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South Beach Property Owners group ends legal battles


With his term as South Beach Property Owners Association president concluded and a newly elected board of directors in place, George Lamborn has dropped the lawsuit he filed in March to prevent what he claimed was an "illegal takeover" of the organization by a dissident faction of the board.

In a May 2 letter to Association members, Lamborn wrote that we was "happy to report all legal matters have ended" and he expressed hope that his successors "never have to resort to" similar measures to protect the association's integrity.

The suit, which was filed in Indian River County Circuit Court, never reached the courtroom.

Lamborn could not be reached for comment, but Association Treasurer Carter Taylor said the suit was dropped two weeks ago, shortly after the association held its Annual General Meeting, when it elected a new, seven-member board that is expected to grow in the coming months.

None of the eight defendants named in the suit – John Burns, George Bryant, Frank Spitzmiller, Thomas Browne, Steve Merselis, David De Wahl, Victor Cooper and Robert DeWaters – sought re-election to the board.

In response to the lawsuit, in fact, all eight resigned their positions before the election.

"The impact of the lawsuit?" Burns said. "Four people who were longtime members and who had served in officer positions in the past resigned from the board and decided not to run for re-election.

"I was very much involved over the years, but I don't see that happening again," he added. "I certainly don't see myself on the board again, or even being involved in any future positions with the association."

Through the years, Burns served seven terms as the South Beach organization’s president and one as its vice president.

Taylor said that once the eight defendants had resigned and didn't seek re-election, and a new board was voted in, the lawsuit became "moot," because the issues having to do with the defendant board members actions and legitimacy had been resolved.

"The lawsuit did accomplish what it set out to do,” Taylor said.

In his suit, Lamborn argued that Merselis, De Wahl, Cooper and DeWaters were ineligible when they were elected to the board in March 2015, because they hadn't fully paid their annual dues and, thus, weren't members in good standing.

He also contended that the four allegedly illegitimate directors joined with Burns, Bryant, Browne and Spitzmiller "in an effort to undermine the authority" of the president and a majority of the board.

Taylor, who headed the nominations committee, said he "reached out" to some of the departed board members in hopes of persuading them to seek re-election. But none chose to do so.

"We did lose some good people," Taylor said. "I'd like to get them back."

According to Lamborn, 78 percent of the 20-plus individual property owners associations that comprise the South Beach Property Owners Association membership voted in favor of the seven nominees in the April 27 election. Castaway Cove voted against the nominees. Pelican Lane abstained.

Miles Conway, one of South Beach's most visible and vocal opponents to short-term vacation rentals, succeeded Lamborn as the president of the board.

This is significant because the rift between Lamborn and the dissent board members was fueled in large part by disagreement about how public and forceful the board would be in opposing short-term vacation rentals in private homes, an activity Lamborn and others view as harmful to South Beach property values and quiet suburban lifestyle.

In his letter, Lamborn, now the vice president, referred to the election as a "turning point and a new page for the SBPOA as it put behind us the very grave threat posed by a group of illegal directors ..."

Joining Conway, Lamborn and Taylor on the board are: Carol Lewis-Buffum, Cheryl Gerstner, Jose Lambiet and William Liedholm.

The SBPOA charter requires at least five directors, but the board can grow to as many as 15. Though there will not be another general election until next year, Taylor said the board can elect additional members in the interim.

"And I can assure you, that's going to happen," Taylor said. "We're not looking in the rear-view mirror."