Saturday, October 14, 2006

Struck A Nerve

Seems like my post entitled Southard Street Gambit got at least one resident's attention. Whoever the anonymous poster is, he or she is gung-ho TAMPOA Board. They and their allies deserve to be a bit skittish these days. Let's hope they really can pocket the arrogance and settle the dispute with the City. If the negotiators are able to cut a deal, let's hope that the City Commissioners will have the good sense to go along and back up Commissioner Verge -- well, even if it is Key West, we can still hope.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another Nail In The Truman Annex Image

Not everyone thinks the City is without fault in the Southard Street dispute. Truman Annex resident, David Lybrand, is one of them. Though we disagree with him, he is entitled to his opinion headlined "City of Key West taking advantage of a good neighbor" that appeared as a Guest Commentary in The Key West Citizen on Sunday, October 8, 2006. Unfortunately, while perhaps unintended, his words came across in the same condescending patronizing manner that has been characteristic of the TAMPOA Board communications.

His Guest Commentary added another nail to the coffin containing the image of Truman Annex and stirs an already boiling pot. Regrettably, his words have reinforced the already rampant notion that folks who live here in the Annex are a bunch of rich, arrogant, patronizing, condescending, classist, brats who don't care about anything or anybody except their million dollar houses and getting their own way.

Certainly the timing of the Guest Commentary could not have been worse. TAMPOA and the City, as we reported Saturday, are about to embark on a new round of settlement discussions. Neither side needed a such a condesending and patronizing prelude to the difficult negotiations ahead.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

City Eyes New Settlement Talks With TAMPOA

Key West City Commissioner, Bill Verge, has written to TAMPOA Board President, Tom Tukey, telling him that on Wednesday, October 4, 2006, Verge had been "officially appointed as the new liaison between the Commission and TAMPOA." Verge contacted Tukey, who is not in Key West, on Thursday morning, October 5. Verge said that on Tuesday, when he returns from a short vacation, he will initiate a new round of settlement discussions over Southard Street.

"We'll get together and continue the settlement talks and see if we can't reach some agreement before the lawyers get life estates from all of this," Verge wrote.

TAMPON In Paradise Satire

We enjoyed David's Sloan's satire (page 4 of the September 28, 2006, edition of Paradise) in which he used our accronym, TAMPON. Fortunately, we were here long before the mythical organization in David's article. And besides, we're the good guys. We don't agree with the way the TAMPOA Board has handled the Southard Street matter, and we've told them so.

To be fair, David probably didn't know about this blog, but he does now. We heard some of our readers set him straight. Keep the tongue in cheek, David. We like your stuff!

Friday, October 06, 2006

TAMPOA Directors Send Letter To Residents

The TAMPOA Board of Directors has sent another long letter trying to explain its actions over the past few weeks to the residents of Truman Annex. The letter was written on October 5, 2006 and was sent today by email to TAMPOA members. We are publishing this letter unedited, just as we did with the last letter the Board sent out. In the interest of dialogue, we invite your posts and comments. The letter reads:

The Truman Annex Master Property Owners’ Association, Inc.
201 Front Street, Suite 103 Key West, Florida 33040
305/296-0556 305/293-0251 facsimile

October 5, 2006

Dear TAMPOA Member:

Much has transpired in the past two weeks. Here is a very brief summary of events and actions.

Approximately three weeks ago, on advice of counsel, we established a checkpoint at the guardhouse. The Board of Directors set policy for the guards to ask for names and destinations. We denied no one access. The purpose was to clearly establish control of Southard Street in order to avoid a possible attempt to claim waiver of our rights by the City. The point has now been made and we will allow passage without identification until the issue is decided in court.

On Thursday, September 21st, a group confronted a guard at the guardhouse. We believe that our guard was assaulted and we also believe that several public officials, and possibly others, may have involved themselves in actions that are in defiance of Florida Sunshine laws. Based on that we have filed an assault complaint with the State’s Attorney and we also have filed a comprehensive civil complaint against the officials who may have been involved. We have done this to protect our security staff and to defend our legitimate property rights. We have also done this to ensure that local officials continue to operate in the “sunshine”. The civil portion of the complaint is a thirty four page document and you may request an emailed copy from the office, 305-296-0556 Please read it. It is the best summary of the City’s malfeasance and our good faith attempts at resolution.

On Sunday, September 24th, a group of about seventy five to a hundred persons demonstrated on Southard Street. We believe that a permit was illegally granted to trespass on our private property. In the long-term interests of our members we can not allow the illegal takeover of private property and we have asked the court to grant an injunction against further illegal incursions until this matter is decided in court. The court did not agree that our request for an injunction against further public demonstrations on Southard Street is an emergency so it will be heard in several weeks. And although the judge stated that if the Bahama Village Consortium were to enter this issue now he would not allow them, but inasmuch as they had been accepted previously as an intervener he would allow them to have their day in court along with both TAMPOA and the City. Again, you may request a copy of this from the office.

On Tuesday, September 26th, the court refused to accept the City’s contention that our pending case for specific performance/breach of contract against the City should be dismissed. This is a preliminary but important win for us because it brings this issue closer to a rational conclusion. Our pleading, in essence, requests that the court enforce our legitimate traffic contract. The City must now respond in writing and in court to our contention that we own Southard Street and that we have a legitimate contract. You may also request a copy of the Judge’s order quashing the City’s motions from the office.

We should also note here that we have done exhaustive research that verifies our clear title to all the streets in the Annex.

In support of our position, and in recognition that both misinformation and lack of information is rampant in the public and the papers, we have run informational ads in the local papers. We are confident that the public will more fully appreciate our position and the justice of our actions if they are given more information. We also believe that public opinion may positively affect both judicial proceedings and settlement possibilities. You may also receive a copy of this information from the office.

On Sunday, October 1st, The Citizen published much more information and photographs of the gatehouse incident. It is a significant change of direction by this paper in favor of TAMPOA. Evidently they have come to understand that some of their reporting and coverage has not been entirely objective and we are pleased to see progress in that sector. Please read the October 1st Sunday paper cover story and editorial on-line at It is not entirely positive but it encourages the City to come to the resolution which the board approved many months ago.

This summary may not answer all your questions but we encourage a careful reading of the information that is available from the office. They will provide all necessary detail. They are lengthy but they are reflective of the enormous amount of background time and work that has been the responsibility of your directors. It is best for each member to apprise themselves of this information before coming to opinions. Not all members agree with our actions thus far but most do. We welcome your opinions, pro or con, but try to give us specific, productive suggestions.

We close by simply stating that all directors and staff are intimately involved with the events of the past few weeks. We have made countless and lengthy contacts with City officials and will continue to work diligently, as we have over the past several years, to achieve a fair resolution to this very important issue. We will continue to accept and consider all reasonable suggestions and assistance.

YOU can help by calling in your support to the Citizen’s Voice 305-294-5800, Commissioner Verge 305-809-3845 and Mayor McPherson 305-809-3840 and urge that they seek resolution.


Board of Directors, TAMPOA

Thursday, October 05, 2006

TAMPOA Board Raises Assessments

At its meeting on Monday, October 2, 2006, the TAMPOA Board decided to raise assessments again for Truman Annex residents. They will have to pay another special assessment to cover TAMPOA's unpaid legal fees and to continue to fund its litigation activity. The Board has no money to pay its attorney, Bill Andersen, and owes him almost $100,000. Andersen has told the Board the money is overdue. However, the Board can't require the assessments to be paid immediately (as the Board wanted to do) because there is a procedure it must follow that requires notice to TAMPOA members and an opportunity to comment.

The procedure under the TAMPOA bylaws contemplates a deliberative process in which the Board will hear from its constituents before it decides to raise assessments. However the Board views that as a mere formality and has already decided (without a dissenting vote) to raise assessments.

Truman Annex residents will get their formal notice of the intent to raise assessments shortly. The Board wants to have the money in hand by December. The assessment, payable in December, will likely be as high as $300 for each unit in the Annex. More special assessments are coming because the Southard Street litigation is in its early stages according to several Board members and attorneys familiar with the matter.

The December assessment will be in addition to the $600 in special assessments the residents have already paid this year. These special assessments are in addition to the regular assessments (one of which is due in October) that the residents must pay quarterly. The largest of the regular assessments is due in January, 2007.

If you're a Truman Annex resident, prepare to cut back on your holiday giving. You'll be funding the excesses of the TAMPOA Board instead.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

TAMPOA Is Broke!

TAMPOA owes Attorney Bill Andersen almost $100,000.00, according to the Treasurer's report discussed at the October 2, 2006 TAMPOA Board meeting. The bill has not been paid, and Andersen has told TAMPOA the money is overdue. We have also learned that TAMPOA also owes a substantial sum to another attorney and has not paid him. TAMPOA does not have the money to pay its bills from Andersen and still meet all of its other obligations, including the preservation of its emergency funds necessary for hurricane cleanup. TAMPOA will have to borrow the money or raise Annex resident's assessments.

The Board has already paid Andersen about $250,000.00 in connection with the Southard Street controversy. According to TAMPOA Board sources, most of the additional $100,000.00 is owed for "research."

Andersen has charged TAMPOA more than $350,000.00 so far this year. The TAMPOA Board was given an estimate that the Southard Street contract litigation would cost at least $500,000.00. This information was not shared with the Annex residents before the litigation was begun. With no end to the litigation in sight, the cost of Andersen's services could reach that amount by the end of the year.

According to the TAMPOA Board, Truman Annex residents are individually liable for the legal bills the Board has incurred, even if residents sell their home and move from the Annex. The Board has not furnished copies any of TAMPOA's legal bills nor their precise amounts to Truman Annex residents.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Southard Street Gambit

Now TAMPOA has requested a judge to issue an injunction to keep city officials off the TAMPOA property. This request is the result of the September 21, 2006 confrontation that occurred at the Southard Street "guardhouse" entrance to Truman Annex when City Commissioners Clayton Lopez, Mark Rossi, and Bill Verge along with City Manager Julio Avael refused to identify themselves to TAMPOA security guard, Michael Geary. The police were called, and Police Chief Bill Mauldin told Geary to remove a sign proclaiming "limited access" to Truman Annex that was causing traffic to back up and block Thomas Street. The security guard has claimed that Commissioner Lopez assaulted him. TAMPOA's attorney, Bill Anderson, told the Key West Citizen that the TAMPOA Operations Manager and Geary had reported the incident to the State Attorney's Office. According to the Key West Citizen, the State Attorneys Office is investigating the incident.

In its request for an injunction TAMPOA is accusing the three City Commissioners of violating the Florida Sunshine Laws that bar elected officials from privately discussing matters they might vote on, and is accusing Commissioner Lopez of assaulting the security guard.

TAMPOA Attorney Bill Anderson says, "I find all of this very distasteful, very counterproductive and very unfortunate." You've got that right, Bill, especially if you include the request for injunction. In fact, it seems down right silly.

Consider the logic: Three City commissioners violate the Sunshine Laws No one knows whether they did this on TAMPOA property (since it's not clear who owns Southard Street), but let's suppose they did. Therefore, a judge should enjoin them from coming on TAMPOA property. Really? How will preventing the Commissioners from coming on TAMPOA property prevent future violations of the Sunshine Laws?

Oh, we're sorry, it's not really about the Florida Sunshine Laws? It's about the alleged assault by City Commissioner Lopez. Well, what evidence is there that he assaulted anyone? As we all know, among other things, injunctions are designed to prevent a future violation of the law proven to have been violated. So, one thing, Bill, you may have to show is that a future violation, that is, an assault on a TAMPOA security guard will be likely if City Officials come on TAMPOA property. Assuming, hypothetically, that Lopez assaulted the guard, is there any evidence that he will do it again and therefore entitle TAMPOA to an injunction? In fact, since you don't want this injunction just against Lopez but against City Officials what evidence is there that when City Officials come on TAMPOA property there will be an assault on a security guard? And while you're thinking about that one, isn't there a little matter of the clean hands doctrine? Our legal eagles tell us that one of the things a judge can consider is whether the party seeking the injunction is blameless. Is TAMPOA blameless here?

Oh, we're sorry, the request for an injunction is really not about any of those things either? So, is it about keeping the parties talking or providing yet another forum in which to have a discussion about settlement of the Southard Street dispute and another shot at mediation? Not really?

So, is it about leverage, politics, and bargaining chits? Partly? Well that's an interesting negotiating strategy: Thoroughly piss off three of the five City Commissioners and then expect them to vote for any agreement involving your client TAMPOA that may come before the City Commission EVER. You sure didn't learn that at the Harvard Negotiation Project.

Oh, that's not really it either? Then, could it be about plain old nastiness, nose tweaking, revenge, or even (heaven forbid) TAMPOA's thoughtlessness? Not a chance? Really? Then what?

Oh, that? We're sorry, we should have guessed sooner. We should have known it's about the money. We forgot one of the legal commandments: "If there is any money to be obtained, make sure the lawyer gets the bulk of it."

So the strategy is to make the ongoing litigation so protracted and so expensive that neither the City nor TAMPOA will have any money left to do anything. Southard Street will remain quiet within Truman Annex. There will be no road through Bahama Village. The City will not be able to afford to pursue eminent domain. The City will not be able to afford to develop the waterfront property it got from the Navy and will be forced to sell it to developers who can construct a private marina and million dollar waterfront homes that look like those in Truman Annex. The new community may even join TAMPOA. The only downside: TAMPOA and the Truman Annex residents will be broke and hated by the rest of the Key West citizens who will eventually forget about the whole event -- a small price to pay. And the lawyers will have earned some handsome fees as well as the possibility for additional legal business as the development occurs.

Brilliant! You could become the next Denny Crane.

Where did you say you went to law school?

Another Resident Fires Back At Tampoa

Here is another letter we have obtained written by a Truman Annex resident and sent to the TAMPOA Board in response to the Board's letter of September 27, 2006 to the Truman Annex residents. As was the case with the previous letter we obtained, we have withheld the name to protected the resident and our sources.

To: Sterling [Christian Tampoa Operations Manager]
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2006 6:36 PM
Subject: Re: Letter from the TAMPOA Board of Directors

Dear TAMPOA Board of Directors,

I am writing to express my disapproval of your most recent actions on Southard Street.

The actions of the TAMPOA board reflect on every person who lives in Truman Annex and it has certainly not created a favorable impression of our community. I am embarrassed to admit where I live in Key West. My husband and I usually just say we live in Old Town when asked. Whenever a person lives in one of the most beautiful well maintained communities in the Florida Keys, he should be able to have pride in that fact.

Why has the board never polled the members about this issue and several more concerning Southard Street?

Is there any interest in finding out how much money the individual owners/members are willing to spend to fight this? We already know the board believes there are unlimited funds. We have already had a $600 assessment. Will these assessment for legal fees continue? Should the members not have a say in when it ends?

Does anyone on the board care if the members have an opinion about installing a gate on Southard Street. I have never been asked. For the record, I am against it. Again, at what cost (good will in the community and financial) to the membership to install this gate? Is there any gain to another gate other than because we can?

Why are funds suddenly available to staff the gate during the day to check Id's? We have lived quite safely with no guards during the day for the past year or so.

Also, for the record I am vehemently against checking Id's, asking anyone's' destination or anything of the sort. This is not the business of any neighborhood or community. Taking this checking a step further, are there plans in the works to restrict access to Southard Street based on an individual's ID. Will TAMPOA begin keeping a "list of undesirable persons"? What good could possibly come of this?

In conclusion, I feel that the entire TAMPOA community deserves a say in this matter and I wanted to express my opinion to be board.

Thank you for your time,
[Name Withheld]
[A Truman Annex Resident]