|Autumn Chase Homeowners Association calms, feels aftereffects|
Article Courtesy of The Las Vegas Review-Journal
By Maggie Lillis
Published April 25, 2012
Waters are calmer these days for members of Autumn Chase Homeowners Association, but ripples of tumultuous times are still being felt.
The North Las Vegas community made headlines in recent years due to the exploits of former association president Joseph Bitsky. A YouTube video of Bitsky trading barbs with homeowner Joe Salvatore went viral, association finances and elections were questioned, and Bitsky was convicted of coercion stemming from an HOA meeting in which he allegedly locked association members in his home over a meeting recording.
Neighbors claim that Bitsky handed down continuous, often undeserved fines, misappropriated HOA funds and made their community a hostile place to live. The hubbub prompted at least one neighbor to move.
expenses, including four alleged credit cards opened in the HOA's name and a security camera placed on Bitsky's home. Bitsky later confessed the camera was purchased with HOA funds, Salvatore said.
The YouTube video turned heads, and other mudslinging landed on online message boards. Confrontations between the men led to police going to Salvatore's door and allegations that he pulled a gun on Bitsky. The claims were proved to be unfounded.
Salvatore helped file a formal complaint against Bitsky with the Nevada Real Estate Division. The division said the complaint is in process.
Bitsky declined comment.
Salvatore said the men haven't spoken in about six months, and things have been quiet since the complaint was filed.
"Now we're just sitting back and letting the Real Estate Division do its thing," he said.
Despite the simmer, Salvatore said he still has to tiptoe around his neighborhood. He said he retrieves the mail in the middle of the night, records his whereabouts and avoids Bitsky.
The HOA and Bitsky's actions have moved other association members out of the neighborhood.
Amie-Jo Dinsio, who owned a home on the same street as Bitsky, decided to sell her home last spring and counted Bitsky as a strong contributing factor.
Dinsio was fined repeatedly for alleged noise related to her tenants' motorcycles. She said she never received correspondence of complaints or a hearing regarding fines.
Fines kept mounting after the problem had been taken care of, she said.
In the end, she estimates she paid about $400 in fines regarding the issue.
Her final straw came in October 2010.
"I suppose it was when he locked us in his house," Dinsio said.
She was one of the members in attendance of the now-infamous meeting in which Bitsky blocked the front door to his home to keep homeowners from leaving. He was fired up over a contentious audio recording of the meeting. Bitsky was convicted of two counts of coercion from the incident. He has since stepped down as president but remains board treasurer and secretary, Salvatore said.
"It's just a great peace of mind that I don't have to deal with him," Dinsio said of Bitsky. "I still talk to the people that live there and are trying to get rid of him. I feel sorry for them."
The Autumn Chase Homeowners Association past and present is to be highlighted in "The HOAX," an independent documentary about the abuse of power and lack of regulation in the homeowners' association industry.
Producer and director Rodney Gray interviewed about 20 homeowners, including Salvatore and about eight others in Las Vegas, about their issues with HOAs. Two other Las Vegas incidents are also to be included in the film.
The Autumn Chase Homeowners Association case stands out, though, Gray said.
"The most entertaining one would be Joe Bitsky," he said.
He said he was intrigued by Bitsky's antics and his alleged criminal history. Bitsky admitted to a previous conviction of acting as a property manager without proper licensing decades ago in a KLAS-TV Channel 8 report.
"It shouldn't be easy for a convicted felon to get on the board and do who knows what," Gray said. "No one is going to check him out. It's a form of tyranny run amok."
Gray faced his own homeowners association aggressors in his Texas community.
He said he hopes his project leads to more regulation and recourse for violators.
"I'm not saying all HOAs are bad," he said. "I know some people on HOA boards that are great people. I don't think people see how a board of directors has so much power. If they were (to see), they would know that power affects a lot of people."
Bitsky declined to participate in the documentary.
The film is currently in post-production. Gray hopes to bring the project to film festivals and nationwide distribution.
The movie trailer can be viewed at www.thehoaxfilm.com
Salvatore said he plans to stay in his home and hopes changes are made soon.
"There is not much we can do; they're still operating the board," Salvatore said. "Now we're just waiting."