residents have accused developer Kevin Azzouz of misspending more than $2.3
million of homeowners' money in the past three years at Metro West, one of
Orlando's largest planned communities, which Azzouz oversees.
The charges come in a 23-page report of a yearlong financial review. A copy
obtained by the Orlando Sentinel cites more than $400,000 in unapproved
payments for beefed-up security, $450,000 in questionable "management
fees" and $350,000 for 10,000 rose bushes -- including 7,000 bushes
that never were planted.
Azzouz, whose company, Alliance LLC, took control of the 1,850-acre
community in southwest Orlando in 2005, decried the report as the work of a
few disgruntled residents who have an ax to grind.
"We have never misspent or absconded with anyone's money," Azzouz
said. "This is all just a worthless rant full of misleading
More than a dozen residents and
representatives of various neighborhoods attended a MetroWest Master
Association meeting Thursday night to hear a response from the board's
developer-appointed president, Ken Simback. But because board members only
received the report earlier in the week, Simback asked that they be given
more time to study it.
"We will address each and every item," Simback told the audience.
The report marks the latest financial controversy to trouble the
big-spending developer. Wachovia Bank has filed $51 million in foreclosures
against one of his condominium projects in MetroWest. He is also being sued
for about $1 million by a former business partner, and his wife wants their
$6.5 million mansion near Windermere and unspecified alimony in her divorce
Azzouz promised to hire an independent accounting firm to do a full audit of
the MetroWest Master Association's books and make it public.
The residents' report contains more numbers than narrative. But it said that
before Azzouz's company took over, the association's annual expenses -- for
landscape, pool and building maintenance -- averaged about $650,000. In
2005, that rose to $1.3 million; in 2006, to $1.45 million; and last year,
nearly $2.2 million.
The report doesn't suggest that money was misappropriated; virtually all of
the expenditures involved work that was actually performed. But it says some
of the projects were done to benefit nearby Azzouz-owned developments, not
association property, and that other spending was never authorized by
Among the expenses cited:
*More than $400,000 for beefed-up security, including hiring off-duty
policemen, after the area was hit in 2007 with a rash of crimes, including
at least one homicide, several rapes and violent robberies.
*Sharply higher management fees, with $450,000 considered
"questionable." Before Azzouz took over, residents collectively
paid $12,000 a year for management.
*The $354,731 to buy 10,000 rose bushes and plant 3,000 of them in the
median of Westpointe Boulevard. Other projects included $197,785 to paint
and "stamp" streets so that they resemble brick, and a $32,608
Azzouz said the report is riddled with errors and that most residents
approve of what the money has bought.
The fountain, he said, is part of an engineer's solution to aerate a
retention pond. He said people in the community are glad for
"brick" streets, nicer landscaping and the extra police. And he
said the rest of the roses bushes are being tended to in storage and the
planting held in abeyance because of earlier complaints.
Developer: Most approve
And as for the higher management fees, Azzouz said that a higher level of
service costs more.
"There are more than 10,000 human beings living here, and most of them
like what we're doing," Azzouz said. "Why should we bring it to a
halt because a few want us to go backward?"
But in addressing parallel complaints of misspent money, Simback chronicled
about $110,000 in bills charged to the association that are actually owed by
Azzouz's Veranda Partners company, of which Simback is the vice president.
He said Thursday night that the association will get all its money back,
plus interest. He also listed about $600,000 in delinquent assessments that
are owed to the association by affiliated companies, and he told the
audience that the purchase of the fountain is now on hold.
The report was compiled by Jody Altier the Palma Vista association's
treasurer, and David J. Rosenberg, a certified public accountant with
forensic accounting experience. Altier couldn't be reached for comment, and
Rosenberg declined to discuss the report.
Rosenberg has been an outspoken critic of how Azzouz spent the association's
money, including the "stamped" streets and the practice of hiring
off-duty police to patrol MetroWest.
Last year he told the Sentinel: "I don't think we should be spending
our homeowners association money on something the police should be doing
anyway. I think it's a waste of our money."
Tony Swatek, president of the Palma Vista Homeowners Association, one of the
30 or so associations under the umbrella of MetroWest and its 12,000
residents, held a meeting Monday night to discuss the report's findings. He
said that if money was in fact misspent, the homeowners would recover it