LAWSUITS TO PROTECT PRESIDENTS' BRUISED EGOS?

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published February 15, 2011

  

One of the problems community associations are facing on a daily basis is the "EXCHANGE OF OPINIONS." Owners and board members often don't see eye to eye, frequently caused by board members with dictatorial attitudes and/or nosy owners who want to know it all -- depending on who you ask. 

   

Especially in associations where boards create rules that limit owners' RIGHT TO SPEAK and/or ask questions and associations where owners need a crowbar to pry out documents [RECORD REQUEST] which should be easily available, owners fight back by creating Websites, Internet Forums and/or Community Blogs.

  

And, as you can imagine, the statements and comments made on these websites and blogs often donít shed a favorable light on presidents, board members, community association managers and association attorneys.

  

We have seen various kinds of attempts to shut up these homeowners -- even if they are often enough correct and are making factual statements -- from trademark infringements to libel, presidents have tried it all -- trying to heal their BRUISED EGOS

  

But it takes a willing association attorney to file these most often frivolous lawsuits. Every attorney will tell you that these kinds of lawsuits are very difficult to win, and mostly end with a total waste of money -- and more bruised egos. 

  

As long as the Webmaster or Blogger is not using the exact copy of the letterhead of the association as banner, even the best attorney has a really hard time to prove trademark infringement, even if the name of the association is a registered trademark, which is barely ever the case. In one case, an attorney even attempted to sue a homeowner who used a picture of the entrance of the association as head-banner.

  

The photo was taken from the street -- showing a wall with the name of the association. I guess you know where that lawsuit ended up? In the trash can after valuable funds were wasted.

  

Latest example of a "BRUISED EGO": Michael Perkins, President of the Board of the SOUTHWIND LAKES HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION, INC. in Boca Raton. In a board meeting on December 15, 2010 Perkins announced that the board will be meeting with an attorney from the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff to discuss "statements and untrue things that are being said about this Board and about members on this Board." Perkins even warns board member Lucille Warrell and tells her: "You might need to recuse yourself because you might be a part of all of this, Lucille, and certainly the people that you are affiliated with are a part of all of this."

  

Please listen to the recording of this part of the BOARD MEETING [see as well TRANSCRIPT] Even if it's interesting to listen to the discussion regarding the need to see an attorney at all owners' expense, it's amazing to hear that CAM Colleen Cooney always feels inclined to interrupt owners and board members. When will CAMs learn that they are just hired hands who should only speak at a board meeting when being specifically asked?

    

The meeting took place -- but nothing happened. It's hard to sue for libel and/or slander if the folks only write and speak about facts. Even if the truth hurts -- the hurt and bruised egos are definitely not sufficient to win such lawsuits, especially not if the board president, who is a CEO in his own  imagination and often acts like one, gives the opposition sufficient cause to attack his actions, verbally and in writing.

The meeting with the attorney came and went, and besides blowing smoke it was just more waste of homeowners' good money in an attempt to shut up owners who oppose the actions of the board president. Obviously, the "statements and untrue things" were not as untrue and not as serious as Perkins claimed them to be.

And the question is: Who decided that there would be such a meeting at considerable expense? It's pretty obvious that Perkins thinks that he alone can decide when association funds are being spent on attorney's fees. Otherwise, how can it be explained that he used the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff to create a form [REVOCATION OF BALLOT AND PROXY] to revoke earlier votes for other candidates and to vote for the candidates of his choice -- the Yea-sayers -- definitely not an expense that served the welfare of the community. It was clearly self-serving in order to stay in power. Especially the elderly owners will give in to arm-twisting if the president of the board shows up at the door in person.

  

In most cases the board presidents wouldn't consider taking legal actions if it would take their own money to defend their bruised egos. But it's easy to do, if association money can be used. You know: "Oh heck, it's not my money!"

  

Sometimes I get the impression that some of these board presidents had been schoolyard bullies when they were kids -- and now they just can't help themselves.


 

Transcript of the 12-15-2010   --  Meeting of the Board of Directors 

SOUTHWIND LAKES HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION, INC.

Agenda Item : ďLegalĒ

 

Voices heard on the recording: 

1. Michael Perkins-BOD President 

2. Lucille Warrell-BOD Director  

3. Vincent Rizzo-BOD Secretary 

4. Colleen Cooney-Property Manager, The Continental Group 

5. Anita Locandro-BOD V.P. 

6. Voice from Audience #1( VFA#1)   

7. Voice from Audience #2(VFA#2)


PERKINS:  We have a meeting tomorrow at 4 oíclock at Continentalís Office with Becker & Polikoff. (Sounds from Audience)

WARRELL: No one told me about it. How long have we known about this?

PERKINS: The meeting was noticed yesterday, been on the bulletin board, o.k.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss..

WARRELL: tries to ask a questionÖ

RIZZO: be quiet

PERKINS: is to discuss the, ah, serious situation that weíve got with statements and untrue things that are being said about this Board and about members on this Board. And, we are going to take this up with our law firm and we are going to proceed forward with some kind of action. Now, you just might need to recuse yourself because you might be a part of all of this, Lucille, and certainly the people that you are affiliated with are a part of all of this. So

WARRELL:  Could you, you are discussing the serious situation with statements, please give me an idea, I am trying to write it down,

PERKINS: You have it recorded, I announced it, have no intention of discussing it.

WARRELL: Fine, ok, ok, I donít want to discuss it

(COONEY: repeatedly interjects comments)

PERKINS: So, we are going to have this meeting tomorrow

VFA#1: And is that so, question, is that a private

PERKINS: Yes

VFA#1: So why are you using lawyers the Association use?

PERKINS: No, no, not private to anyone of us individually, itís

VFA#1: Inaudible

PERKINS: No, itís an Association matter, itís an Association

VFA#1: Someone in Association accuses Association member

PERKINS: Yeah, weíre having a meeting to discuss

VFA#1: So this goes into legal?

PERKINS: Yes

COONEY: And they are meeting with Association Attorney so

PERKINS: Attorney, right and when, and when

VFA#1: why was discussed between?

COONEY: You cannot, itís legal thatís why

PERKINS: Right, we canít, itís a closed meeting, this is something statutorily

VFA#1: No, no, you are missing my point. You are Directors of the, you have an issue one person, within the  Director person within the Directors? One of your Directors is this the problem? You are having an issue with another person, another Director?

PERKINS: Weíre having issues with several people and one of our Board members is involved in this so you know there is nothing that

VFA#1: ?   Just wanted to know, you know

PERKINS: There is nothing, right, right so we are definitely

VFA#1: Even in politics when someone does do something, they donít go out and get a legal to go against the other person

(Comments from various people = inaudible)

VFA#1: Example

LOCANDRO: For example, your, you have your President and, you have your Senators and before they go ahead and do anything they definitely speak to attorneyís before something becomes public in the media.

VFA#1:   Inaudible

LOCANDRO:  Sure they do.

VFA#1: Inaudible

LOCANDRO:  Huh, (with a sort of laugh)

COONEY: Sometimes you have to go

VFA#1: inaudible portion, One of your Directors who is trying to lead the HOís, and  then now we have an issue thatís private with one Director, two Directors, whatever

LOCANDRO (?): Weíre trying to get a legal opinion

COONEY: And weíre trying to get a legal opinion

VFA#1: Inaudible

COONEY: Legal opinion, you have to have legal opinion, not to sue

VFA#1 and COONEY talking at same timeÖinaudible

VFA#1:  To sue, get rid of the person?

COONEY: No, whoís saying that?

VFA#1: Inaudible

PERKINS: Thatís right

VFA#1: Inaudible

COONEY: Sometimes you have no choice

VFA#1: Inaudible. So why now it wouldnít come out of the persons pocketÖ..then?  Why wouldnít it come out of your pocket or individual or persons pocket or 

VFA#1 and COONEY: Inaudible

COONEY: I think, Mike, maybe we need to cut it off there

VFA#1:  keeps talking, but it is inaudible

WARRELL: (to COONEY) youíre not on the Board, Colleen

PERKINS: (to WARRELL) would you stop being disrespectful, shush, shush, ok

VFA#1: Inaudible, trying toÖget what, understand all this is about

PERKINS: Ok, ok, ok, alright

VFA#1: Iím not a lawyer ok

VFA#1 and COONEY over talk each other. Inaudible

PERKINS: Ok, just hang on one second

VFA#1: Iím a homeowner here. I am not a lawyer ok? I want to know the money is being, going towards defending someone who is

PERKINS: Ok, ok, just one second

VFA#1: If somebody is Director.. Iím a homeowner here, I just want to know my money is going toward defending somebody whoís being insulted or some bad things about.. that my moneyÖ consult a lawyerÖ..Harry Hoodenie, saying something about me, using my money why arenít you using your own money?  (laughter) who done it saying something about me so insult

PERKINS: Well you see we have Insurance, we have D and O Insurance so thereís that part of it that might ultimately happen, But, the fact of the matter is that we did not create this situation we are just responding to it and unfortunately sometimes doing business is ugly and this is one of the ugly sides of doing business and I canít discuss this and after tomorrow this might be something I canít talk about at all so we are going to meet with our counsel, weíre going to present to them all this information and they are going to advise us on how to proceed in dealing with it and thatís all we can do because weíre not attorneyís and weíre certainly not gonna not move forward

VFA#1: Is this about the Election?

PERKINS: No

COONEY: No

PERKINS: Nothing about the Election

VFA#1  Inaudible

COONEY: To better answer your question, you are a homeowner and you are saying youíre where your money goes. They are all Board members and if there is a situation where they need legal opinion thatís under Association and unfortunately things like this happen and this is where this falls under. They need a legal opinion so they have to meet with an Association attorney

PERKINS: Right

COONEY: As a Board.

PERKINS: Regrettably

VFA#1: Is there anyway we can

COONEY: Mike is just announcing it at the meeting tomorrow.

VFA#1: Inaudible

COONEY: Excuse me?

VFA#1:  Inaudible

PERKINS: No,

COONEY: Itís private because itís Association, itís Board

VFA#1: So itís private. Youíre

PERKINS: No

VFA#1:  Inaudible

COONEY: No, because itís legal

PERKINS: Ok, alright

VFA#1: I apologize, just want

PERKINS: Donít apologize. I know that you donít know, but you see what, what the purpose is, is to stop, to stop um, all of this garbage from continuing. So, itís, itís to the point where we have to do this and

VFA#1:  Inaudible

PERKINS: And, and, you will, trust me, you will

VFA#1: I came here for the first time andÖ..canít be here for the 2nd time

PERKINS: Right, you will be aware

VFA#1: Inaudible

PERKINS: NO, thatís ok

VFA#1: I just donít understand

PERKINS: Thatís ok, thatís ok.

VFA#1: I came out of politicsÖ arena also

PERKINS: Um, huh

VFA#1: maybe it is worse than it is, I donít know

PERKINS: Uh huh, yeah, bad, bad, ugly unnecessary I can go on but yeah

VFA#1: InaudibleÖthatís all I want to know, I didnít want to disturb

WARRELL: And who is the Attorney? 

PERKINS: Becker & Polikoff

WARRELL: I know,Mike, but who?

PERKINS: I donít know who is going to come. They are going to send their litigator

WARRELL: Itís at 4PM ?

PERKINS: Yes, but Iím telling you, you should recuse yourself because youíre going to be a part of this probably and you canít be a part of this if you are a part of this.

WARRELL: I donít understand what you are talking about. Youíll  have, I donít understand what you mean.

PERKINS: Well

RIZZO: ( in a whisper) Discuss it later

PERKINS: You know, Iím letting you know weíre having this meeting at 4 oíclock at Continentalís Office. You are going to be a part of this discussion

WARRELL: You are going to be discussing something you think Iím in violation of, or that I have done?

PERKINS: That you are involved in, absolutely

WARRELL: And you donít think I should be there to hear that?

COONEY: Mike, excuse me, why donít you just go on with the Agenda?

PERKINS: Thatís right.

WARRELL: Based upon what Mike?

COONEY: Weíre not going to sit here and ....

PERKINS: Weíre not going to debate this, right, so Iím telling you, you should recuse yourself

VFA#1: Donít go

WARRELL: Donít go?

VFA#1: Donít go

WARRELL: Of course Iím going

VFA#2: Of course you should go

PERKINS: Ok, so that is it.

  


NEWS PAGE HOME HOA ARTICLES