Velly Intelesting! Watch This Defamation Suit!

The president of the Seascape Homeowners Association in Galveston, Texas, is suing a homeowner for ten million bucks after the homeowner circulated an email to fellow homeowners called the president “arrogant, incompetent, dishonest, and harassing.”

President Ron Benotti is suing homeowner Richard Alan Collier. Collier alleged that Benotti mishandled a project to restore beaches in the area. 

The really surprising thing here is that the court didn’t throw this case out long ago based on the ‘public figure’ rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. Once a person goes public by running for office or otherwise inserting himself into public discussions it’s nearly impossible to successfully sue for libel and/or slander. It’s the one thing that protects news agencies from lawsuits when they inspect the private behavior of public officials.

Benotti’s lawyers had to have told him that his lawsuit will never survive against the public figure argument. His defamation suit is nothing more than a SLAPP lawsuit designed to cost the defendant his life savings and shut him up.

For shame, Benotti and your phalanx of HOA paid-for lawyers! For shame!

(click here for article in the Southeast Texas Record)


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

5 thoughts on “Velly Intelesting! Watch This Defamation Suit!

  1. Thomas E. State

    Yes I have read Neighbors at War and still have the book for reference. I own a condo in Chandler Arizona which my son occupies. We have had some issues with the landscaping there, removal of grass (going on all over the arid Southwest I understand) and trees in the Crestview “Chateaux” appear to be dying and or at risk. I tried to get records from the management company which has been met with limited success. Since June 6, 2013 3 records requests via email followed with 3 of same sent via certified mail the same request just repeated no response at all until the owner of management company made the manager respond. But still today after flying to Arizona from Portland OR I do not have what I wanted to see. I met with the Board at Board meeting, landscape committe meeting, and records search session. Still all the records not in hand, manager stowalling and excuses can’t spare the time personal to do it. Board works well with me, but Ineed transparency which is not forthcoming. The is slam dunk violation of Arizona State Law the ARS which allows a 10 day window for compliance not 3 months which is fast closing June 6 through Sept 6 some to happen (IE about 75 das.) What is my recourse go to court and get it at a cost of thousands of dollars and they are forced to comply getting just a slap on the wrist. Then no assurance that the documents are all inclusive.

    1. Ward Lucas Post author

      The bottom line is that the HOA Movement is out of control and pays no heed to state or federal laws. It’s a huge money machine created by the tort industry to benefit the tort industry. And yes, your only real recourse is to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees. Just be aware that there is no bottom to this money pit.

  2. dick collier

    Mr. Benotti has dropped the lawsuit at the last minute before trial by jury. Guess he realized that he would be laughed out of court. Yet another case of a renegade Homeowners Association President attempting to use the courts and a SLAPP lawsuit to intimidate a homeowner into silence. It didn’t work.

  3. dick collier

    From: Dick Collier
    To: Seascape Homeowners
    Subject: Update to legal matters at Seascape
    Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2013 14:18:41 -0500

    A final update on just one lawsuit to all Seascape Homeowners.

    Mr. Benotti, as our past President of the HOA, took it upon himself, two
    years ago to file a `cease and desist order` against me for calling him
    arrogant in his dealings with Seascape business and his total disregard
    to all Homeowners issues other than his own. Last year, as President of
    the HOA, he actually filed a law suit against a Homeowner (me), using
    the HOA’s Lawyer, for $10 Million for calling him arrogant, committing
    election manipulation, mismanaging the HOA finances and hurting his
    feelings. Today, he has dropped his lawsuit just before trial by jury.
    As my legal team stated `the truth is the best defense`. Why were you
    not willing to counter my comments in front of a court and jury that you
    insisted on?

    I have not been the only case of his tactic. I have been the first to
    stand up and say `you will not intimidate me, you will not shut me up
    because I disagree with you, you will not have me cowering in the corner
    afraid of big bad Ron and his good-ol-boy circle.`

    This tactic Mr. Benotti used is what in the legal circle calls a SLAPP
    lawsuit. The tactic of using the corporate lawyer to intimidate and
    silence and out spend someone. During the prelude to the trial by jury
    for $10 Million, did Mr. Benotti:

    Subpoena witnesses for his case? NO
    Meet as requested by court to arbitrate a settlement? NO
    Meet as requested by court for pre-trial conference? NO
    Prove his case at a trial by jury? NO, HE BAILED OUT AT THE LAST MINUTE

    Is this the type of HOA Director that you want to represent we
    Homeowners? One that abuses his authority to intimidate and sue you?
    This is not a representative that I want. I expect the HOA Board to
    represent and look out for the interests of the Homeowners, not attempt
    to intimidate them into submission.

    Mr. Benotti, I hereby ask for your resignation. If you do not comply
    before the next quarterly HOA meeting (November) I will ask for a
    special election to have you removed.

  4. Nila Ridings

    Don’t back down, Dick.

    I had a similar situation with my HOA. Asked for records for two years. One excuse after another. Finally, I hired an attorney. The HOA president has sent out letters telling people all was well and I was nothing but a troublemaker. Our by-laws stated, “the treasurer shall cause an annual audit.” Yet, we’d had no audit (as I learned before hiring an attorney)for seven years. That meant 10 MILLION DOLLARS had not been accounted for!!! When the board president realized I was not going to back down he pointed his finger at me and said, “If you think they has been any embezzlement, you’ll NEVER find it!!!!” What I did find out was that he had purchased two places in Carlsbad, CA and was running for the board out there. He also had two rental units in my HOA. When the attorney turned up the heat, the board president suddenly dropped dead. The judge ordered the records turned over and the new president claimed there were no records. The treasurer claimed there were no bank accounts. They re-wrote the by-laws so as not to require an annual audit. The District Attorney enlisted the services of a detective. All board members claimed they knew nothing. The only board member that knew anything was dead. One year later board members, including the president that told the judge there were no records, were caught shredding records. In the interim it was learned the HOA had not paid bills for years. We basically owed everybody in town. A property manager was hired. He took the dues and paid off the old debt. He then talked the board into borrowing 1 MILLION dollars. I paid 10K in legal bills and was never able to see the records. I opted not to waste anymore money to charge the board president with perjury. Houses in here are selling for around half of what they were eight years ago. And the neighborhood is a war zone.

    I have always believed this to be true and still do. “People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing!”

    I have learned in an HOA you can’t get to the truth unless your willing to go broke trying because the board has all the dues to use on legal bills and when that runs out they run to the insurance company for free legal representation.

    I applaud you for standing your ground on what you want but I hope you don’t let it affect your health and financial well-being like I have. There are some really rotten people out there and I’ve learned they like to hide out in HOAs!


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