Wednesday, February 28, 2007

TAMPOA Board Agenda for March 1

The TAMPOA Board meets tomorrow, Thursday March 1, at 4:00 p.m. Among other tings, the Board is going to talk about finances and borrowing money. If you are concerned about this, you may want to attend or at least make your wishes known to Board members you know. The big question: is this potential borrowing of $400,000 fiscally responsible. Judge for yourself. Here's the Board Agenda:

The Truman Annex Master Property Owners’ Association, Inc.
Board of Directors Meeting
201 Front Street, Suite 103
Key West, Florida 33040
March 1, 2007
Thursday at
4:00 PM

Purpose: Conduct Business as Properly Brought Before the Board


1. Call Meeting to Order

2. Determination of Quorum

3. Proof of Notice of Meeting

4. Approval of Minutes
January 8, 2007 Board of Directors meeting
January 29, 2007 Annual meeting
January 29, 2007 Organizational Board of Directors meeting

5. Reports of Officers
President’s report: Discussion of Litigation with the City of Key West
Treasurer’s report: Review the year to date financial statements

6. Reports of Committees
Architectural Control Committee

7. Unfinished Business

8. New Business
Approve corporate resolution to authorize borrowing from Marine Bank and to approve of the
terms of their loan commitment for the purpose of establishing a $400,000 credit line to pay
legal fees in reference to the ongoing litigation with the City of Key West and assist the
Association’s cash flow in the future in the event of a catastrophe such as damages resulting
from a server hurricane.

Management items

9. Member Input

10. Adjournment

I, Tom Tukey, as President of The Truman Annex Master Property Owners’ Association, Inc., hereby call a Meeting of the Board of Directors as stated above.


By: Tom Tukey
President, TAMPOA


Key West Garden Club Opening

The Key West Garden Club will officially open its newly restored Butterfly garden on Thursday, March 1, at 1:30 p.m. at the West Martello Tower. The ribbon cutting ceremony will follow a talk by butterfly expert Marc Minno. The garden is now thriving and has been restored after being devastated by Hurricane Wilma. The garden and event are open to the public. If you are interested in butterflies, this should be an interesting event. Congratulations to the Garden Club. We know a great deal of hard work has gone into restoring this beautiful place.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Here We Go!

Flash! In a somewhat disjointed story the Key West Citizen reports this morning about the filing (earlier this month) of TAMPOA's lawsuit over the easement derived from the United States General Services Administration's Quit Claim deed conveying what is now the Truman Annex property to developer, Pritam Singh. The Citizen may have been scooped, however by Key West blogger, Bob Kelly, who writes for the Bahamma Village Blog and who first reported the filing in his Valentines Day post.

Actually, there's more to the Federal Suit story. (Nothing in Truman Annex is simple).We'll have more on this story a bit later. Stay tuned.


Congratulations Are In Order

While we were watching Ohio State squeak by, the Red Cross was handing out Awards. the My Key West Emergency Relief Fund committee received the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award for helping victims of Hurricane Wilma. Two members of that committee, TAMPOA Attorney, Bill Andersen, and Chris Belland of Historic Tours of America, who has lived in Truman Annex, shared that well deserved award. Also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work and charitable contributions to the Key West community was Edith Amsterdam. Congratulations to all of you!

When Key West residents who don't live in Truman Annex start thinking people associated with Truman Annex don't care about anyone or anything except their property, they should think again and remember the good community work these folks are doing.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Inspirational Thoughts

As an addition to our regular posts, we are going to institute a new feature. Each week we will post an inspirational or unique and simple thought for the week. Hopefully, this post will add meaning to your day and week ahead. Some of these thoughts may be our original ones; some will be ones we have garnered from others or have been shared with us. If you have unique pithy or inspirational thoughts for the day that you'd like to share and see here, post them in our comment section. We'll review them and may use them. Be sure to leave your name, however, so we can give credit to your thought.

Here's our thought for today:

"People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader's job is to help people have vision of their potential."

~ John Porter


Consequences of Reneging On Agreements

The City is one of the last to continue a ban on tattoo parlors, despite a plethora of legal opinion that such a ban is unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment. The City Commissioners, including Commissioner Bill Verge, who represents the district in which Truman Annex is located, seem to agree that the ban is unconstitutional, but he has stated that he will vote to keep the ban even though he believes the City will lose the litigation. What he left out in conducting his poll of his district that he relies on for his stated intention to vote to keep the ban was to ask his constituents whether they favor paying the attorneys for the tattoo parlor several hundred thousand dollars of the taxpayer's money because of his vote. If and when the City loses the tattoo parlor lawsuit, as most surely it will, the City will have to pay the parlor's attorneys' fees. We'll bet the answer of his constituents would be different if he'd asked this question in his so-called poll.

Verge has shown that in this instance he is willing to spend the taxpayers' money rather provide leadership to help his constituents face hard choices. It's all (and only) about politics and that's what's wrong with the City Commission. We would have hoped that Verge would have been more of a leader in this situation and have said to his constituents, " I'm unwilling to let the City keep being stupid with its revenue, and keep losing cases (like the Duck Tours case) that are not even close calls. I understand your frustration and I don't want tattoo parlors on Duval street any more than you do, but we are going to lose this and need to cut the loss to the taxpayers and save that money." But, that is too much to ask, isn't it?

On the other hand, we can understand that after trying and getting nowhere with his fellow operatives at City Hall when he sought to broker a compromise with TAMPOA on the Southard Street case, even when the City would have come out unscathed and smelling like a rose, we are not surprised that Verge would take a let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may attitude on the tattoo battle. The lessons for the City Commission for not considering the favorable settlement offer from TAMPOA and for their machinations in the Southard Street dispute may well be painful for the taxpayers.

Now when the City loses the tattoo parlor lawsuit, or thinks it will, and wants to settle, what makes the City Attorney and City Commission think the tattoo parlor will trust the City to honor any out of court settlement in light of the City's behavior in the dispute with Truman Annex? Add to that Commissioner Bethel's outrageous statement that just because one commission makes an agreement for the City, another Commission does not have to honor that still existing agreement.

The attorneys for the tattoo parlor should be warned to make sure that they get an enforceable judgment or Consent Decree against the City, just as the transient rental attorneys did, rather than trust the City to honor any settlement agreement, a mistake that TAMPOA made that it will likely never make again in dealing with the City.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Risks In The Southard Street Litigation

Every piece of litigation has risks. In the Southard street litigation there is a problem that TAMPOA and its attorneys may just be beginning to understand. That problem is that even if TAMPOA proves that it owns Southard Street, lock, stock, and rum barrel, and also proves that the City violated its agreement with TAMPOA, the remedy may not be what TAMPOA wants and may take the whole matter back to square one. A judge could easily find that even though TAMPOA owns Southard and the City violated the agreement, the street must remain open 24 / 7 to all government entities and must be two way (not one way out which the agreement provides for and which TAMPOA has offered to give up in its last attempt to settle with the City). The Court could rule in TAMPOA's favor and still hold that Southard street must remain open and two way because the Navy's right to waterfront access through Southard cannot be restricted, and the original intent of the Quit Claim Deed granting Pritam Singh the Truman Annex property was to allow open access 24 / 7 to the waterfront by all governmental entities (Navy, NOAA, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Police, Fire, Park Service, State of Florida, Monroe County and City of Key West). Finally, the court could hold that because Southard Street historically has been and open and two way 24 / 7 since being returned to civilian control, and TAMPOA has made essentially no effort to otherwise restrict waterfront access through it until the lawsuit began, equity requires the street to remain open and two way.

This scenario is a real likelihood. In such a scenario, the judge could give each side what it has sought. TAMPOA win and get its requested declaration that it owns the street and that the City violated its agreement with TAMPOA. The City would get what it wants, which is free two-way 24 / 7 access through Southard Street to the waterfront. Even the developers potentially get something in this scenario. They are salivating at the chance to get the waterfront property when the City squanders its opportunity to develop it. The City made this mistake with Truman Annex which is how developer Pritam Singh wound up with it, If the judge were to give the City a 24 / 7 easement to the waterfront through Southard, the City might well operate a bus to the waterfront through Southard or contract to have it done (by say Historic Tours of America).

After such a ruling, and a million or more TAMPOA dollars later, the status of the dispute will have returned to where it started -- and the parties will be forced to sit down and engage in yet another round of settlement talks. But the theater will have been worth it, right?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Where's The Beef?

That is what some Truman Annex residents are asking about TAMPOA's assurances that it owns Southard Street. It seems that there are still some TAMPOA members who are wondering if TAMPOA really has proof that it owns Southard Streeet. They are wondering whether there is "specific documentation" that exists that shows this to be the case and have asked TAMPOA to show it to them.

According to Tom Tukey, President of TAMPOA, "We own all the streets within the HPRD (Truman Annex) including Southard and anyone, including Commissioners, who recklessly states otherwise may be committing slander of title." Slander of Title? Oh, please! Take me back to the middle ages of American or English law.(This had to be one of those legalisms from TAMPOA legal). Well, of course, the City has denied that TAMPOA owns Southard, so maybe the City is slandering the title too, among all its other alleged misdeeds. And this is the stuff of which lawsuits are made and money is needlessly spent. Assert, counter-assert, allege, counter-allege -- the "dance" goes on.

From our perspective and the perspective of many Annex residents, the real question is "when will we see the beef?" If TAMPOA owns the street, then let's see the hard evidence. Mr. Tukey says it's there, but if it is, why are we not looking at it? Isn't it in the interest of everyone to get this matter over with?

What we don't understand is why, if as Tukey asserts, ownership of Southard is a done deal, why TAMPOA has not filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on this issue -- asking the Court to award a judgment to TAMPOA without a trial because the fact of ownership is not seriously in dispute. In fact, if TAMPOA owns Southard, and TAMPOA has the "beef" on that, why has TAMPOA not filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the whole lawsuit? This could have been done months (or years) ago, and we would have an answer by now.

What irritates a lot of people is that who actually owns Southard street is just a side issue in the whole dispute with the City -- an issue the City raised among it's assorted, and sometimes flakey, defenses. And the TAMPOA lawyers have let the City get away with this for so long without moving for Summary Judgment. Why? Because TAMPOA wanted to be kind, generous, good hearted, and liked to spend money? We don't think so. TAMPOA lawyers have now spent a bunch of money and taken some 34 depositions. Now what? When are they going to the next and obvious step?

The real -- and the only real -- issue in the lawsuit is whether the City violated it's agreement with TAMPOA. This is a fairly simple question and should not take months or cost a million dollars to to put before the judge to decide.

As for the City, we think the City is bluffing, just as it did in the Duck Tours case, and Key West Citizens eventually are going to be led down the primrose path to nowhere and loss of the waterfront property by this Commission, but in the interim, the City has played a masterful game of Poker with very few good cards and a little rope-a-dope thrown in for good measure. You've gotta love the theater.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A New TAMPOA Board Member Speaks

Below is a letter from new TAMPOA Board member, Bob Frechette, that was e-mailed to TAMPOA members. His comments about the depositions recently taken of City Commissioners and the City Manager are interesting.

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

February 19, 2007

Dear Neighbors,

In the past few days I have read all the depositions that we have in our office here in Key West. I told Tom Tukey that I would send to all of you my thoughts on the status of TAMPOA versus City of Key West.

It is obvious to me that the current new City Commission has there own agenda and they really do not think that the ownership issue is a big deal, at least from their viewpoint. It was disturbing to me that they, as a group, have had very little legal or background history given to them from City staff. Or maybe they are choosing to just ignore the past.

The most disturbing depositions came from the City Manager and Commissioner Bethel. Both of these gentleman have been with this issue from the get go. Bethel seems to have a real memory problem real or perceived and delights in not attending several of the meetings that centered on the approval of City direction. The City Manager seems to be waiting for the Mayor and the Commissioners to give him direction on what position the City should take. We all know that will not happen because I really believe that they have no plan. The most disturbing comment came from Bethel and his position that the previous City Commission and its approved direction does not bear on the current administration.

I still believe our best course is to establish clear title to our little stretch of Southard Street, then publish the information to the City and move forward in the courts. I also believe that Commissioner Verge stepped down from his role as liaison due to his deposition that would make him look ridiculous since he never read the 2000 agreement and voted nay anyway! Any comments would be appreciated and I have the utmost appreciation for our Board and the work that has been done now that I have a better understanding of the mentality of our City Commission!

Bob Frechette
For the Board of Directors

Friday, February 16, 2007

PACS And Polls, Bits And Bytes

Do you know about Hometown Key West? It's a Political Action Committee that says it is non-partisan and is interested in effecting change "by electing officials who pledge themselves to improve items of concern to the voters who put them in office." According to the background information on its website, Hometown wants to bring "together residents from all backgrounds and beliefs who are united only by their desire to make Key West a better place to live, and will pledge to vote for officials who promise to improve areas of concern to the majority of residents."

On Monday, February 26th, Hometown Key West will present declared and potential candidates for the upcoming elections in Key West. (Four of the seven City Commission seats as well as the Mayor's post will be filled at the election in October). The Hometown event will be held at Monty's on Caroline Street , starting at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited.

We have received and will consider a request to link to their Website, and we hope they will consider linking here. We think that the more information citizens can have about candidates for public office the more intelligent a citizen's choice may be.

On another note a 2004 Lou Harris Poll suggested that 57% of Key West residents lacked confidence that the City Commission would ever take action on issues that are important to improving the quality of life in Key West. What actions taken by the City Commission since 2004 can you name that have improved the quality of life for Key West residents?

What do you suppose a poll of the Truman Annex residents would show about confidence in the TAMPOA Board to improve the quality of life in the Annex? What do you think a majority of Annex residents would identify as quality of life issues the TAMPOA Board should work on? Do you suppose the Board would be willing to spend the money on a Lou Harris Poll of this nature? Do you think the Board would be afraid of the results but would nonetheless be flexible enough to support such a poll? Would you support doing such a poll?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back At It

After a much needed getaway, we're back at the news desk. As some of you who are Annex residents may already know, there is much news to write about. Two new Board members, Bob Frechette and Rick Rumrell, have been formally elected to the TAMPOA Board. The new officers of TAMPOA have been elected. We congratulate them all on their election. Tom Tukey has been re-elected as President. The other officers are Jim Hall, Vice President; Rebecca Baumann, Secretary; and Harold Berry, Treasure. (Why is it that a woman always seems to wind up as Secretary? Why not Treasurer or President? Oh well, at least there seems to be some progress on the issues to be addressed by the Board.)

The new officers and Board members will have their work cut out for them. They deserve a bit of a political honeymoon to hit the ground running and begin to effect some of the change we have called for in past columns. Some of our criticism seems to have been heard and change may be in the air. Only time will tell. One change is that the Board has recognized a need for more timely communication with the TAMPOA members, and a good first step is that the Board appears ready to prepare a summary of the Board meetings and get it out before the formal minutes. Another change is that the runaway attorneys' fees -- or at least the assessments for them -- appear to have been capped, for now. And, there has been some attempt at explaining the breakdown of the attorneys' fees. Finally, the Board has recognized the relative futility of trying to negotiate a legal settlement to a political dispute and abandoned attempts to settle the Southard Street dispute with the current band of City Commissioners. We'll have more to say about this and other matters in later posts. For now, the Board appears off to a good start. Let's hope the members are able to keep the same energy they have shown initially.