Over 20 years ago I fell in love with a piece of waterfront property.
My husband and myself wrote a contract on the property.
It’s been a nightmare. Our government is out of control.
We requested from the developer (George Law) to tell us what he promised the other 15 families as he had a approx 4-5 foot split rail fence (corral) starting by the road going south until it hit 4-5 feet within the southern border of the property then he had placed a 6 foot high privacy fence down to the river where he had a L shaped dock connecting to a large pier in the middle of the property. He had a sign at the beginning of the corral saying community dock access. We asked where the permit for the “community dock” was. He refused to give us any documentation and said he “gave them what he gave them”? Well be decided that this was not a good situation so we backed out of the contract.
Months went by, and we kept driving by the property and we would see SOLD signs put up and taken down many times. Approximately 6 months later we contacted the bank and were told that the developer was in bankruptcy and they were in the process of foreclosing on the property but they would not deal with us that we would have to deal with the developer. Against our better judgement, we contacted the developer and he advised that the 15 homeowners of the Secret Oaks Subdivision placed a lien on the property which made it impossible to sell because they were made aware that there was no community dock permit on record! So the only way to sell the property was to get the homeowners to release their lien on the lot that we wanted to purchase (lot 10) which was incumbered by a 20 foot drainage easement that the developer gave to the county in order to plat the neighborhood (it was originally 3 private lots). The plat reads that that he gave St Johns county the 20 feet for drainage easement WITHOUT RESERVATION. The pedestrian access path was within the drainage easement on lot 10. Apparently the developer, in order to sell the lots, fenced off that 4-5 feet, placed a sign at the beginning by the street and built a L (connector) dock to the old single family dock that was there prior to his purchase of the property.
No permitting was done, or zoning or anything but he did record two documents, covenants and restrictions and grant of easements which listed various restrictions in the neighborhood and his intent for their access to the river WITHIN the easement and any dock now or hereafter constructed therein. It was signed only by the developer even though the easement was given WITHOUT RESERVATION to the county and the property was owned jointly by the developer and his wife! She signed none of the documents.
Well the developer told the homeowners that if they did not allow him to sell the property the bank would foreclose on it and everything that he promised them would be erased and they would have nothing. So they proceeded to hire an attorney and start working out an agreement clarifying their “rights” in lot 10 and their access to the dock. The developer told them that he could not give them property to get the dock permitted as the bank would not allow it, so they worked out an agreement on what they could do and not do on lot 10 and the dock now and in the future and formed a homeowners association. Originally we spoke to the homeowners but they became very threatening and told us that we could take it or leave it. Apparently the developer signed the agreement after we purchased the property and we never saw the final copy…..we did receive a copy approximately 6 months after we purchased the property and saw it was signed by the developer only … not his wife! Also we noticed that his WIFE signed the warranty deed saying they had made no changes to the property! We were shocked that we were not even shown the final draft of the document and or required to sign it!
We were busy the first six months building our “dream home”. Once in the house we applied for a boathouse permit for the end of the pier/dock that was the original dock that belonged to the Moe’s (the original owner of our property) Well apparently when you apply for a permit they inspect the property, and when the FL DER, DNR, DEP and the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACOE) inspected the property we were instructed by ALL the State and Federal Agencies to remove the illegally constructed L shaped (connector dock).
At this point we were unsure what to do so we got an attorney, Bud Hayden, in Jacksonville, FL who advised us that the FL agencies were very wishy washy and that we should request that they send their order to the homeowners as well as us as they were affected by the action of the agencies. So the FL agencies sent the removal request to the homeowners individually (I gave them the names and addresses) so they could be informed and act accordingly. However, rather than trying to permit the illigal structure, they all wrote letters saying they were “promised” the dock and that they were “good people” and “please let us keep OUR” dock! We also asked the USACOE and we were told that they only dealt with the land OWNER and if we did not comply there was a $10,000. a day fine. Our attorney advised us to post a copy of the USACOE Cease and Desist letter on a tree by the beginning of the connector dock and he also advised that the removal be done in the morning and that we leave for safety reasons. So we requested our boathouse contractor to remove the connector dock in the morning as that is what our attorney advised us (he said people are less inclined to be violent in the AM). The connector dock was removed and the USACOE thanked us for complying with their order and so did the FL agencies.
THE FIRST LAWSUIT! note: My husband had researched the law library on various legal terms and the law library was in Judge Watsons office. He spoke with Judge Watson about what he was researching and why. We were not aware at the time that Judge Watson should have recused himself from our case!
The homeowners association filed a lawsuit against us, CA692, for depreciation of their property, stealing their dock, injunctive relief and various other counts. Our defense was we did as we were ordered, that they were offered the wood by the boathouse builder when he removed it, that we never signed the SOA Agreement that we never saw it before we closed on the property (we disclosed that we saw portions and various drafts of it). Of course it was alot more that that but so make a long story short, Judge Watson, at the time of the trial, told all the lawyers that he was not going to waste the jurors time with this “chicken shit case” and that we had to come to some agreement between the parties now! So came about the “SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT”, which simply said that we would pay them $3800.00 for the wood that was removed and we would not be required to pay their dues/fees/and assessments any more because they owned no community property and all fees/dues/and assessments were used to sue us! We wanted out of the Association, but all the attornies agreed that to do that they would have to redraft all the original documents and they said that would be just too impossible so we settled not to pay to sue ourselves! Watson had us all agree to let him rule on all the remaining issues so he ruled a few weeks later that we were bound by the SOA AGREEMENT that we were not a party to, even though the developer’s wife did not sign it, that the developer did not have the right to sign it, and that he had already platted the drainage easement area to the county WITHOUT RESERVATION! That BOTH sides had to STRICTLY COMPLY WITH THE SOA AGREEMENT and that he felt that even though we were not compelled to remove the dock (we did it because we were mean people) that the homeowners would have to get the dock permitted before they could use it . We had to ask for a clarification on his ruling, because prior ruling he had made temporary ruling stating that if they could not use the dock because of the mean Parlatos, they did not have to maintain or insure it as the SOA Agreement states that they are required to do. So he amended his ruling to read both sides shall strictly comply with the SOA Agreement including the insurance and maintenance provision! But in his ruling he took it a step further, he ruled that their pedestrian access was 20 feet wide (the same deminsions as the drainage easement) even though the developer sold the property with a fence designating 4-5 foot access and NO ONE QUESTIONED THAT…IT WAS NOT PLEAD!!! The judge even followed up with a letter to Ron Brown/Jeffery Dobson (SOA’s attorneys and volunteer workers at the courthouse) that if they wanted to remove the fence (that was placed by the developer) all they had to do is use XXX case law! Now this drainage easement came up to the bricks on my house, as this is a very narrow lot! So without any evidence, Judge Watson changed the status of the easement from 4/5 feet behind a 6 foot privacy fence which everyone who bought there understood, even us, to the entire twenty feet which bumped up to my bedroom window! We appealed it to the 5th DCA numerous times, but the 5th DCA Judges said to Ron Brown (SOA’s attorney), “Ronnie, are those ‘ol Parlatos picking on you?”! At that moment in time I realized that there was not going to be any justice in that appeals court! My friend was with me when that happened, my husband just couldn’t take it anymore.
So we were told we could take it to the FL Supreme court, but by that time were were pretty much tapped out and could not afford to retain another attorney to try to change this insane order.
Various other lawsuits were filed, and appeals made between SOA and the DEP/DNR/DER with us intervening to protect our property rights. Again when the State of Florida vs SOA came to the Court of appeals….the Court ruled by copying Judge Watson’s demonization of us and overturning the State of Florida….saying their rules were too vague and Ordered the State of Florida to issue SOA a permit! Even though the appeal was not about us, the appeals court ruled because of us and the Demonetization that Judge Watson wrote!
So the state of Florida went into rulemaking to stop this from ever happening again, of course they did not appeal it, no big deal to them, just go into rulemaking. The State was really sorry for us, but not their problem! Jeb Bush did offer his ombudsman to try and reason with the SOA but they refused to talk to him.
Now that SOA had a permit, they decided that it was time for them to expand the easement (as they had not maintained or insured it since Judge Watson ordered them to, and they had not invited us to annual meetings or allowed us to vote since his order…they reasoned that since we did not have to pay assessments/fees/or dues we were considered NOT MEMBERS by them and treated that way) Even though the
SOA Agreement specifically states, that ownership requires membership in their SOA Association, and that no judge could expand or change the SOA Agreement. But Tweedledee they don’t care, they hated us and they threw objects at our car, tortured our children, attacked our business, ordered junk mail in our name…..called all the charities and left messages that we (our business) wanted to donate to their cause, so our business number was inundated with callers wanting us to donate..and we would have to explain to them that it was a prank by the SOA Homeowners! They reported my husband for working out of his home, no clients or business was done there, just phone calls…but they did not like us getting UPS deliveries at our home. So they logged how many times the UPS/delivery vehicles came to our home, pitched a fit with Zoning, of course zoning said no problem and so they all work our of their homes now….plumbing trucks, air-conditioning trucks, pickups, and boats!..Even though those things are clearly in violation to the Covenants and Restrictions…no matter…it only matters if it is the Parlatos!
So they go to the USACOE to get a permit from them (state court has no jurisdiction there) and ask for a permit. The USACOE sends them a letter of questions that they need answered before they can issue a permit……….and they do not respond to the questions.
Next thing we know, ANOTHER LAWSUIT, they can’t access their 20 foot easement (nothing has changed in 10 or more years…the fence is still in the same place but what the heck! And after years of no maintenance the area behind the fence is all overgrown) Judge Mathis (best friend of Judge Watson) gets the case, a new case, xxxxxx, Mathis rules that they are entitled to the entire 20 feet and that if they want it (the fence) moved, they will have to move it to the property line. We appealed that as well, with the same regurgitation of Judge Watsons Demonetization of us, we were denied again (starting to become a joke)!
Their attorney writes a letter stating that the SOA wants to move the fence to the northern boarder of the easement (up to the edge of my house) Even though Judge Mathis ruling said they could move the fence to the Southern (property line) boarder! My husband asked them to correct the error but they refused.
Years pass, and we have our property for sale, however in the state of Florida you have to disclose Homeowner Association information. And even though we were relieved of paying dues we knew we really should be members, (As the SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT clearly stated that non payment of dues/fees/assessments only applied to us, not our successor in title) as how else can you relay homeowners information if you are not told! But what the heck! The rules only apply to us- NOT the SOA! We finally get a buyer…a all cash buyer through a Realtor in town, no contingencies all cash deal…yea! I start packing, we get an attorney to do a title search,a survey of the property, we have the attorney answer the Homeowners disclosure…as we know nothing and the SOA Refused to give it to us, so our Realtor had to contact them to get the information…..We get a call…the buyer wants to go over the years past litigation , we disclosed all the information, he even talked to one of the homeowners…who told him that the litigation was specific to us, and that they were never going to get a dock. The buyer ran to the Realtor and got his $40,000 deposit back(which is a big no no , she did not even ask our permission….which we later sued her in Jacksonville court and settled our case as the judge in Jacksonville ruled that we did have a valid contract), because she figured she could sell him another house somewhere else or sell his house…which she did.
So we sued SOA for interference with our sale of $1.6 million cash, and clarification of our membership so we would not have to go through second parties to sell our house….we were at the mercy of the SOA Board members who are anything but good people! We did this pro sec, we also asked to enforce the SOA Agreement per Judge Watsons first ruling!
Well of course they counter sued us, we again asked the Judge to consolidate the cases, but they refused. SOA’s attorney had left the firm to work for the county (big surprise there) so his partner, Jeffrey Dobson handled the case. This time we got Judge Berger, an Jeb Bush appointee, we were really hopeful that we would get a fair hearing, Off course all our motions were DENIED…no surprise there….then when all the county attorneys sat in for the hearing…we were told by Judge Berger…that they were a happy family and that all that was interested were welcome (even county attorneys who are being paid by tax payers to do a job), so much for new blood in the court house. We even had one hearing where Judge Mathis showed up at the hearing (no explanation was given, our court reporter was cancelled, and our witnesses were there…even the developer…who has since died) and he started badgering my husband, it was like a cat playing with a mouse. A attorney friend of ours took notes because we had no court reporter present (always required when you go to this courthouse) He told my husband, “you don’t like me do you?”…………no ruling was ever made….no explanation……..and Judge Berger showed up at the next hearing that was scheduled! She ruled they could take down the fence and gates down (so they would have complete access) but they would have to place a security fence around the pool due to regulations. So they did, but with much ado and alot of time wasted on what type of fence to put around the pool and why did they have to pay for it….reason did prevail on that one(a first in over 20 yrs) and Judge Berger said she was loosing “patience” with the SOA’s crap! Then she made her ruling that the SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT did not remove us from the SOA membership and that she would retain jurisdiction on the landscaping. Then she ruled that WE were litigious and were banned from representing ourselves in her court! We tried to appeal that with the normal response from the 5th DCA!
So now we have a yard that is wide open, there is NO security at our house, SOA is not maintaining the easement again (20 feet up to our house) or insuring it and we have our house for sale….life is good…..NOT!
Then we have their final blow, ANOTHER LAWSUIT! The exact same as the first lawsuit…we stole their dock, threw dog shit in the easement (even though we don’t have a dog), devalued their property values by $750,000, and blocked their access to the easement with the shed that was there since we built the house and landscaping trees and bushes (that were behind the fence that they moved)! Now Jeffery Dobson works for the county as an attorney, so they hire a ambulance chaser attorney, McCloud and his sidekick attorney/girlfriend/assistance/researcher. We look everywhere for an attorney but no one wants to take this almost 20 year old case! We finally find a young attorney starting out who needs the business so we borrow money from my brother to pay him a retainer. We know that if we didn’t get an attorney SOA would get a default judgement and we got Judge Alexander (who recomended that they name the new courthouse after Judge Watson) So it starts over…..again…..
Our young attorney, Brad Hughes gets McCloud to remove most of the motions, except the landscaping issue and membership status, and we had a motion to combine their case with Judge Berger as she said she retained jurisdiction over landscaping and she ruled that the wording in the SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT did not remove us as members. Well McCloud said it was not the same, so Judge Berger agreed it was NOT THE SAME!!!!! We asked judge Alexander to limit discovery back to Judge Bergers case and he said NO. So McCloud went back 20 years, and even though Brad had the files, 15-20 crates, he was 1 day late at going through 20 years of files to pull out client/attorney prevleged information. The judge santioned US $2500.00 for being 1 day late…Brad said Judges NEVER do that! We kept telling Brad to recuse this Judge Alexander, but he said he would have to resign if we insisted on recusing the Judge (a family law judge handling a real estate matter)! Brad only asked for information back to the last hearing (Judge Berger).!
Needless to say, our attorney missed alot of privileged correspondence, but to be nice and honorable he let them keep it. We didn’t care, it was clear that there would be no justice….again. All of Brads motions were DENIED. McCloud brought a fraud upon the court claim! Using unverified correspondence, and letters I didn’t recall ever reading of over 20 years ago, McCloud did the video depositions of both myself and my husband. Then he brought the video deposition and played it and said we lied about something that happened over 20 years ago. Brad ask Judge Alexander to not ask questions on items that had already been ruled on by Judge Watson 20 years prior, but he was over ruled AGAIN! Then Brad stated that even though are answers are different about what we knew and when we knew it from Judge Watsons order, we stipulated that we did not dispute the validity of Judge Watsons order. After all we were sworn to tell the truth all the truth so help us God! So we did! And Alexander went ballistic, he yelled at our attorney, he yelled at my husband, and called me a liar…before I even testified…then he started to read my husband the Miranda rights and threatened to arrest him!!!! We told the truth, we testified the same in front of Watson over 20 years ago (except Watson did not have time to listen to my husband either…even though he spend days listening to the SOA homeowners telling him how horrible we were and that everything was perfect before we moved in….of course they had a private park! And by the time it was time for my husband to respond…Watson said “you are obviously a son of a bitch” and I have REAL criminal cases that I need to hear! Of course I never got to testify…over the years I would yell out an answer and the bailiff would get on my ass…but that’s it!) Judge Alexander listened to Ron Brown and Jeffery Dobson testify and they stated they could not remember what went on 2 years ago…and Judge all soft and kissy face said of course we would not expect you to remember but when it came to us….we are the lying devils for not remembering a piece of correspondence of 20 years ago!
Judge Alexander’s ruling was a true piece of work, he mentioned “credible witnesses against us” (fellow county employee Ron Brown and Jeffery Dobson) who had no interaction in this case except to lie for Secret Oaks! Ron Brown was there when we wrote the SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT and he lied about what he said back then…we had both our attorneys affidavits but we never got a chance to present any evidence as this was just a “routine fraud on the court motion”! The President of the SOA, Bill McGill lied openly in court that he always knew he had a 20 foot easement! I about lost my mind at the lies! (I guess he felt since the developer had died he could lie now!) But he did state that we did nothing to stop them from using the easement, and that they weren’t threatened by us!
So, Judge Alexander ruled that not only did we committ a fraud on the court (by telling the truth), he was going to sanction us with not being able to bring our counter suit, that we never had a realestate contract (contrary to the Jacksonville Court), that our testimony was “inconceivable” to him (so much for a fair and just hearing) and that he was going to sanction our attorney as well. That scarred the hell out of our attorney, young guy with new family, so he quit! Now we are sitting in a very bad position. No attorne y, no money, a prejudice court, and Judge Alexander is not only going to sanction us for telling the truth, but award attorneys fees against us! ($207,000)! For this Judge to retry Judge Watsons case, Judge Bergers case and change their rulings! Yep, you know the routine….bend over and grab your ankles….St Johns Counties finest is at work again! We did beg borrow and steal enough to pay an appeals attorney…and we also got to retain an another attorney to handle the sanction part of the Judges ruling…Alexander blew her off, blew off her case law….and so we had no choice but to file another appeal (I am convinced Judge Alexander did this on purpose to bankrupt us or make it impossible to appeal him….again beg borrow steal! McCloud immediately subpoenaed us to find out where our money was…surprise! NO MONEY!!! My husband and I under the stress of this constant bombardment from the courts and SOA that the stress was killing us…so we decided it was a good idea to get a divorce before someone got hurt! He kept his little condo in Vero Beach and I would keep the house to be near the kids! But my husband still supports me and makes the house payment the best he can…and sometimes it is impossible! He is a Financial Planner and stock broker who requires a license in order to do business…..if he goes bankrupt he looses his license and ability to support himself or me! I have many serious medical problems and so does he, we have no health insurance, and it just keeps going and going! But no stress here!
Twenty years of my life has been wasted fighting this prejudice court, even though we have appealed BOTH the ruling (if you can call it that…it is just a ranting of demonetization just like what his good buddy Judge Watson did to us 20 years ago…the hell with the truth….make it up as you go, forget the facts….even the employees of St Johns County, without naming them, told me that they would love to see this Judge outed for what he is…a monster…I guess that is what absolute power gets you….the employee said he used to be nice….but not anymore!
I don’t know what the future will hold for me, I wish someone from the USACOE, would stand up for us, that the State of Florida would stand up for us….but after writing everyone I could think of it appears no help is forthcoming…It would be nice if the appeals court would stand up for justice…but I guess that is asking too much.
Secret Oaks has bulldozed 20 feet of my property, including grass and mulch, bull dozed a 20 plus year old mature ruby red grapefruit tree, many full grown decorative trees, azealea bushes and various flowing small flowing plants. They replaced it with pine straw! And the house is still for sale….Secret Oaks even had the balls to have someone in the neighborhood try to steal the house as they knew we are in distress (the first and second mortgage companies are trying to foreclose….and guess who is handling that case…you guessed it, the ever honorable Judge Alexander….he is going to give them a default judgement if we don’t work out a settlement in 30 days! Oh by the way, Judge Alexander ruled that they could fence us off from the entire 20 feet of our property (which makes it impossible to get to the back yard to mow or maintain the pool..a complete taking of private property), and he ruled that we stopped them from getting a permit (they have a permit…but no evidence was heard)so he ruled that we were FORBIDDEN to talk to any state and federal agencies, that we never had a contract on the house, (that money Watson reality paid me was for what?????) again no real testimony…but he did have his “credible witnesses Ron Brown and Jeffrey Dobson”. And of course Judge Alexander ruled that I am not a member of SOA-totally contrary to Judge Watsons order of 20 years ago! Yep, my house is a member, my yard is a member but not me??? Crazy huh!? And Secret Oaks still has not insured or maintained the dock or easement area for 20 years, contrary to Judge Watsons order! Jeffrey Dobson rants and raves that we interferred with them getting insurance so Judge Berger rules (again with NO real evidence) that we interferred with them getting insurance! So much for Judge Bergers ruling that she would maintain jurisdiction over the landscaping! Dirt and pine straw! Oh, and another of Judge Alexanders ruling was that I get to pay for the destruction of my property….SWEET! I didn’t want grass, mulch and landscaping on my property…dirt and pine straw…so much better! I am sure the buyers will just swarm in! Of course now my property doesn’t meet the zoning restrictions and regulations…but that shouldn’t be a problem for the ever creative Judge Alexander and his buddies Ron Brown and Jeffery Dobson. Welcome to the Twilight Zone! Are they going to reduce my property tax? How much is my property worth now!?
Not that anyone cares…where am I going to live, I am already on food stamps! How much destruction are they willing to do to one family? I say the sky is the limit! These rouge Judges need to be kicked out NOW! Let them feel what it is like to struggle to stay alive…I would like to see that!
How can we be tried and convicted for doing nothing wrong? How can the state and federal agencies order private citizens to comply with their orders and then leave you out to hang? I say eliminate the DEP, DNR, DER and the USACOE! This should be illegal! I got no response from our premier new Senator Marco Rubio or the ever popular Govenor Rick Scott…the silence is deafening. It is so clear that our government is out of control and I thank you for what you are trying to do!
Linda K. Parlato
1084 Secret Oaks Place
St Johns, FL 32259-3126