Cory Lake developer told to produce financial records

Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

By Dong-Phuong Nguyen

Published September 6, 2008

TAMPA Cory Lake Isles homeowners who sued for financial records won a big victory in court Thursday after a judge ordered the developer to produce the documents within 20 days.

"(Residents) are entitled to see where their money went," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Martha Cook said in her ruling.

Eight residents filed the lawsuit almost a year ago, saying homeowners in the upscale, gated community in New Tampa paid about $4.6-million over five years for operation and maintenance, but there was no documentation showing how the money was spent.

Lawyers for the property owners association turned over about 15,000 pages of documents, but the contents were incomplete, said Mark Basurto, an attorney for the homeowners.

Basurto said he wrote an e-mail to the lawyers for Cory Lakes Ltd., the company run by Gene Thomason that collected the fees, asking for more detailed records, but never got them.

"My clients are extremely frustrated with the process," Basurto said. "The time has come now for us to get these documents."

Philip Friedman, an attorney for the property owners association, argued that the association didn't have any of the records since checks were made out to Cory Lakes Ltd.

Cook reminded Friedman that commingling the money between accounts was against the law.

"If that has been done, that is a problem he'll have to remedy," Cook said.

Cook also ruled the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney's fees, but said the amount would be determined at a later time.

About 20 homeowners attended the hearing and applauded Cook for her rulings.

"We knew in our hearts we would get it," said plaintiff Dan Morford. "It was black and white."

Friedman said he was disappointed. "We're looking forward to the court understanding that the POA did not have access to these records," he said. "We expect justice will prevail."