By Phil Trubey – August 4, 2023
I’ve had my share of legal tangles in my life. They are no fun, regardless of the eventual outcome.
There’s a scene in the movie The Insider (great movie, based on a true story, not Hollywood over embellished, can’t recommend it highly enough) where a lawyer sympathizes with a trial witness. The cold comfort advice is that lawsuits/trials can be unrelenting, going on for years, putting a lot of mental strain on all involved. There’s no solution other than to brace yourself for the ordeal.
The lawsuit that Bill Strong has launched against the RSF Association is particularly odious. Unlike other Association lawsuits in living memory, he started his onslaught with voluminous discovery requests, costing the Association significant employee time and money. He’s followed this up by deposing a raft of employees, contractors, vendors, and community volunteers, including yours truly as only the latest to be subject to a several day interrogation session.
If you’ve ever been deposed, you know I’m not exaggerating when I call it an interrogation session. Worse, in this instance, people have been ridiculed under the guise of questioning by Mr. Strong’s lawyer, Mike Aguirre. Mr. Strong seems to have a hit list of people he dislikes the most and reserves the most personal and obnoxious questions for them. One person was hit with a subpoena for their personal emails. I’ll likely report on my interrogation session to readers here, if for no other reason to provide some gallows humor.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Strong is attempting to essentially impose new procedures on how the Association is run. For three years while he was an Association Board member, he wasn’t able to convince his fellow Directors of his organizational brilliance, so forgive me if I think his current lawsuit prescriptions are ill advised.
The irony, which is completely lost on Mr. Strong, is that the Association has been trying for some time to enact some organizational policy and procedure clean ups but we have been stymied in large part due to the staff time lost and legal council distraction imposed on us by dealing with his lawsuit.
It is also expensive, on both sides. However given how abusively Mr. Strong has prosecuted this lawsuit, I suspect a future Board (in 2026 or so?) will motion for recapture of all our legal costs when we very likely will win this lawsuit. I hope Mr. Strong has access to a lot of liquid capital because he is already on the hook for serious money between Aguirre’s bills and our costs. As far as I know, the RSF Association has never lost a lawsuit in court, and as I wrote a few years ago, courts generally give HOAs wide latitude to conduct their own affairs.
The Association is trying to hurry this lawsuit to trial where we believe we will prevail. But Mr. Aguirre has been combative, opposing common sense motions (he lost a motion to move the trial to the proper court venue, upon which Mr. Strong was required to pay the Association about $2,000 in legal expenses, a minor win for us). And he continues to stretch out our pre-trial jockeying with an ever expanding list of depositions.
So, what’s the impact to you? Reduced Association efficiency due to forever lost staff time and personnel, and potentially unrecoverable legal costs, which to date add up to around $100/property. Lost staff time, lost personnel, re-hiring expenses, etc. probably add up to an another equal amount. Unfortunately we are expecting this lawsuit to drag on for a while yet, so expenses will continue to mount.
While this is annoying to say the least, the good news is that no one is going to jail over this. It is a relatively simple civil lawsuit disagreement which will only cost a lot of time and money. Unfortunately, public corporations attract lawsuits (merited and unmerited) like barnacles. It is just unfortunate that this particular lawsuit is being pursued by one of our own Members and in such an abusive manner giving no regard to the negative effect it is having on our Association.
Many people have asked Board members why we aren’t pushing back on Mr. Strong’s ridiculous claims and emails. The generic answer is the Board is doing their utmost to not give Mr. Strong any cause of action to further harm the Association. We are probably being too cautious, but we are dealing with your money here, so we are generally sucking it up and not doing anything that might find its way into court since that’s where we are headed.
If you want to help out, Board meetings are a good place to let Mr. Strong know how you feel about all of this. He certainly rarely misses his chance to give his 3 minutes member input.
As a final thought, it appears that Mr. Strong is somehow actually enjoying this. He had a smile on his face after the August Board meeting when he improperly tried to give me a copy of his ridiculous report. One gets the impression of a man who is obsessed with this lawsuit and works days and nights over it, oblivious to the damage it is causing.
After Mr. Strong gave his member input during the August Board meeting, Board Director Scott Thurman pushed back via his own member input. Later on in same the day, Mr. Thurman was served with a notice to appear for a deposition in the lawsuit. Since Mr. Thurman (like myself) was not involved with the Association during the timeframe of the lawsuit, it appears that Mr. Strong is using depositions as a way of harassing community members that disagree with him.