Baitball Blogger's Journal
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Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 20,017
Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 20,017
I am interested in homeowner issues in Central Florida. What I have observed living in a Republican county is that a lot of what Republicans claim to support, is not how they live. For more information, see my website at www.keystoneworksite.com
I've tried many times to pass on information to my local paper and they keep burying the story. Years ago I discovered the reason. The networks that we continue to complain about that are taking over the integrity of the government process include the newspaper editors. It's not hard to figure out why. If there is a large economic development program planned for a community, the newspaper editors would be the first to be pulled in because positive reporting would be necessary. Also, their editorial endorsements for "friendly" political candidates would be critical to the overall success.
But they are also needed to tamp down on hound dog reporting that might reveal what goes on behind the city's nefarious outreach programs. These outreach programs are an integral part of inducing support from community leaders.
My favorite example is the use of super-HOAs to define the story that is needed to sell the programs to the residents. In the newspaper you almost never hear criticism launched at the board members of these organizations, though they so richly deserve scrutiny, given the political influence they weld - even when they may not have any legal authority over anyone. My community is a perfect example. The master HOA in this area has no legal authority to influence the self-determination of our smaller, mandatory HOA, but everything about our community has been co-opted by a past allegiance that was based on fraud and conspiracy.
There is a cautionary tale here for other HOAs in Florida. And it's one that the local paper won't tell you about. When a city decides to launch a major construction program, they will go after the HOA leaders. More effective to the city, (and more damaging to the residents), is when they work directly with the master HOA leaders, who pull in all the presidents of every HOA for special meetings. What happened in my situation, was that this quick access into government resulted in short-cuts and collusions which cut us out of the decision-making process and deprived us of our legal rights as homeowners. To this day, fraud and conspiracy, and now a cover-up, has been allowed to stand.
And, there is a strong indication that this same formula of pulling in the heads of all the HOAs to control public opinion in a city, will happen again.
Before the economic downturn, there were big plans to develop a large tract along a major highway that cuts through the borders of two cities. The first signs of the operation that overtook my city began to surface with a simple article in the paper. The article stated that a super HOA board was going to be established to advise all the mandatory HOAs in the city that adjoins mine.
In a legal world, these things don't happen this way. If the paper was any service to its readers, it should have smelled the makings of a con-job. There is a legal process that give HOA boards their authority. The documents that give these organizations their power are generally approved and legalized before the first homeowner purchases property in the development. If it doesn't happen this way, it requires negotiations and a legal vote to sanction this kind of power.
A super HOA, coming in after the fact, claiming to represent the interests of all the homeowners within the city limits is just a self-proclaimed lobby group. Sometimes lobby groups are good, but residential boards are usually manned by tough-talking board members who are more goal oriented, than mindful of the law. (And sometimes political lawyers like them that way). The potential for abuse and overreach are real.
But the paper never went into this kind of detail. Instead, it just reported that one of the desired features of this super HOA was that it will be more cost effective to the other HOAs because they would rely on one lawyer to provide consultation for everyone.
I cannot stress how bad of an idea this can be. This happened in my community. The super-HOA relied on a handful of lawyers, and when everything began to fall apart, these lawyers found their way to all the hot spots in our community and provided information that protected the super-HOA at the expense of the homeowners who lived in the smaller HOA communities. Those lawyers only looked into our HOA documents to select information that protected their real boss, the super-HOA. They will not empower you with the rights that you do have as a homeowner, because those rights can be used against the city and the super-HOA. In this way, they helped squelch challenges by keeping homeowners confused about their rights.
When you have this kind of interference, corrupt people within your community begin to exploit the fault lines in your HOA's foundation. Many of these same people were neighbors who were pulled in early, when the city was looking for supporters for its works projects. These people are politically connected. They will be quick to pick up on the community's vulnerabilities and the chaos that their selfish objectives create only makes it more difficult for the honest homeowners to join forces to fight against the intrusion created by the city and the super-HOA.
So, without good, affordable legal advice to rely on, you get to watch, helplessly, as the unique features that made your HOA stand out from all the others, begin to disappear.
In sum, backwater law takes over when a newspaper becomes complicit with government works projects. That's the unintended consequence that comes from their political endorsements, and lack of investigation when residents try to tell them that they need to investigate the wrong-doing that is occurring in their communities.
People around here think the hijinks and shenanigans that occur during these lawless periods are funny. After a while you eventually reach the conclusion that fraud and bribery is a way of life in Florida.
That's why editors don't like whistle-blowers. When these operations take over, it's the paper's job to tamp down on information which might interfere with government works projects that they deem to be for the good of the community.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:46 AM (0 replies)
We have a good ole boy network in Central Florida that crosses party lines. Many of the convoluted decisions that cities have made in this past that involved land development were based on questionable legal opinions from city attorneys. i.e. these were activist attorneys who were pushing the envelope on sovereignty issues. Some were even involved in pushing a "novel" approach that would have changed land development law, giving cities the power to make decisions over land zoning changes, which at that time was considered quasi-judicial, instead of legislative. These lawyers believed they had immunity, which must have emboldened them. In other words, these lawyers believed that they would not be held legally accountable for their involvement in a land development issue. They were wrong.
It all backfired when a developer who felt targeted by them hired a smart lawyer who not only challenged their immunity claim (and won), but was able to explain, in plain language (so that people assembled at a city meeting could understand) that the city was not following State law. <Footnote 1>
Unfortunately, this developer was not liked by a coterie of ordinary people who had elevated this land zoning issue into a personal fight. Not surprisingly, they assumed the developer was the bad guy and never took the time to understand land zoning laws well enough to A) negotiate better deals and B) understand and accept their legal limitations. In all fairness, the lawyers in the area were not much help. Hard to say whose side they were on, even now.
In the end, the developer prevailed and there was a Mexican stand-off between the corrupt public attorneys and the coterie of people who had turned this whole mess into a personal grudge. They were partly composed of gullible, misled individuals; Republicans/Libertarians who were mentally wired to hate government and just wanted the city to give them what they wanted; and a contingency of thirdway style democrats-neoliberals who forgot that Democrats are supposed to respect government process. <Footnote 2>
The dispute with the developer was resolved with a settlement agreement that gave him two million dollars to go away. The same agreement also contained a confidentiality clause, that I believe became a détente between the attorneys and the community leaders who were most involved in this fracas. These groups, who ordinarily did not like each other, were now bonded to one another because of the need to keep the information tapped down. (Because there were other victims that were not included in the lawsuit.)
Essentially, that confidentiality clause gave the lawyers and the community leaders a chance to start all over. It allowed them to set-up a status quo that was committed to perpetuating a cover-up. This mission has created a surreal situation that rewards people who will take up the mantle to continue a story that at its foundation, is false. You can't do this without the cooperation of several lawyers to back up that "story."
So, enter Charlie Crist. If he had succeeded in becoming our next governor, the people involved with this scandal would have felt reasonably confident that they would not have to worry about legal ramifications. Not that Crist had any role to play in the original antics, but it's the environment of our political system that would have made him rely on the people involved in the fracas because a few of them are rainmakers. To this day they manage to hold onto power because the money they are able to pour into political campaigns provides them with influence.
I am not in anyway saying that this particular local scandal had anything to do with Democrats being turned off by Crist, but I suspect that it is many such governmental collapses that finally wore everybody down.
To get the high ground, Florida Democrats not only have to redefine themselves as the party of reason and fairness, but also have to explain in very simple terms that small government is a cardboard cut-out that people shouldn't fall for. Behind the label, small government is just the same ole backroom cronyistic system that we have all come to associate with good ole boys.
Since people only tend to pay attention when they have something to fear, here is what should concern them: There are people in their communities who are intentionally spreading lies and misinformation. It is this intentional attempt to keep people from learning the truth that is creating a very hostile environment where people feel like they have to form alliances in order to create some semblance of a social life.
I hate to say it, but when I dissect these alliances to determine what binds people together around here, nobody seems to be getting it right.
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Footnote 1: Actually, it was the combination of the explanation from the city's special counselor and the developer's lawyer that painted a curious picture. For background: the city, which appealed to small government types and property rights supporters, were playing out their own sovereign rule experiment, practicing government without an established constitution. <The city never filed a Comprehensive Plan and a couple of its early ex-city attorneys became staunch property rights supporters and welded influence in the community afterwards>. For most of the early decades, the city resolved land development disputes in court and relied on settlement agreements to determine zoning changes. Such was the case with the developer who sued the city and prevailed. Their disagreement cropped out of an early settlement agreement. When the developer submitted conceptual plans for his proposed developments, there were slight adjustments that incensed the community and this opened an opportunity for a coterie of people to organize an attempt to stop his developments.
It marked a change in the city's evolution when the city joined forces with this group of residents who had, in the past, organized efforts to stop city projects. This change would be most noticeable in the way the city argued its case. They hired a special counselor, who after months of research, presented state law requirements that she felt were needed before the city could approve rezonings of the developer's property (even though these rezonings had already been approved through the settlement agreement signed a few years before.) The irony here, is that the special counselor introduced the same legal state requirements that the city had been circumventing for years due to their sovereignty efforts.
When the developer's lawyer's turn came up in that city meeting, he essentially explained that the settlement agreement that they had entered into with the city was, essentially a contract. And in the contract it stated that the city was required to file any necessary paperwork to permit the construction. The claim they would present in court involved estoppel. They would argue that because of this early agreement they had with the city, the city could not now erect road blocks to prevent the construction.
I would have given anything to be in City Hall that day when Republicans in the room must have suddenly understood why it was so important for local government to follow due process. The smart ones would have realized that if the city had properly followed state law there would have been properly noticed meetings for the rezonings where members of the public might have stood a chance to listen to the details in time to develop legal strategies, or attempt better negotiations. Instead, they were always going to be behind the eight ball because many of the city meetings were just set up to approve settlement agreements, where the details had already been hashed out by a select handful of people. This style of select committee groups is how the city still operates to this day.
Footnote 2: Among the people who were most opposed to the developer were individuals who the developer claimed in his complaint, were involved in a conspiracy to interfere with his business. <tortious business interference.> Indeed, there are strong indications that a few were not operating in an unselfish manner. In other words, they stood to benefit from the developer's downfall.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Fri Nov 7, 2014, 05:55 PM (1 replies)
The Orlando Sentinel recognized them in an article that was published many years ago regarding a private organization where many of the community leaders and elected officials were known to come together; and it was suspected that they were talking about topics which probably should remain in a public forum.
The concern over "breakfast meetings" can not be overstated where this practice is still part of the culture. Without public airings of the decision-making process the people who attend the private meetings may be relying on false information to reach agreement between people who generally are on opposing sides of an issue. They may also be nefarious people who agree to scratch someone's back, if they get the same treatment in return.
Once agreement is reached, the rest becomes American Kabuki. By the time the topic turns up in a HOA meeting there may be enough people on board to shout down the residents who weren't privy to the meetings. And one should never pooh-pooh the importance that HOA meetings have in the local decision-making process. If people are properly silenced at the HOA level, there will be no one who will show up at a city meeting to dispute the facts that the city staff presents to elected officials. That's how corrupt decisions fly through the system.
And all of it begins with a breakfast meeting where people come together to decide your community's fate before you even have a chance to get your kids ready for school.
I don't really know what you can do in a small community to stop them. So it becomes a pastime to watch how a third of the community drains out of the development before six on the second Tuesday of each month. Though the day and times will vary.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Tue Sep 23, 2014, 12:28 PM (28 replies)
I'm just going to say that the negative attack ads are going to escalate in the coming days and minorities are going to hear more about positions that did not favor them when he was a Republican Governor. To offset that, he needs to come up with something more tangible than the fact that he hugged Obama. Afterall, what does a picture mean in politics these days when Obama just posed with the Bushies? People, especially minorities, are going to need more outreach. They need to feel like they are as relevant to the Democratic process as Rotary Club members or Chamber of Commerce types are to a right-wing leaning community.
Only, unlike the way Republicans do it, Democrats have to court that vote legally. So, establish a solid platform by coming up with something that breaks through the bullshit. In other words, wow, wouldn't it be wonderful if he were to come out and say what no one ever does? Why not acknowledge the racist good ole boy networks that exist in the State that interfere with the quality of life for minorities; and commit to cleaning up the obstacles that prevent investigations that would get rid of those who rely on "business as usual"?
The opportunities are endless in this backwater State. For example, why not promise to use his Governor position to apply as much pressure as possible on the Florida Bar Association to change their archaic, ineffective format? If they are still requiring a citizen to file a complaint before starting an investigation, this is a bottleneck that needs to be removed because these gang of lawyers know very well where the problems are and should truly self-police by going after the lawyers they know are corrupting the system. It's unfathomable that they still leave it to the least powerful citizen, who knows very little of the law, to venture into this territory when it's loaded with political land mines. It's not an area that minorities will even attempt, though they are often victims of corrupt shenanigans that involve corrupt attorneys. So, Crist can improve the situation by either applying pressure on the Florida Bar to remove this ineffective requirement, especially when we all know that they are aware of where the problems lay.
And if not the Florida Bar, then certainly the State Attorney Offices need to be brought into the 21st Century. Why not start specialized teams that will focus on issues of discrimination and racism? That alone could win him the Governor's office, though the ramifications would have the power elite in Florida shaking in their boots.
Or if he wants to start on a small scale, then he can begin by FORCING the State Attorney's Offices to take public records violations seriously. This agency could have stopped fraud and conspiracies occurring in local government if they had backed common citizens who had problems acquiring records from their city governments.
There are so many things that Crist can do to bring out the minority vote that I really do not feel sorry for him if he thinks he is having trouble motivating them. He needs to think outside the box.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Tue Sep 2, 2014, 11:29 AM (0 replies)
For example, by ignoring State law and rejecting sound growth management, it's possible for local governments to create "white islands" in suburbia. It's not that difficult to do when a city government takes a sovereign rule approach. All they have to do is eliminate multi-family housing and replace the zoning with high valued single family homes. That's just the first step.
The second step involves the segregation of power. That's where the true problems of inequality grow exponentially. It starts when local government develops social relationships with community leaders for the purpose of expediting government programs. You can't do that without the stench of cronyism creeping into the process. Cronyism will undermine equality efforts, every time.
Thirdway is particularly susceptible to cronyism because it's all about developing social relationships with members of a different political strife. Let's just take a closer look at what is happening in communities where Republican policies, like small government, are part of the way of life.
In these communities, there is already a structure in place which is undermining the constitutional rights of many. That is something about small government that few people talk about. They use a process that undercuts Fourteenth Amendment requirements. When Thirdway Democrats concede to Republicans, this what they are participating in. Which is why we need to take a closer look at how small government operates.
What these local governments are doing to curry support for their government programs (which usually involves a program that was hatched in the Economic Development Department) is send emissaries (like a city manager) to private organizations to develop social networks with people they know can cause the city trouble. That's it in a nutshell. The city tries to co-opt the community activists and squeaky wheels. These people will get the kid glove treatment as the city milks these private conversations to determine what is most important to these people. "It might be something you wouldn't even think about." They do this to look for inducements they can use to win these people over.
In Republican areas, we are not talking about private citizens who are altruistic people. We are talking about ruthless business people who believe that there should be something in it for them, regardless of the private organization they belong to. The most obvious shell organization in a local community, from my observation, is the Rotary Club. For all the good things that are produced from that organization, it isn't uncommon to find members who are less than selfless in their private communities. In fact, in my city, in the decade when the city was actively seeking support from members of this organization, there was a strong a correlation between government contracts or job offers with their members. And in the city minutes and tapes it was apparent that Rotary Club members were given details of the city's plans a whole two years before details were made available in a public meeting.
Why should this be problematic? For two reasons. First, because in these organizations you will find members of the community that belong to both parties. And second, the special relationships can and do interfere with the proper execution of the due diligence process. It's criminal, but based on their social relationships, a local government will set aside its constitutional due diligence requirements and accept facts directly from word of mouth. It has happened and it has led to fraud, which has undermined the integrity of an entire community.
When the ruse is discovered, things will only get worse. It is an incredible thing to observe how their social bonds only become stronger once the fraud is exposed. What else can they do but cover each other's back? They were involved in fraud so they resort to the four D's. Deny, Delay, Denigrate and finally, Dummy-up.
That is why Thirdway is so damaging to our communities. Because governments are relying on word of mouth in their fact-finding missions, instead of using sound legal practices. Eventually something will go wrong and suddenly they become a formidable circle of friends and associates which rely on "Systemic Corruption for the sake of self-preservation." ( I didn't come up with that term, but wish I had.) But the point is, that there is no political solution because it involves members from both parties. Voting one party over the other isn't going to make a difference when you have political titans who have discovered that public programs can be pushed forward with the use of graft as inducements. You just have to pick the "right" people.
Inequality is just a by-product of the system. Because many of the private organizations that the local governments are reaching out to are not diverse, it is obvious who is benefiting from these outreach programs. Not to say that I'm looking forward to the day when they do become less homogeneous.
The entire corrupt network needs to be challenged by special prosecutors who will ferret out violations of due process of law that undermines the rights of individuals who are not part of these social networks.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Thu Aug 28, 2014, 07:47 PM (2 replies)
The attorney who is the topic of this article is a right-wing rainmaker. He has a history of developing strong connections with Republican governors--and also has a pattern of forming strong alliances with Democratic politicos who have their own admirable connections. Currently, he works in John Morgan's law firm.
John Morgan is a huge supporter of left-wing causes, though his wife is a registered Republican. President Obama always stops in at the Morgan household when he drops into Central Florida. One of the causes Morgan is currently involved with involves medical marijuana. He recently had a major falling out with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, because Schultz did not support Morgan's medical marijuana bill. But not because she's not in favor of medical marijuana. Instead, she supports a bill that would favor federal regulation.
Now, read this article to at least the fourth paragraph and get a whiff of the convoluted political legal reasoning that is a constant in Central Florida. It takes strong resolve to find a way to remove the baby from the bathwater. Most people stop trying, which is why we are caught in a perpetual political vortex. I would describe our government structure as a plutocratic Thirdway system, which has existed long before the term even became fashionable.
The article below provides clues to how it works.
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Kruppenbacher not part of pot company seeking growing license
Republican fundraiser Frank Kruppenbacher and lobbyist Bill Rubin are not part of a new Orlando company seeking a cannabis-growing license, contrary to what some nurserymen say they are being told.
Area nurserymen and Cerise Naylor, executive director of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, said Tuesday that they have heard from officials of Medical Cannabis Cultivations LLC, telling them they have hired Kruppenbacher, an Orlando attorney with close ties to Gov. Rick Scott, and Rubin, a top South Florida lobbyist.
Naylor and at least two area nurserymen said the company was dropping those two names to persuade them and investors to sign partnerships, Naylor said. But both Kruppenbacher and Rubin denied any involvement in the company, and the company's manager, Ryan Scotson of Orlando, confirmed that Tuesday.
Kruppenbacher and Rubin each said that they had offered Scotson only free advice, not participation.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Wed Jul 2, 2014, 09:11 AM (6 replies)
You can't blame him. It takes a lot to suspend disbelief around here when you follow the political roster. For example, Crist works from the John Morgan law firm--the same John Morgan who President Obama visits whenever he's in town. In the same law firm you will find Frank Kruppenbacher, who was listed in yesterday's paper (Orlando Sentinel) as the 23rd most important person in Central Florida. He's the chair of the Aviation board, where he tried to push through hefty budgets for future construction plans. (I wonder who was going to benefit from all that construction money?) The O.S. reported on the matter, which I'm sure helped bring the budgets down considerably. Mr. Kruppenbacher is a known rainmaker for Republicans. Per the paper he is closely affiliated to Rick Scott. When Crist was Governor, I'm sure he enjoyed some of the donations from donors who responded to Mr. Kruppenbacher's meet and greet emails.
For many of us who have followed Mr. Kruppenbacher's trail of political decisions in the public sector, you can't help wondering if it is this close relationship to Democrats and Republicans that continues to buoy his career. Because seriously, there are some decisions that just boggles the mind.
Personally, my opinion is that this close association between political parties under the same legal roof is a terrible model for lawyers everywhere. It creates conflicts that constipates justice for the rest of us. For example, in a meeting where his client, the city, was wronged by a lawyer (Ross & the dueling Mall issue, '95), Mr. K, who was the city attorney, had to bring in a special attorney to review the matter because Mr. K said he knew lawyers in the same law firm. In other words, he would not personally file a grievance against a lawyer that wronged his client because he knew lawyers who worked in this lawyer's law firm. Do you have any idea what message that sends to the rest of us? It tells me that if a lawyer knows anyone on a directory of a law firm, he will not personally take action against a lawyer who wrongs his client! I don't remember seeing this on the list of rules for Professional ethics for lawyers.
I haven't been able to wrap my head around that one and I've had many years to try. Here's my quandary, if city attorneys aren't turning in questionable attorneys or corrupt elected officials because they have private business they're afraid to jeopardize, then who is left to clean up the corruption? Are they seriously expecting housewives with no financial resources to do all the hard work? No offense but, WTF!
See how crazy our world has become for us in Florida?
So, I'm sure you'll forgive us if many of us have the Chinatown syndrome with Crist, where we alternate between, "He's a Democrat, He's Republican, He's a Democrat, He's a Republican..." We really don't know.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 09:44 AM (0 replies)
It would help to find a lawyer to confirm my conclusions. Meanwhile, I continue to gather documents and that requires filing public record requests. I'm at the stage of needing a lawyer to take it to the next level.
A major step for me is to build a platform. This matter will need to go public before I have any chance in court. This case has several layers and involves a municipality which had a total government breakdown.
It cannot be summarized easily, but I will try, once again. Since the seventies, our local government violated many laws they felt were too intrusive, which is what you would expect from an area that was Republican and leans to the small government format. For example, they ignored state zoning laws and failed to file important documents with the state. One of those documents was an important blueprint for their city, called a Comprehensive Plan. Without this plan it gave the city way too much latitude to resolve conflicts through court settlement agreements, which was a process that usually excluded the public. It was re-zoning by court order. There was one settlement agreement in particular signed in 1991 or 1992, which would become the city attorney's downfall.
In the nineties the residential leaders of a 3500 acre P.U.D. began to organize in order to influence the city's arbitrary process. For example, in the early nineties they organized a massive protest and managed to stop the plans to a grocery store that was zoned by their own P.U.D. In the mid nineties they used the court systems to stop an exit to an overpass that would have connected an expressway with one of their main roads. They did this by hiring an attorney that also represented a private client who was in opposition with the city's agenda. And by 1996, the leaders of this residential area began to win elections. Once elected, they began to use what they learned about the city's corrupt process and would take it further. With the help of their private cronies, lies and/or misinformation were spread in the community to expedite projects that came before their commission. It was a legal mess that involved fraud and conspiracy.
The city attorney was no help because his failings were exposed in the spring of 1997. Once exposed, there was no moral high ground for him to work from. In fact, the mayor would essentially fire him at the end of that year.
Frankly, the city attorney should have faced disciplinary action for the way the city was run under his watch. As a city attorney, he should have counseled the city about the legal jeopardy they were in because they had no Comprehensive Plan to back up their zoning decisions. He was also in trouble because there were at least two major conflicts of interest that involved private clients. This is where he would look the worst (in my opinion), but the elected officials would be given enough rope to hang themselves and it would end up with a Mexican stand-off between him and the corrupt elected officials of that time.
Those elected officials and the community leaders were on shaky ground from the beginning, which makes it curious because they had attorneys they relied on for counsel. Let's just say it leaves room for a lot of speculation when you note that their counselors came from the same law firm as the attorney that the city would bring in as a special counselor. What seems to be obvious in retrospect is that their objective had no chance of prevailing in a federal court, but no one seemed to anticipate that the developer they were fighting against would opt for a federal judge and avoid the local process.
What the community leaders and elected officials were trying to do was exert their rights through the 1991 Settlement Agreement which gave the developer the right to build residential property along designated areas around his private golf course. In that agreement there were conditions that were established. One of them involved the tennis courts on the private Country Club. (And since it was a private Country Club, you can guess who was behind the opposition.) What seemed to be the disquieting factor for this group was the discovery that the settlement agreement was written in a way that gave the developer the right to remove the private tennis courts to build his new properties, but ALSO GAVE HIM THE RIGHT NOT to reconstruct them. And this is where the whole thing began to get nasty. For reasons that I can't explain, no one had picked up on this wording even though the 1991 Initial Settlement Agreement had an amendment change in 1994.
It is important to understand that this was not a David vs. Goliath story. What makes the opposition group less sympathetic, was a devious plan hatched in inside circles that intended to benefit from the developer's misfortune. So, at the same time that the elected officials were exerting their influence to delay the developer's projects, their cronies were taking the initial steps to look for local investors/partners to purchase the bankrupted property. The perception does not look good.
The course of events began in a Planning and Zoning board meeting held in November 1996. With the city attorney's knowledge, the board stalled the project with the excuse that they needed a legal opinion regarding various legal matters before proceeding. As the local leaders were waiting for that opinion, they were also organizing within the community. Most notably, a political HOA group was bringing in ALL the presidents from ALL the HOAs inside of their P.U.D. I couldn't tell you what they discussed in those meetings because my HOA president never called us in for a meeting that year. In fact, in 1997 we didn't even come together to vote in new officers.
From those meetings that were sponsored by the political HOA group only sign-in sheets remain. So I can tell you that our HOA president attended at least two of those President meetings, and another member of my community, ( a friend of the Mayor's), attended the meeting, identifying himself as a realtor.
The legal opinion that the city was awaiting would finally arrive in the spring of 1997 and it was obvious (to me) that it was a delay tactic. The opinion stated that the developer had to file state zoning amendments before they would even consider his plans. I mean, how could the city require these time-consuming filings, when it did not have a solid foundation of filing the proper paperwork with the state? The city had a small government mentality and had a track record of doing things their own way. It would have been easy to expose their arbitrary nature in court.
Everything began to fall apart for the city when the plaintiff's lawyer turned up in a city commission meeting that took place in April of 1997. He pointed out that the 1991 Settlement Agreement was a contract that essentially made the city and the developer partners because it was the city's responsibility to file any necessary filings. That was clearly stated. If there was any paperwork required, the city had the obligation to file it. This is something the city attorney should have known since he represented the city when the 1991 Settlement Agreement was put together. But all this time he had stayed mum about that fact, and in the meantime he had brought in law firm in after law firm as special counselors, and they would eventually become co-defendants with the city. With all these legal minds brought in to represent the city's side, this would later make it near impossible for any ordinary person to locate a lawyer in the area, who wasn't touched by this conflict. (A further complication was finding lawyers who would not volunteer the fact that they had a conflict of interest.)
In the case filed by the developer, a federal judge would render a ruling in the summer of 1998 which would be interpreted by the city's litigators that the plaintiff prevailed in making a case for estoppel. In other words, by signing that 1991 Initial Agreement the city had made promises to the developer, so now the city must be stopped from adding additional requirements and the commission should approve his projects.
All this would reflect badly on the city attorney, but he would not go down alone. He ratted out the elected officials, giving the litigators enough information to confirm there was a conspiracy perpetuated by the elected officials which had undermined the developer's rights. Before this information became public, the litigators quickly closed the case with a two million dollar settlement which also contained a confidentiality clause.
That confidentiality clause allowed the elected officials to complete out their terms and win their next elections. It also allowed their cronies to get away with "a story" that included fraud. That fraud involved one of the developments that the developer had tried to develop. It was the final phase of the development that I lived in. The Mayor's buddy, who lived in my development, had lied to us from the beginning and deprived us of our legal standing when the final phase of our development went up for city review in 1998--about the same time that the federal judge was making her initial judgment. Ten years earlier the Mayor's buddy had signed the papers that turned our Association over to us and gave us control of our own Association. But he kept this information to himself. Instead, he convinced us that we had no legal standing and that our best chance of winning concessions from the new developer was to forgo a replat of the property. He claimed that our leverage would come from saving the developer time and money. As it would turn out, the replat would have also exposed his fraud.
I am not naive. I know there were older residents in the community who must have known he was lying, but they kept this to themselves.
In other words, many of us were as much victimized as the developer who won a two million dollar settlement agreement from the city and its co-defendants.
Since then, the bonds between the co-conspirators have strengthened over the years, creating a dual society. One is bound to keep the secret, and is rewarded for that effort; and the rest of us are left to play the "I got mine, you get yours" game, or we live our lives short of the promises of the American dream.
Through every step of the methods they use in this city, you will find several examples that would support a case for RICO.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Sat Oct 19, 2013, 01:19 PM (1 replies)
When you are trying to pin down the causes of corruption, you have to recognize the social dynamics that are peculiar to the region. There are factors that are peculiar to Seminole County that may not be found anywhere else. For example, here, in the mid eighties, a strong anti-government organization formed under the guise of property rights interests. Among them were lawyers and judges. They either owned land, or were developers, or some combination thereof. That had a major impact on the course of events that followed. Through their private, monthly barbecue meetings a good ole boy network was allowed to take hold in this place. In those meetings local key players were able to mingle with state congressional hopefuls. Perhaps this was the beginning of the meets and greets. Perhaps this was a vetting arena to determine who was a political friendly, and who was not. The point is, that it happened with little attention from the press. This was occurring through the eighties and nineties when the internet was not yet a factor, and camera phones were not as prominent as they are today.
Lots went on without attention from the press in those days. In my city alone there was an attempt to take on a developer who had a firm vested interest in a certain private property. It was property that a special interest group did not want to see developed. What happened would have been comical, if it weren't for the way it affected so many people in such a negative manner. The city, which never before paid attention to State regulations, suddenly wanted to use them to require land amendment changes that would have delayed and bankrupt the developer. That would have made the powerful local forces of the time, happy. The problem they had, was that good ole boy city attorneys didn't leave them much to work with.
I can see now why the case was quickly settled. Anyone who looked at the case closely and examined the evidence would have seen all kinds of implausible legal reasoning. The city's big legal strategy was to keep the venue to a county courtroom where they hoped to get a local judge that everybody knew was prejudiced in their favor. That's how good ole boys think. It's a lot of pseudo law mixed in with a lot of bravado. However, the whole case fell apart when the plaintiff sued them in FEDERAL court. When it became obvious that minor details, such as legal malpractice, was about to go public, everything was settled quickly with a two million dollar settlement and a confidentiality clause.
That confidentiality clause has wronged a great many people because it has kept them victimized by the local circumstances; as it has also allowed the wrong-doers to continue with careers that should have come to an abrupt end in the nineties.
So, again, I disagree with you. To pretend that all corruption is exactly the same, is to lose the small nuances that allow us to find a wedge where we can begin to open the tight shell that is giving them shelter. In my case, it might involve lawyers who have a stake in past wrong-doings. In another area of Florida, it might involve another kind of government collapse. In sum, I think it would be wrong to try to broad-brush these things, because it would have the negative effect of creating a feeling of defeat before we even get started.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Fri Sep 6, 2013, 04:44 PM (1 replies)
In this community, cronyism has been institutionalized. The cross-over between the private and public sector is not just blurred, it's non-existent. In the past our city has promoted real estate ventures which have not followed the appropriate public airing, which means a select group within the community were following business ventures that most people in the community didn't even realize had government backing. It didn't help that many of them took leadership positions where they were in the best place to steer their neighbors in the direction that followed the city's agenda, without divulging too much information about the illegitimate ties.
This is what I noticed: Corruption, when it becomes endemic to a community, keeps the people who are part of that crooked network energized and engaged. For some, it keeps them looking young, though many of them are hitting their eighties. You would think that losing peace of mind would eventually sap someone of their strength, but I swear, it's like a youth potion for some.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 12:19 PM (7 replies)