Wild HOA board meeting boils over amid claims of forged signatures, unlawful imprisonment
Black Diamond, a Wellington community, has been embroiled in controversy since November when efforts were made to recall four of the seven board members on the HOA.

Article Courtesy of  The Palm Beach Post

By Mike Diamond

Published March 17, 2023


WELLINGTON — The tension level at Black Diamond has escalated to the point that Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies are investigating allegations of unlawful imprisonment, battery and the conduct of one of their own at a Feb. 22 homeowners association board meeting.

A gated community of 475 homes west of State Road 7 and north of Wellington Regional Medical Center, Black Diamond has been embroiled in controversy since November when efforts were made to recall four of the seven board members on the community's HOA.

A successful recall would result in targeted board members being removed from office and replaced with new homeowners who had received the highest number of votes based on filed petitions.

The board, alleging that signatures were forged, refused to accept the recall petitions that contained the names of 283 homeowners, well above the required 50% plus one, or 238. The board's decision has sparked contentious litigation. A circuit court judge is expected to rule on the validity of the recall within the new few months.

The Feb. 22 meeting was the first in-person one held since the coronavirus pandemic. It was full of drama.

Some HOA members allege that the deputy, whom the HOA hired, acted as an enforcer for members of the HOA board targeted for recall. The leader of the recall effort, Rick Darquea, says he was improperly prevented from going into the meeting and that once the session started, doors were locked. People could not leave, he said. A video recorded by Darquea has the deputy calling him "a troublemaker," saying: "You can watch the meeting on Zoom."

"I'm a homeowner in good standing," Darquea said. "They had no right to keep me from attending. The deputy acted as the personal bodyguard for (Brian) Papula." Efforts to contact Papula, the board's treasurer, for comment, were unsuccessful.

Darquea says he has filed an internal-affairs complaint against the deputy for allowing the doors to be locked and for preventing him from attending the meeting. Eric Taub, a former HOA president who supports the recall, said he was injured when he tried to leave the meeting.

“I was afraid of the escalating tensions," Taub said. “I figured I'd better get out of there. I had trouble getting out because they locked the doors and would not let anyone leave. I eventually managed to get the door open and then someone pushed it against my leg. It was a painful injury.”

Taub and Darquea say they gave statements recently to a sheriff's sergeant about the incident. Ava Fields, 84, felt like she was falsely imprisoned when the doors were locked, according to her son, Daniel. Both Taub and Fields say they, too, want an internal-affairs investigation.

The sergeant assured Darquea that a case will be filed with the State Attorney's Office for battery.

"Unfortunately, this is not something that can occur overnight because it is a process," Sgt. Jean Similien wrote in an email to Darquea, noting that other issues Darquea wanted addressed are civil matters that fall outside the sheriff's jurisdiction.

In a legal papers filed on March 3, Darquea's lawyer, Michael Gulisano of Boca Raton, accuses the targeted board members and the law firm they hired, Pincus & Currier of West Palm Beach, of conspiring to "to further their own personal interests" and that the firm agreed to participate in the conspiracy in exchange for future legal work at Black Diamond. Darquea’s homeowner rights have been repeatedly and maliciously violated," according to legal filing.

The latest filing also alleges that "Black Diamond’s affairs have been mismanaged and its assets havebeen wasted," resulting in a loss of property values. "

How the HOA situation at Black Diamond escalated

Tensions have been high for some time at Black Diamond. The board filed a lawsuit in December challenging the validity of the recall petitions after refusing to certify them at a special meeting Nov. 30.

Rick Darquea, a resident of Black Diamond community in Wellington, poses for a portrait on Thursday, December 1, 2022, in Wellington, FL. A year ago, Darquea accused the HOA board of conducting a fraudulent election.


In May 2021, Darquea challenged the results of an election after he says he discovered that at least 27 proxies contained forged signatures. A state agency ordered a new election, but the agency was powerless to enforce its order.

Darquea and others then filed a lawsuit to enforce it but eventually settled the case after the HOA agreed to pay their legal fees.