Saturday, February 24, 2007

wcbstv.com - KFC Rats Still Talk Of Greenwich Village--municipal government (in)action!
The Health Department had cited this dump numerous times for live rats all over the place but left it open. KFC/Taco Bell (remember the Taco Bell e. coli outbreak?) obviously knew or should have known the place was a rat carnival. Now that the local TV station has filmed and broadcast the rodent festivities, and the video is all over the world, the city and the mega-corporation and the New York restaurant industry flacks are telling us how high their standards are. Right. Scroll down to the bottom and see what an ex-employee had to say:

Marcus Bonner said he used to work at this chain and would often see rodents coming inside. "That's where the rats come from, there's a hole in the back where the garbage is," Bonner said. "There's a hole about three-to-four inches wide. So easy they just walk through. They don't have to squeeze through. "I quit because it was nasty. They don't use gloves to make the food. They use the same grease day after day after day. At night, the manager told me to put the chairs up. We don't sweep; we don't mop. So that's what the rats are eating off, the stuff that's left on the floors."


To me, the moral of the story is that sometimes an industry works out a cozy relationship with government that allows the industry to, shall we say, underperform. The public doesn't know how bad things are until something really awful happens and the media finds out about it. Until then, it is business as usual. And if somebody starts asking for more regulation of the industry, in this case restaurants, the industry will swear up and down that this time they have really, really, learned their lesson, and they can handle the whole thing internally.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES : The perfect shock: Condo dreams turn into nightmares with $100,000 special assessments

Thanks to Dick Simpson for giving me this. I keep telling people to watch out for huge special assessments in the years to come. Check this one out:

About 100 condo owners at two renovated buildings...have faced special assessments as high as $100,000 apiece to pay for damage they say is caused by shoddy construction. The two condominium buildings are undergoing a total of $7 million in repairs, and their boards have filed lawsuits asking the developers to take responsibility for alleged construction defects. A legal expert says the jaw-dropping extra assessments result from a perfect storm of condo conversion circumstances: A lack of oversight by the city, buyers with stars in their eyes and little information and developers who claim they have no assets to correct defects after they sell the condos.

FOXNews.com - Connecticut Woman May Win Battle for Old Glory -
EAST WINDSOR, Conn. — The Connecticut condominium association that asked the mother of a National Guardsman to remove her flags and flagpole will allow the woman to keep Old Glory flying if she moves her flagpole from the center of her lawn, FOXNews.com learned Wednesday.

Senate OKs 'home for sale' sign right
Here's some legislative action from Arizona:

PHOENIX — Homeowners hoping to find a buyer won't have to keep their offering a secret from passing traffic, regardless of homeowner association rules, under the terms of legislation approved Monday by the state Senate. On a 28-1 vote, senators agreed to give would-be sellers the unfettered right to put signs on their own properties. The measure, SB 1062, now goes to the House.
New York House - Can homeowner association bar worship at its clubhouse? Religious group alleges fair-housing violation

Unless and until state constitutional protections apply to large HOAs, banning religious activity in the common areas probably will be allowed. The Twin Rivers case could begin to change that.

Until 2004 the Savanna Club Worship Service Inc. conducted its worship services in the Savanna Homeowners Association clubhouse or common areas. But the homeowner association received numerous complaints from its members regarding use of the common areas for religious services. One of the reasons for the complaints was such usage was contrary to the stated purpose of making the common areas available for use and enjoyment of the members of the association. After receiving numerous complaints, the association conducted an informal vote of its members. They voted 714 to 434 to prohibit religious services in their common areas. As a result, the association adopted a rule that "No portion of the common areas of Savanna Club may be used for any religious service." Following enactment of the rule, the worship club continued holding its services. But the homeowner association filed a court petition for mediation. Following mediation, the club stopped holding its religious services in the common areas. The worship club then brought this lawsuit against the Savanna Club Homeowners Association, alleging the rule barring religious services violates the federal Fair Housing Act. If you were the judge would you rule the homeowner association rule barring religious services in the common areas violates the Fair Housing Act?

The judge said no!



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Investigation: Money Missing From Condo Association Funds - News
Thanks to Nancy Levy for this link. There have been many such cases over the years, and we can expect more.

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio -- Hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing from condo association funds across northeast Ohio, NewsChannel5 reported. In an exclusive report, Carolina Leid said the FBI is investigating a local business and its owners. MultiVest Management works with condo associations in seven counties. Leid reported that the money associations paid toward keeping their properties maintained is gone.
Humans' beef with livestock: a warmer planet | csmonitor.com
They don't want much, these global warming folks. All we have to do is abandon our cars and walk everywhere, live in the dark, and switch from meat to mung bean burgers. It would be a lot like the Middle Ages, except without the roast beef.

As Congress begins to tackle the causes and cures of global warming, the action focuses on gas-guzzling vehicles and coal-fired power plants, not on lowly bovines. Yet livestock are a major emitter of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. And as meat becomes a growing mainstay of human diet around the world, changing what we eat may prove as hard as changing what we drive.

Inman Real Estate News - Condos: the good, the bad, the ugly
Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for the link to this promo for a book, "Tips and Traps When Buying a Condo, Co-op, or Townhouse, Second Edition" by Robert Irwin. Here's an interesting excerpt:

This ultra-complete book uses many pages warning about the negatives of cooperative apartment buildings, found mostly in New York, Chicago, Florida and a few California cities. The huge negative of the board of directors' inquisition approval or disapproval of prospective co-op buyers and renters, Irwin warns, holds down the market value of co-ops compared to equivalent condominiums that do not require approval of prospective buyers. As the current and previous owner of several condominiums, Irwin shamelessly shows his battle scars from dealing with boards of directors and architectural committees. He warns condo buyers to read the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions), by-laws and rules before purchase, but don't think you can change these limitations after you buy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Link to the Twin Rivers argument
I had an email from Frank Askin, attorney for the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers. He is still optimistic about the eventual outcome of the case, and so am I. Here is a link to the oral argument, if you haven't heard it. Just scroll down to the Twin Rivers link.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Here's the appellate court link for Pratt v. McMahon
Thanks to Fred Pilot for tracking this down. This Pratt v. McMahon is one of numerous appellate court matters involving the McMahons. I think there are three underlying lawsuits that have given rise to numerous appellate court case numbers. The ones that say "McMahon v. Superior Court" are probably writs. That would mean there was an adverse ruling short of final judgment, and the McMahons appealed from that ruling while the case was still pending in the trial court. So there aren't as many cases at it appears. Each writ would have its own case number, even if they all came from the same underlying lawsuit. Note that the law firm of Peters & Freedman has sued the McMahons as well, and that one is in the appellate courts. So two law firms (P & F and attorney Pratt) have sued them. The McMahons took a a writ up from some ruling in that case on May of 2006 that was denied. I think it was a SLAPP motion. The current appeal, having to do with denial of the SLAPP motion, was filed by the McMahons in November of 2006. The docket shows that the McMahons want more time to file briefs.

Case Summary
Trial Court Case: 06CC01968
Court of Appeal Case: G038236
Division: 3
Case Caption: Pratt v. McMahon et al.
Case Type: Civil
Filing Date: 02/08/2007
Oral Argument Date/Time:
Cross Referenced Cases
G013464 Palacio Del Mar Homeowner Assn v. Superior Court et al.
G028742 Palacio Del Mar Homeowners Assoc. v. McMahon et al.
G034741 McMahon et al. v. The Superior Court of California et al.
G034993 McMahon et al. v. Orange County Superior Court et al.
G035129 McMahon et al. v. Orange County Superior Court et al.
G035705 McMahon et al. v. Orange County Superior Court et al.
G035713 McMahon et al. v. The Superior Court of California et al.
G037017 McMahon et al. v. The Superior Court of California et al.
G037871 Peters & Freedman, LLP v. McMahon et al.
Speculation about a possible explanation for the disappearance of AHRC?
I do not know if any of the following explains why the American Homeowners Resource Center has been down, but for what it's worth, Fred Pilot sent me this link to the Edgewater Isle website that suggests there is a defamation suit against Elizabeth and Arnold McMahon (the folks behind AHRC). The site also speculates that this lawsuit may be the reason the AHRC site is down. I don't know if that's what happened (see below). The Edgewater Isle page has links to (1) a cached AHRC article about Jeffrey Pratt; (2) a screen shot of that article; and (3) a page from the Orange County, CA, Superior Court web docket about the Pratt v. McMahon lawsuit.

I assume the McMahons and/or Mr. Pratt can confirm or deny it in pretty short order, and if there is any correction to be made I will do so.

UPDATE: I checked the Banner site for the OC Superior Court, Civil Division. The Plaintiff in case no. 06CC01968 is Jeffrey R. Pratt, who is representing himself. The Defendants are Elizabeth and Arnold McMahon, and they are represented by attorney Philip A. Putman. The case was filed on 1/6/06. There was a hearing on a SLAPP motion on 1/17/07. That must have been brought by the McMahons--SLAPP means "strategic lawsuit against public participation," and such motions are brought by defendants to dismiss cases that are allegedly filed to silence their voices on public issues.

Then you see a notice of appeal (2/8/07) filed by Elizabeth McMahon and a request to prepare a transcript (2/14/07). That seems to indicate that the lawsuit is over or that some major issue has been decided, and the McMahons lost and either are appealing a final judgment or taking an interlocutory appeal on a major issue (the SLAPP motion, for example). Without more detail I can't be certain, but going just off the docket, that's what it looks like. Again, the McMahons or Mr. Pratt can correct me on this if I'm wrong.

Now, what was the judgment from which they are appealing? And does that judgment have anything to do with the disappearance of AHRC? It might take a trip to the courthouse in Orange County to sort that out, and being here in Chicago I guess I'll leave that to somebody else.

You can get this info and more on the attorney who I think must be the correct Mr. Pratt at www.lawyers.com. He appears to be a solo practitioner who does HOA law, among other things.

Jeffrey R. Pratt, Attorney at Law
3636 Nobel Drive, Suite 200
San Diego, California 92122

Jeffrey R. Pratt, Attorney at Law practices in the following areas of law:
Civil Litigation and Trial Practice, Real Estate and Real Property, Business Litigation, Construction, Homeowner Association Disputes.
Firm Profile:
Experienced litigator and solo practitioner, dedicated to providing effective legal solutions and personalized service.
Firm Size: 1


Again, I invite comment or correction--I'm just trying to advance the story with what I know.