Outspoken member sues colleagues
The Morganwoods Greentree association wants Stan Hafers out.
Hafers wants to stay in. Both sides vow to keep up the fight. 
Article Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times

By Josh Zimmer
Posted January 27, 2003 

TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- The saga of Stan Hafers and the Morganwoods Greentree Homeowners Association grows more complicated by the week. 

Following up on last month's threat, he is suing the association to retain his board seat. He also is trying to prevent members from taking any votes until a circuit judge clarifies his status. The griping has brought unusual drama to the normally sleepy 290-home subdivision off Hanley Road: hostile meetings cut short, sheriff's deputies on hand to keep the peace, and a combative property owner -- Hafers -- who sits at the board table without a nameplate and haggles with his colleagues. 

Elected to the board a decade ago, the blunt-spoken Hafers is challenging a petition designed to remove him from the board. He pushed for enforcement action against homeowners who allegedly were building too close to property lines. But the reason many people say they oppose Hafers is his aggressive support for a controversial residing product called Dryvit, which has been the subject of lawsuits. 

Based on the opinions of association attorneys, board members decided last month that he no longer could be considered a member. 

But Hafers is not convinced the petition is legal, and documentation he received at a Jan. 14 meeting did not change his mind. He filed the complaint days later. 

Hafers said he is "protecting the interests of the people" from lack of representation. "If I wasn't good at what I do, the people wouldn't have put me there in the first place," he added. 

The association is fighting back. In a copy of a motion faxed to the St. Petersburg Times, attorney Eric Appleton said "there is absolutely no factual or legal basis" why the board could not remove Hafers. 

A hearing on the case probably will be held within 90 days, said Elizabeth Hapner, Hafers' attorney. 

No one seems to disagree that "any director may be removed from the board, with or without cause" by a majority of association members, as is stated in both the bylaws and state statutes. But both sides are wrangling over the rules that apply and whether the board followed them correctly. 

Hafers says the association violated its bylaws by accepting the petition. According to the suit, the board hasn't shown that all the signatures -- from more than half of the subdivision's households -- came from people entitled to vote. 

Hapner said each property-owning household is supposed to designate one person to sign petitions. She also said the list of eligible voters provided to Hafers on Jan. 14 was more than 30 days old, which violates the bylaws. 

"Some of the people who claim to be owners aren't even on the list," she said. 

That argument is wrong, Appleton said. State law supersedes the association's bylaws, and state law does not require proof that the petition is legitimate, although Steve Mezer, another association attorney, said the signatures were checked for accuracy. 

In front of an impatient crowd of about 75 people, association president Bill Croft asked Hafers to resign. 

"I will not do that," he said. "I have received calls from people who believe they had their arms twisted" to sign the petition. With Hafers' status unclear, Appleton warned board members not to address other issues or take votes without him. Hearing that, Croft adjourned the meeting, to catcalls. 

Some wondered when the board will deal with other community issues. 

Michele Acker blamed Hafers for being stubborn. Outside Clubhouse 1, Gail Cooley defended Hafers. She said she had unsuccessfully tried to retract her signature from the petition, and said at least a handful of others had changed their minds as well. 

She had hoped to talk about mulch piles, termites and fences. 

"It's awful," Cooley said of the controversy. "We've got issues."