Homeowners associations "bring out the worst in people"
"There's road rage, and then there's homeowners association rage," prosecutor John Fristik said.


Neighborhood group gets ugly

Feud among board members leads to criminal charges for one


Article Courtesy of the Pioneer Press
Published Sat, Jun. 04, 2005

Lots of homeowners association veterans have horror stories the crank who won't shut up at meetings, the guy whose dog poops everywhere, the dictator who insists houses be the same shade of eggshell white.

But dysfunction at the Chamberlain Homeowners Association in Woodbury apparently has led to two residents' windows getting shot repeatedly with a slingshot and another resident being charged with a felony.

A feud between board members turned the community of two-story town homes and spacious manicured lawns into a scene of late-night drive-bys, broken windows and police surveillance early this year.

Former board member Daniel Lee Tri, 46, has been charged with repeatedly shooting out his rivals' front windows with a slingshot over a three-month period this winter. He faces a count of first-degree criminal damage to property and will face court June 29.

"There's road rage, and then there's homeowners association rage," prosecutor John Fristik said. Tri "just tripped over the line," he said.

Tri could not be reached for comment.

Chamberlain Homeowners Association governs more than 35 town homes near Carver Lake Park and the Woodbury Golf Course. Such an association usually manages such matters as landscaping and upkeep and collects money from homeowners to do it.

Tri is a member even though he lives elsewhere in Woodbury, police say. He rents out the house he owns in the Chamberlain neighborhood.

He was on the board at one time with neighbors Grayce Hartman and Mary McNally, and they didn't get along. The criminal complaint said he and the two women "had several disagreements and verbal altercations" while serving on the board.

It's unclear what caused the bad blood, because none of the homeowners involved wanted to discuss it in detail.

But law enforcement officials say it appears Tri stepped on some toes during his time in office and that some neighbors thought he was circumventing the board on some decisions.

"I don't think it was one thing," Fristik said. "They were kind of at each other's throats from the beginning."

Hartman did say Tri "was obsessed with making the board look like they weren't doing their work" and that he had said the management company hired by the association was mismanaging its money.

Tension came to a head, law enforcement officials said, after a board election last spring in which Tri lost his seat. Hartman and another woman were elected instead, and McNally had helped Tri's opponent, Hartman said.

After Tri's defeat, Hartman told police, he began sending antagonistic letters to the homeowners "to undermine the work of the board."

In mid-December, the vandalism started. In more than 20 instances from Dec. 12 to Feb. 27, the complaint states, someone shot marbles and metal nuts at Hartman's and McNally's Falstaff Road houses sometimes after midnight.

They usually hit the same double-paned window in each house not shattering it, but leaving holes in the front pane.

At the end of the attacks, prosecutor Fristik said, the windows looked "like Swiss cheese."

Sometimes the vandal's marble struck a shingle and tore away part of it. Sometimes it missed and put a hole in the siding.

"This has just shook this group of people out here," Hartman said.

In late December and early January, investigators set up surveillance cameras in the women's houses. On several occasions, the complaint states, police noticed that Tri drove cars similar to the ones used in the late-night attacks.

About 11:30 p.m. March 3, Woodbury Officer Fran Schmitz pulled Tri over after seeing him shoot at Hartman's house, according to the complaint.

He found a slingshot on the floor of the white sport utility vehicle Tri was driving, the complaint said, as well as metal nuts and a marble like those that had damaged the houses. Police also found evidence of marijuana paraphernalia, Fristik said.

Tri was arrested, and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Homeowners associations "bring out the worst in people," said Fristik, who said he also has been a member of one. "It just gets goofy."