Seven Bridges HOA Sued Again: Defamation Claim By Caterer

Article Courtesy of  The Boca News Now

By Andrew Colton

Published August 9, 2021


DELRAY BEACH — The drama continues in the West Delray Beach community of Seven Bridges — a development of 701 homes all valued at a million dollars or more. We’ve been covering the mini-series that is Seven Bridges over the past several years.

Now, the HOA is being sued in Palm Beach County Circuit Court by Jason Savino and his “Potions in Motions” catering company. Savino was hired by Seven Bridges builder GL Homes to run the development’s restaurant. But shortly after the community formed its own HOA once construction was complete, Savino’s company was terminated when he allegedly wouldn’t permit an examination of his books, something required by the HOA which was subsidizing his operation in the community.

One of Savino’s employees was also accused of breaking into the property manager’s office.

When Potions in Motions was terminated, Savino alleges that a mutual anti-disparagement agreement was executed, guaranteeing that neither side would speak negatively about the other.

Savino claims in the filing that the Board of Directors discussed the criminal accusations in a meeting, and then transmitted negative comments about Potions in Motions to homeowners. And that’s the legal issue: can a Board discuss potential criminality, and share that information with homeowners, without violating a disparagement clause.

From the just-filed lawsuit:

“Upon information and belief, and as will be attested to by members of the community, the incident report was utilized by SEVEN BRIDGES during subsequent board meetings (in which several members of the community were present) to openly discuss the accusations of breaking and entering into the office, and support SEVEN BRIDGES’ decision to hire a different restaurant operator. Additionally, SEVEN BRIDGES openly discussed at its board meetings its allegations that Devino’s LLC (through Jason Savino) failed or refused to provide certain financial information requested by the Defendant, to falsely support its claims that Devinos, LLC breached its contract with SEVEN BRIDGES to further support SEVEN BRIDGES’ decision to hire a different operator.”

Adds the suit:

“The allegations of the unlawful entry and failure to comply with the requirement to provide financial information … were also discussed at subsequent board meetings by SEVEN BRIDGES board members to support its refusal and rejection of any discussion or suggestion about entering into a new contract to again utilize Devino’s, LLC, Jason Savino, or Potions in Motions as its restaurant operator.”

“The statements published by SEVEN BRIDGES regarding the unlawful entry into the property manager’s office, including the incident report filed with the authorities, and failure to provide financials as indicia of a contract breach, and the discussions about them during subsequent publicly held board meetings, were false, and imputed to the Plaintiffs both a criminal offense, as well as a breach of its contract and impropriety in the lawful conduct of Plaintiff’s business.”

“Thereafter, on or about July 13, 2021, and in reference to comments or questions made to the Association regarding entering into a new contract or otherwise bringing Plaintiffs back to serve as the restaurant operator for the community, SEVEN BRIDGES composed and published additional defamatory statements via email to all of the unit owners and member of the Association, stating the following: ‘we have heard many comments suggesting that we bring back Potions in Motions as our restaurant operator. Suffice it to say that their past business practices and behavior has not been consistent with the high standards set by the previous board or this board for all vendors that we deal with. Accordingly, should there be a need to explore other opportunities, Potions in Motions will not be considered but his board or likely by any future board.”

Among the allegations against Savino: homeowners individually benefited by using his services — and HOA facilities — for private businesses not reported to the homeowners association.

As we reported last week, the Seven Bridges Board of Directors sustained multiple resignations in July following an announcement that current restaurant caterer — famed Chef Angelo Elia — may leave the community just months after opening “Casa D’Angelo at Seven Bridges.” Several homeowners, fighting for Savino to return, have allegedly berated and verbally assaulted Elia’s employees — erroneously telling them that their contract has been terminated and they should “pack up and go home.”

In an impassioned letter to the community last week, the remaining members of the board of directors encouraged homeowners to act like adults.

Charges were not filed by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office against Savino or his employees for the alleged break-in.