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Community attorney's job may be on the line

The neighborhood association forms a panel to review, and possibly replace, its longtime legal counsel despite a go-slow plea from two directors.

By LOGAN D. MABE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002


WESTCHASE -- With one committee already looking into the possibility of changing property managers, the Westchase Community Association drafted another committee to review its longtime attorney.

Carlos Quiros, the director representing West Park Village, introduced the idea of evaluating the association's legal needs and exploring other law firms. Now, the association is represented by Tampa attorney Steve Mezer, who has been the board's legal counsel for more than four years.

Mezer specializes in homeowner association law and his firm does work with about 35 different property managers in the Tampa Bay area. For Westchase, his chief duties involve interpreting the community's extensive deed restrictions.

But the motion faced some opposition Wednesday night from director Kris DiGiovanni, who said it's not a good time to be cleaning house.

Noting that the board might be changing property managers, and that five new board members will be elected in the coming months, she argued for stability in the legal arena. "This could create no continuity of history," DiGiovanni said. "It could throw this community into a real tailspin. . . . The timing right now could not be worse."

DiGiovanni suggested tabling the idea until January.

"There's a real value to institutional memory," said director Leroy Sullivan, agreeing with DiGiovanni's stance.

The majority of the board sided with Quiros, however, and his motion passed 6-3.

Next, Quiros questioned whether Mezer needed to attend all board meetings, many of which run four to five hours long.

Quiros said Mezer's role often is nothing more than a parliamentarian and sounding board for directors.

"When I see wasting his time in such a way, it cries," said Quiros. "He sits there for six hours and he's only used in his legal capacity for maybe 15 minutes. I would like to see him used as a lawyer, not an adviser. Let him go home."

Mezer conceded that he spends far less time at other homeowners association meetings, but "the atmosphere at those communities is not as it is here."

But after rewording the motion to allow more flexibility for Mezer's attendance, the motion passed 8-1.

-- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 269-5304 or at mabe@sptimes.com.

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