Saturday, November 01, 2014

Lawyers in HOA scheme request trial be moved from Las Vegas | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Lawyers in HOA scheme request trial be moved from Las Vegas | Las Vegas Review-Journal

See the story immediately below for what has prompted this motion. The Review-Journal just published a bombshell of a story:

"Lawyers for defendants charged in the scheme to take over Las Vegas-area homeowners associations want the high-profile Feb. 23 trial moved out of Las Vegas. In federal court papers filed late Thursday, lawyers for Las Vegas attorney Keith Gregory said he can’t get a fair trial because of the mass of ongoing “prejudicial” media coverage of the case, primarily from the Las Vegas Review-Journal."

Journalistic Bombshell: Target of Las Vegas HOA investigation detailed scheme, bribes in secret documents | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Target of Las Vegas HOA investigation detailed scheme, bribes in secret documents | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Benzer is the alleged "mastermind" of the whole scheme. This report is explosive and Benzer's attorneys went to court to stop the Las Vegas Review-Journal from publishing it.  Read it and see how ridiculously easy it is for somebody with money to take over an HOA board.

update: I read the motion Benzer's lawyer filed and this is how the timeline unfolded:

On August 5, one of the co-defendants, Benzer's former attorney Keith Gregory, filed a motion to sever his trial from Benzer's. Then on September 16, Gregory's attorneys filed this previously-secret document in support of the motion, consisting of a report of Benzer's confidential talks with the prosecution in which he explained how the scheme worked. The plea talks fell through, and the statements can't be used against Benzer, but they are very damaging to any defendant. For example,  here is how reporter Jeff German relates some statements about Keith Gregory:
Benzer, 47, admitted he gave his personal lawyer, Keith Gregory, a $10,000 bribe for work on the HOA takeover at the Vistana condominium complex in southwest Las Vegas. Gregory is also under indictment. Benzer recalled paying Gregory from his personal account “as a ‘thank you’ for ‘working with us.’ “When questioned as to exactly what he meant by thank you and whether the payment was more accurately described as a bribe payment, Benzer advised that the term bribe was ‘your language’ and he didn’t like to use that term, but that the answer was ‘basically yes,’ ” reads one report.
Gregory's attorney asked the court to keep the documents under seal and mistakenly also thought that the government would agree to keeping them secret, but instead the US Attorney's office opposed keeping them secret.

So, on September 17, the court unsealed the documents. The next day, Gregory's attorneys made a motion to withdraw the documents, and asked the court to seal them.  The court agreed on September 19, and sealed and struck them from the record.

But it was too late, because during the few days when the documents were in the record of the case, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German obtained a copy.  German has been all over this story like a blanket.

On October 30, the defense attorneys learned that German was doing a story on the secret documents. They went to court that day and filed a motion (you can read it on the LVRJ story that I linked to--the whole motion is there) asking the court to stop the publication. A "prior restraint" on publication is almost never justified, so I don't think it would have been granted, but in any event it is too late for any court to stop the publication.  The story is out and you can read it for yourself.

Homeless women to stay in Frisco home for now after HOA loses motion | Dallas Morning News

Homeless women to stay in Frisco home for now after HOA loses motion | Dallas Morning News

"MCKINNEY — A transitional living program for homeless young women will be allowed for now to continue operating in a Frisco neighborhood. District Judge Jill Willis ruled Friday that a Frisco homeowners association failed to meet its burden for temporary injunctive relief. The PR2 Homeowners Association had sought to keep the nonprofit City House from moving more women into its home while a civil case is pending. Two women and one child live there now. The case filed by the HOA against City House continues. No trial date has been set. Chad Robinson, who represents the HOA board for the Plantation Resort 2 community, declined to comment after the ruling. He said he needed to consult with his clients. Robinson argued during Friday’s hearing that the HOA’s deed restrictions require that homes be used for single-family residential purposes only. He said single-family use means people who are related by blood or by law. Texas courts have also allowed other limited uses, such as nannies or an incidental renter. He argued that City House’s transitional living program for up to eight women was not a single-family residential use."


So this looks like an HOA-flavored NIMBY dispute. The people who want to keep out the "undesirables" have CC&Rs to use as their legal lever.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Myrtle Beach area HOA owners complain
Guess what? There was another public meeting about possible legislation at which people living in HOAs and condos complained about developers and board members making their lives miserable.
If I am reading all this correctly, they can be assured that more legislative tinkering will take place at some point in the near future.  That is all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Developer buys scores of Detroit's worst houses in $3.2million 'blight bundle'

"Anywhere else, a property developer who buys a bundle of foreclosed houses, abandoned factories and disused churches for a mere $500 a piece would be hailed as a genius.
But this is Detroit. And Herb Strather's $3.2million purchase of 6,350 homes is being called foolhardy.  To be sure, there are plenty of gems in the city's 'blight bundle.' A 170,00-square-foot factory that's still in good shape, a three-story brick home built in 1915 that most recently sold for $185,000, a lovely Tudor-style house that's ready to move into and a five-bedroom that simply needs a new roof.  But city officials tell the Detroit News that 2,000 of the properties are vacant lots. More than 3,000 will need to be torn down immediately...The city put strenuous rules on the buys of the 'blight bundle' requiring the buyer to either demolish and clean up all 6,350 properties within the next six months or offer a development plan. 'Now what we have to do is find out if indeed this group is serious about taking on such a task. And if they're willing to do so, we're willing to listen,' Wayne County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski told the Huffington Post. 
And at an estimated cost of $10,000 for each demo, the development group could have to pay up to $30 million just to clear the ground--almost ten times their current investment. Is that how things will unfold, or is there a plan to cherry-pick the nicest properties and profit from them piecemeal?  The city is looking at major redevelopment, but private investors may well be thinking about making money off the good stuff.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Flagpole fight attracts attention of Hancock County prosecutor - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Flagpole fight attracts attention of Hancock County prosecutor - 13 WTHR Indianapolis: HANCOCK COUNTY - There's a new twist in a veteran's fight to keep his flagpole despite threats by his homeowners association. The homeowner says it stands for freedom, but the homeowners association says it violates policy.

The story generated hundreds of comments on WTHR's social media pages. Now it appears the prosecutor in Hancock County could join the front yard feud with a civil lawsuit.

The neighborhood association claimed the flagpole violated the covenants there. They are allowed on the house but not on a flagpole.

This is the first known instance of a local prosecutor jumping into an HOA flag flap amid the usual negative media attention and public comment directed at the HOA. According to the report, the prosecutor's office is giving the HOA until November 1st to back down.

Worst abuse of adhesion contracts ever?

Jimmy John's makes the kids who slap sandwiches together sign a non-competition agreement that effectively makes them unemployable in the  fast food industry for two years after they quit.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Armored vehicle helps collect civil judgment in small town

Armored vehicle helps collect civil judgment in small town

"When officials in the tiny Town of Stettin in Marathon County went to collect a civil judgment from 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner this month, they sent 24 armed officers. And an armored military vehicle."
The police chief says that while Mr. Hoeppner was not known to be violent, he was "argumentative."  That's why the police are not apologetic for this ludicrous show of military force. The old police motto "To Protect and Serve" only makes sense these days if you realize that the police are protecting and serving themselves much of the time.