Election loss doesn't mean fight's over

A retired union negotiator will continue to contest the legitimacy

of the Brentwood Hills association board.

Article Courtesy of The Brandon Times

Published March 3, 2006

They came, they said, to stop the madness. Close to 200 homeowners waited elbow to elbow at picnic tables and on pool side chairs last week for a much anticipated meeting. Others stood.

Lewis Laricchia, the resident who sued to force another election of the Brentwood Hills Homeowners Association, sat quietly at one of the tables.

When it came time to cast ballots, Laricchia asked the homeowners to vote for him.

Six did.

More than 600 voted for each of the existing board members.

"I go to work, I go home. Work, home," said Mark Keyers, who lives across the street from Laricchia. "Now this clown makes me come out here at night."

Although he lost the election, Laricchia said he doesn't consider it a legitimate vote because the candidates on the ballot were nominated illegally. To vote for Laricchia, residents had to write his name in. And since more than 400 absentee ballots had already been counted, it was not an election that Laricchia said he could possibly win.

"You have seven people up there who were not brought there legitimately," he said. "Since they are illegal, their nominations are also illegal."

Last month, Laricchia filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough Circuit Court, alleging that the association has been run improperly since December 2004. He said the board re-elected themselves to their positions without holding an election with a quorum.

His lawsuit demanded an injunction restraining the board from conducting business until they hold a proper election and allow him to stand as a candidate. If they didn't, Laricchia planned to ask a court to appoint an outside administrator to run the association in a receivership.

In a letter to resident weeks before the meeting, Brentwood Hills attorney John Conley warned that homeowners would pay for the administrator's services through quarterly assessments.

In January, the association sought an injunction in Circuit Court to require Laricchia "to cease his harassing and retaliatory conduct."

"We had a lot of plans to help the community and make it better," said Brentwood Hills attorney John Conley. "For all of this to come up, it's been a deterrent. We can't get things done on schedule."

Laricchia, 56, a retired union negotiator on disability, acknowledges his role as a horsefly stinging the side of the association. He has shown up at board meetings and demanded that the clerk read the minutes from previous meetings. He has filed complaints against the board for not having a padlock on trash bins and for permitting handicapped parking spaces that are not wide enough.

He has also focused on how the association ran elections.

In the past, the homeowners association struggled to get a quorum together for elections, which require 30 percent of residents. The election in 2004 was no different. The terms of board members expired in November 2004. Two weeks later, an attempt to elect new members died for lack of a quorum. So each of the seven board members appointed a successor.

Laricchia said that since the new board members had not been properly elected, they were illegitimate.

Still, the group conducted business through 2005, asking Gary Clifton to run for president and picking up Clifton's wife, Gerri, as another board member in February.

Each step of the way, Laricchia challenged their actions, Clifton said.

"We had to follow our covenants and bylaws to the letter," he said. "I mean every detail."

Residents describe Laricchia as a crusader who has turned his conflicts with the association into a holy war.

"Put it this say," said Chuck Dalton, a neighbor. "I'm dropping my kids off at the bus stop and he's handing out fliers."

Last year, Laricchia notified the board that he wanted to be its next president. But when the ballot came out, his name was not on it.

That year, the association departed from a long-standing practice of soliciting nominations from homeowners.

Laricchia contends that the board has been trying to minimize his chances of becoming elected.

"This year they said, "How can we keep Lewie out of it?"' Laricchia said.

Mildred Miller, wife of past president John Miller, also questioned this year's nominating procedure.

"All of a sudden they changed it," Miller said. "It's almost like they picked a nominating committee and put in their own people. Nobody else stood a chance."

Clifton said that the board decided on a nominating committee because that is what the bylaws call for - a consequence of Laricchia's hypervigilance about the rules, he said.

Laricchia said the issue has not changed, even after Thursday's meeting. He planned to challenge last week's election results in court.

A court hearing was scheduled for March 1.

Board lawsuit: Man's actions are harassing

Resident Feud May Become Test Case