Homeowners Sued for Political Sign

UPDATE: See The Blaze followup –

Lari  Barager FOX  4 News, November 16, 2011 – PARKER COUNTY, Texas – A political sign associated with conservative talk  show host Glenn Beck has cost a Parker County couple thousands of dollars.

Johnnie and Clara Russell moved from Keller to a home situated on two acres  in the country several years. They were hoping to get relief from the rules of suburban subdivisions.

“We wanted a place, wanted to spread out and not worry about that sort of  thing,” Clara Russell said.

But after the coupled nailed a sign with the phrase “Wake Up America” to  their tree they were served papers. They were sued by a homeowner’s association  they said they never joined or paid dues to.

Apparently the HOA sent the Russells a warning letter, but it was returned  while they were out of town. The next notification came with a constable.

“We were shocked because no one had ever approached us,” Clara Russell  said.

The lawsuit claimed the Russells violated the neighborhood’s deed  restrictions, which only permit “For Sale” signs on properties.

Clara Russell prepared for court by visiting her neighbors. She found lots of  signs, including one advertising a garage sale in the HOA president’s yard.

“I didn’t see us as doing anything anyone out here hadn’t done or hadn’t been  doing all along,” she said.

But a justice of the peace disagreed and found in favor of the HOA, awarding  the group $7,000 in attorney fees.

No one from the HOA would comment.

The Russells said they are now considering their next moves. They are  thinking about appealing and may move to another house in another neighborhood.

Watch this: http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/111611-homeowners-sued-for-political-sign

Read more on myFOXdfw.com: http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/111611-homeowners-sued-for-political-sign#ixzz1dz74TPuE

Do you have an opinon regarding this story?

This piece clearly illuminates serious issues in Parker County.  A few questions are:

  1. Do deed restrictions actually exist that prohibit the displaying of signs in this HOA?
  2. If such restrictions do exist, how can such a blatant example of selective enforcement be tolerated by fellow HOA members? They could be next!
  3. Could the JP legally make any other judgment?
  4. Has this HOA gone outside the limits of their own authority in the past to seek punitive measures against their own neighbors?
  5. If you lived in this HOA, would you tolerate the actions of the HOA board members who selectively enforced this sign restriction, or would you organize a campaign to remove each “yes” voting member from board?

This is not the first time this little band of dictators acted out of self righteous arrogance toward other members of their community. Remember the gun ban that trampled on the individual rights of citizens throughout the county?

‘Tyranny of the majority’ – just because you can legally bully your neighbor, that doesn’t mean you have moral authority to do so.

20 responses

  1. I live in Remuda and will answer your questions in the order they were posed:
    1.) yes
    2.) most are afraid of being next if they object
    3.) Yes she could have.
    5.) I live here, I defy them when they are wrong, and have sued them to make them enforce the restriction evenly. I haven’t been able to force them to act correctly, so I have officially opted out of the Association. This has angered the Hell out of them and they say I can’t opt out, but the minutes of the members’ meeting dated May1988 says membership is “voluntary” and I base my decision on that document. I can see more lawsuits looming over this action of defiance to their edicts, but I have an attorney who has bested them before, and we do not intimidate worth a flip. Maybe if they bankrupt themselves with lawsuits, they will disband. Without funds, they havo ZERO power over anybody. I am ashamed that most people here are so afriad of them Their fear allows the HOA to win.

  2. By the way, it is interesting to note that a Board Member of the Remuda HOA is also the Republican Chairperson of precinct 400.
    Doesn’t the Republican Platform stand for personal freedom and fiscal responsibility? Trampling residents’ rights and using THEIR OWN MONEY to do it. Nice isn’t it. His Mom must be real proud of him.

    1. Marvin Herring is on the Remuda HOA board. I don’t Trust Marvin anyway.

    2. BC, you need to recruit a candidate to run against that chair. The filing deadline is Dec 15th and the filing must be done at the county Republican Party headquarters. Get in touch with Lynette McCraken with the Parker County Tea Party for help.

      1. billeastland, Lynette is running against Marvin and will have the support of the Tea Party and I am sure the 912 organization. She will have mine. She will have a large group of volunteers. We need fresh faces and fresh voices in this precinct.

  3. The problems in Remuda are fostered by a few, three or four, members. The other 200 or so enjoy the community and don’t spend their time looking for ways to create problems and waste the Association’s money.

    As to the deed restrictions, they run with the land and are administered fairly and evenly in spite of the claims of one or two disgruntled neighbors. This was shown by the ruling that this article addresses.

    A sign policy was adapted some time ago that establishes the Association’s position on various signs. The sign in question is not in keeping with what the larger community considers to be those standards. In short, democracy has worked, the community has agreed what is acceptable and what is not.

    The larger question is why one family can use the courts to unfairly waste the resources of the community and get away with it while making false claims against the Board and its members?

    1. Tommy as president of this HOA you more than anyone needs to admit that the complaints have been because the HOA board of directors does not comply with the bylaws and has been forced to comply one item at a time by the court. There are many complaints that the deed restrictions are not enforced evenly. It depends on your relationship with the board. There are too many instances to list here but you know what they are. Any expenditure of funds is decided by the board and no one forces the board to vote to expend funds. All the board had to do was go to court sans lawyer and state their case instead of hiding behind an attorney. A lawyer is not needed in JP court but the board decided they needed one evidently because they knew they were in the wrong.

      As to 200 families living in content, once again you are wrong. The board does not talk to any in the community who voice a difference of opinion from theirs. There are many who are dissatisfied with this board and how the HOA is run but are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.

      If there is a sign policy other than that stated in the deed restrictions, where is it writtten and did the members of the HOA have any input or say in this?

    2. Just so everyone is clear, Tommy is the president of the HOA in Remuda Ranch Estates. He is also correct that a sign policy was adapted some time ago. That policy is the deed restrictions that say only one sign and that sign must be a for sale sign. If his board has come up with another policy to allow various signs then that is a change of the deed restrictions and that action requires the vote of 51% of the residents. No such vote has taken place. Therefore, if the board is making decisions on “policy” that is not in the deed restrictions, they are in fact violating their own deed restrictions.

      What Mr. Stewart considers problems fostered by three or four members is diverse opinions of how things should be done. This board does not want input from residents and had to be forced by the court to hold open meetings. No longer should they be making decisions that affect the community in closed meetings or by email. No longer can they have board meetings without informing the residents that the meeting is taking place. A practice of open meetings would be common in most places, but had to be forced on this group.

      To answer Mr. Stewart’s “larger question” on why one family can use the courts, we need to look at the background of how all this suing of neighbors started.
      Several years ago, the HOA received gas royalties of about $62,000. It was suggested by one resident that the board file a 501C as a nonprofit group so that they would not have to pay as much taxes on the money. The board refused to do so. When this resident pushed the issue, all of a sudden an activity he had been doing on his land for over ten years was all of a sudden a problem.
      The board used about $5000 suing this resident and ended up dropping the case after they lost their first hearing in court. Instead of persuing the case in court, they went to commissioner’s court and imposed its petty grudge against one neighbor on all of Parker County.

      Yes, this is the HOA that provided all of you with your gun ordinance.

      Next, the HOA decided to hold an election without a quorum. When two residents stood up and said that there is no quorum and the election should not continue, the president of the board (not Mr. Stewart at the time) told these residents “Sue us if you don’t like it.” The next day they did.
      Thousands more was spent by the HOA on an attorney for JP court (where no attorney is required). The residents suing did not have an attorney. The case went to mediation where the HOA was required to suspend all business except to pay legal fees, property taxes, and outstanding bills until the next election.
      Jump forward to 2011 and you will find that this board has spent several more thousands in six lawsuits with six families. From July to September alone they spent 10,040.87 on four cases of which 3 were dropped.
      They have also voted not to carry liability insurance to cover the association in case of an accident in the recreation areas.
      It is the decisions of this board and not one family that are causing problems with the neighbors. No false claims are being made. Everything written can be backed up by the association’s own records of which several members have taken the time to read and research.

      This HOA is a prime example of why more restrictive laws governing HOA’s is needed. Everyone should contact their representative, Phil King, and voice their opposition to overbearing actions of HOA’s.

  4. I don’t quite understand how a Judge can enforce HOA rules, which are not governmental ordinances.

    I further do not understand how petty tyrants think they have the authority to do what they do. Are they also going to take the responsibility for correcting transgressions? With authority comes responsibility.

  5. Here’s some answers to your questions.
    1. Yes the deed restrictions say that you cannot have signs in Remuda except for one for sale sign on your lot.
    2. People in Remuda are silent because they know that if they speak up they will be the next target of this HOA board. Here’s an example: When the HOA received money for gas royalties a resident suggested that the HOA apply for a 501C so that the HOA would not have to pay so much in income taxes on the royalties. The HOA treasurer at the time did not want to do that. When this resident pressed the issue and gave them information that contradicted the treasurer the HOA got mad. Soon after that, a gun range that this resident had used for several years with no complaints was a problem. The HOA sued him over the gun range. When they lost their hearing in court, they went to Commissioner’s Court and told interesting made up stories to get the Court to put in place a ban on shooting on your own property if you have less than 10 acres.
    When this resident filed suit recently for the board once again not following it’s bylaws, they again lost a hearing. The next day they filed on 4 residents who are friendly with the resident who filed suit. Another resident who is not friends with the suit filing resident had the HOA pay to fix their deed restriction violation.
    3. The judge could have made another finding in the case legally. The defense of unclean hands was brought forward. A board member was asked if a resident who has a sign on a tree was a member of the deed restriction committee. This board member told the court that this person was never a member of the deed restriction committee. We have minutes stating he was appointed to the deed restriction committee to enforce the rules and at that time had a sign on his tree with a different message than the sign that was sued over. The president of the association also had two signs on his property for a sale he was having. This also is against the deed restrictions.
    4. Yes. When another resident put up a Wake Up America sign on a fence that was in another subdivsion but still visible to Remuda, one of the board members filed suit on the resident. They dropped the case when they found out the fence was not legally in Remuda. Then one of the board members called the resident in the next subdivision who owned the fence and told him to take down the sign or they were going to turn him in to his subdivision.
    Another resident was sent a letter saying that they were going to sue him if he did not take his Wake Up America sign off of his trailer. There is nothing in our deed restrictions that say they can regulate signage on vehicles.
    5. This HOA has changed the rules of voting to make sure they stay in power. In the beginning of the association, each zone voted for their own board member. There are seven zones. They changed the rules of voting so that all board members are voted at large now. There is a group of about 20 people who go and collect proxies from residents and they vote as a block to keep only a select group in power. You have to be a member of their group to be elected. They barely get the 20% needed to get a quorum for the annual meeting.

  6. Optimus Prime you have again hit the nail on the head, If you live in Remuda and put up with the crap you deserve what you get. A member assn. reflects the values of it’s members, if that is not true then disband the thing.

    1. So far, the board has the support of a group united in keeping them in place. The group supporting the board is in the minority, but they have the HOA’S money through the board to file lawsuits. Those against the board for the most part are afraid of the board and will not step up to get rid of them. A petition has been started to disband the HOA but once again too many residents are afraid of the board. Since the board has now spent most of the money and can not collect dues because the bylaws do not permit it, the board will not have the power to retaliate against anyone who signs the petition. Maybe it will get enough signatures now to do the job.

      1. I live in Remuda and have not heard of a petition that could be signed to disband this HOA. Where is the petition?

  7. This is what gives HOA’s a bad name. As a member of a respected Texas HOA I will help fight against practices such as this. Keep me informed.

  8. Reply to Remuda Resident: See Jack Cavenah for info on petition to disband the HOA. Tommy Stewart is blowing smoke. There are many residents who want rid of this abusive HOA, they are just too afraid of the BOD to speak up. I am not one of those. Despite their cries of “he’s forcing us to spend thousands of dollars” that is adecision that was made by the board. And why not, it’s not their money. Cavenah did not have a lawyer, nor did he force the HOA to hire one for ANY case. The decision to hire an attorney to sue the Russells and four other residents wasn’t Cavenah’s decision. It was to the board who made that decision. They made that decision.

  9. I am encouraged by all the discussion that has taken place on the subject of HOA rules. I live in Horseshoe Bend 19 miles south of Weatherford on the Brazos River. This neighborhood was created to be overseen by the Horseshoe Bend Lot Owners Corporation (HBLOC). Over 120 HOA members filed suit in 2001 in District Court. It took until 2010 to get to court. The suit involved numerous violations of law and rules by the Board of Directors. Over the years it had gotten to the point the same 7 or 8 individuals ran for the board. When a new person ran for a seat and won they were often ran off by these few. The plaintiffs won the suit and one of the issues was getting access to the Books and Records of the association. The court ordered that the records be shown to the Members. The Board had refused for years to allow an audit. The manager often stated at the monthly meeting that if her books and records were audited she would quit. After trial she stopped working at the Association. Turned out for seven years she had been giving the Members monthly financial reports that were simply a lot of fiction. Each month the manager told the Members the IRS taxes were paid. They were not. HBLOC finally heard from the IRS and some Members had to put up around $180,000 to pay taxes, interest and penalties. Since then the restaurant has been closed along with other amenities. Funds are not available to maintain the pool. All that is left is a poorly maintained golf course and a bar. The club is now for sale for pennies on the dollar. I think the place you live is great comparatively speaking.

    1. That is because you don’t live here. Several residents have called for an outside audit for years and can’t get the HOA board to hire one done. They want the residents to pay for an audit. The treasurer for the HOA is also the treasurer for the Remuda Womens Club. Isn’t that just cozy as the dickens. I withdrew as a member and as long as they leave me alone, I don’t really care what they do. If the other folks who live here are too afraid to speak their minds, they deserve what they get. The Remuda HOA is, as one resident put it, made up of the kids who got picked last in kick ball in grade school.
      Jack Cavenah

      1. Dallas Attorney Baton Reeder fought for the plaintiffs and won. It is hard to find a good trail lawyer. i would recommend him. Maybe we could meet to discuss what might be done for both neighborhoods.

  10. There is a statement I have read ” You have to endure what you allow to be done to you”. There is great strength in numbers and the bright glare of publicity. Hopefully the majority of property owners in Ramuda Estates will get together and disband that ridiculous group of petty tyrants on the home owners board. They should not be in charge of anyone or anything.

  11. When will WE stand together to defend our Citizens Property Rights and push for LESS Government? Are We, The People, incapable of standing up for our Neighbor?

    Will WE wait until we are under complete Socialist/Communist Rule?

    I am not waiting for the Gas Chamber.

    I am here to defend the Rights of the Citizens of MY City of Weatherford.

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