIAL Websites

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

Published June 12, 2007


It's the old game we are seeing all the time: Boards don't like the postings on the bulletin boards of the official association website and pull the bulletin boards or censor the entries. And the way some boards are acting, I can definitely understand that they don't want to see the truth posted. Truth might hurt and often actions of the board are better kept behind closed doors. And board members are often afraid that come next election they will be voted off the board if the association members find out what is really happening -- and where their money went!


But, some homeowners don't take kindly to censorship, especially if it's done on a website paid for by their own dues! 


The answer to this abuse of power: Owners are building their own websites -- with open bulletin boards -- and postings that board members don't like. Then the board members use association money to pay for the kind of attorney letters you see below! Actually these letters don't have any real legal meaning -- mostly they are blowing smoke! The private websites normally all carry disclaimers and are well protected under First Amendments rights.


The letters normally only blow a lot of smoke trying to intimidate the owners "daring" to get their voices across. Phrases like "trademarks" and "copyrights" are thrown in for good measure and pictures of the entrance carrying the community name are declared private property. Everything to scare the private website owners. We have seen more than one letter sent by attorneys trying to intimidate the owner enough to have him/her pull the website!

Actually, it's just more waste of association dues to serve the private agenda of some board members who are afraid that their neighbors might find out the truth.

We have seen on many occasions that "FREE SPEECH" is definitely not appreciated in some communities -- and lots of association money has been wasted to gag owners that didn't follow the party line or that had their own opinion about events in the association.

The most notorious legal fight about free speech here in Florida was the newsletter distribution case Henry S. Ludwig vs. Tudor Cay Condominium Association, Inc. , where the attorney for the beaten association, Steven Mezer, was quoted in a newspaper: "I admire the guy. He has a right to push the First Amendment, but the law doesn't apply here." Mezer said freedom of speech does not apply in the Tudor Cay case, because homeowners associations concern themselves with private property, not public property. "Most condos have an anti-solicitation rule of some type," Mezer said. "It's in their declaration of rules and regulations." He argues that those rules supersede even constitutional rights.


We will see about that when the New Jersey Supreme Court finally publishes the decision in the BATTLE AT TWIN RIVER, expected next week! 


If the decision is not favorable for the homeowners, we are all thrown back into the Stone Age. Then actually a German legislator was correct, who was quoted after a conference in Frankfurt , where the advantages of homeowners' associations were pitched, as saying: "We had Adolf, we don't need homeowners' associations!"


But we do need independent websites if dictatorial boards are trying to gag homeowners!


  Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005

June 7, 2007



Chanse Henderson

4453 Comanche Trail Boulevard  

Jacksonville , Florida 32259

Dear Mr. Henderson: 

This firm and the undersigned have been retained by the Cimarrone Property Owner’s Association ("Cimarrone") to represent its interest and pursue all avenues of relief regarding the operation of the website, (the “Website”). Pursuant to that representation, demand is hereby made that you cease operation of the Website, cease any indication or representation that the Website is an official website for Cimarrone, and discontinue any use of the email distribution list to all residents of Cimarrone. 


Cimarrone has valuable rights in the name and trademark, Cimarrone, and the Website infringes upon those rights. Without pennissjon or authorization, the Website uses the trademark in the Website's address and in the content of the Wehsite, specifically the banner that reads, “Cimarrone Golf & Country Club.” As a result of your unauthorized use of the trademark, individuals have mistakenly thought that the Website was the official website of Cimarrone. Accordingly, if you fail to disable the Website by Wednesday, June 13, 2007, we have been instructed to pursue the appropriate legal action against you, including an action for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief in State or Federal Court. 


Additionally, your use of the email distribution list to inform Cimarrone residents of the Website was in direct violation of the terms of use for the Cimarrone website operated by May Management. Accordingly, we demand that you cease the use of any emails acquired through the use of the e-mail distribution list or the email distribution list itself. 


Please govern yourself accordingly.



Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005



Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005


14 East Bay Street  

Jacksonville , Florida 32202

                       Phone (904) 357-3660 Fax (904) 357-3661