Judge orders condo association to pay water bill despite poverty plea

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Christine Stapleton   

Published July 15, 2016


West Palm Beach -- A judge on Monday ordered the condominium association to pay whatever it takes to keep the water from being shut off at Green Terrace -- an 84-unit apartment complex once raided by the FBI in its investigation of South Florida sober homes.
The city shut off water to the complex Thursday morning when the board failed to pay a long-overdue $22,000 water bill. The association, embroiled in a bitter lawsuit with residents over finances, told residents there was not enough money to pay the bill.

The city turned the water back on Friday afternoon after learning from The Palm Beach Post that residents had not been warned that they would be without water over the hot July weekend.

In court Monday, board President Sandra Matus told Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson that the association has only $1,760 in its operating account. The board also has $290,000 in reserves but has voted against using the money to pay its bills.

In September 2014, the FBI raided the complex on Georgia Avenue off Belvedere Road, then the location of Good Decisions Sober Living facility, owned by Ken Bailynson. No charges have been filed. Bailynson shut down the business but continued to buy apartments.

William Pincus, attorney for the residents, said the condo board’s vote was stacked. According to Pincus, Bailynson wants to take over the complex and has amassed 44 votes by buying units. Another 13 votes are controlled by the association and several board members who got their apartments from Bailynson.

The Green Terrace Condominiums on Georgia Avenue near Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach on March 26, 2014.

However, some bills are being paid, including pool service and termite control in Bailynson’s units, Pincus said. The real reason, he said the board doesn’t want to pay the water bill is so members can use the shutoff as leverage to dissolve a year-old legal injunction.

The injunction bars the board from raising assessments, performing construction and borrowing an additional $2.5 million from a company owned by Bailynson. The board already has taken out a $1.5 million loan from Bailynson’s company. That loan, with a 24 percent interest rate, requires the board to make monthly interest payments of $30,000.

Matus said, as president, she did not have details of the association’s finances. She just signs checks when her signature is needed. However, she said she knew that bills that have been paid this year were for services last year and that all accounts are in arrears. The association has been paying the minimum amount necessary to keep the water on, Matus said.

As for the city’s claim that it tried to work out a payment plan to prevent the shutoff last week, Matus denied those discussions occurred. City officials did not return a call for comment.

Matus said she did not know how or when the association would comply with the judge’s order.

“You can’t pay something you don’t have money for,” Matus said.