Arbitrator recuses self in Poinciana HOA dispute

Article Courtesy of The  Orlando Sentinel

By Beth Kassab  

Published August 8, 2017


A state arbitrator recused herself Thursday from a dispute over control of the homeowners association in Poinciana after she filed a Florida Bar complaint against the lawyer representing the association.


Terri Leigh Jones, an arbitrator for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, wrote that she had an “ethical duty” to report Thomas Slaten to the Florida Bar because he did not alert her to a circuit court case involving the same dispute.

A circuit court judge in Polk County issued a ruling last month that appeared to contradict the arbitrator’s ruling in June over how the Association of Poinciana Villages can determine how many votes the community’s developer, Avatar, can cast in HOA elections.

“This lack of disclosure has resulted in unnecessary waste of time and resources,” Jones stated in her Aug. 3 letter to the Florida Bar, which oversees the professional conduct of attorneys.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Poinciana Villages referred questions to Slaten, who did not respond to phone messages.

He is a member of the bar in “good standing” and does not have a disciplinary history, according to a bar spokeswoman, who said Friday the bar had not yet received the arbitrator’s complaint.

Keith Laytham, left, and Martin Negron, right, are among Poinciana-area residents challenging Homeowners Associations and developer Avatar in legal disputes.

The arbitrator’s recusal comes just two days after a state-ordered election was held in Poinciana because the arbitrator tossed out the results of a February election for the community of 50,000 people that straddles Osceola and Polk counties. Candidates supported by homeowners failed to overcome the voting power of the developer Tuesday in the election that state Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, called a “sham” after he was barred from the room where the vote tally was taking place.