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Condo group's chief stirs strong feelings

A suit over Kings Point has put Paul Hunt's leadership in the spotlight.

By S.I. Rosenbaum
Published February 17, 2006


SUN CITY CENTER - Paul Hunt's roots in Kings Point go deep.

At 80, he has lived here longer than almost anyone else. For most of the last decade, he has led the community as president of the Federation of Kings Point Associations.

But now his leadership is under fire.

Last month, WCI Communities, developer of Kings Point, accused him of bamboozling residents into filing a class-action suit against WCI.

The lawsuit, filed in November in Hillsborough Circuit Court, claims that WCI Communities denied condo owners the chance to purchase their recreational facilities and clubhouses, as required by state law.

Residents say WCI wants to keep the facilities so it can keep charging rent on them.

WCI struck back, asking a judge in January to dismiss the lawsuit. Among other arguments, the company's motion accused Hunt of telling people that the facilities were being secretly sold off to the family of WCI's former chief executive, Al Hoffman Jr., campaign finance chairman for President Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush's campaigns, who is now the U.S. ambassador to Portugal.

Hunt denies WCI's accusations. Last week, he issued a press release: "The residents of Kings Point find it offensive and condescending that WCI president Jerry Starkey obviously believes we are not smart enough or sophisticated enough to have judged the facts in this case and voluntarily signed on to the lawsuit."

At Kings Point, however, opinions about the Hunt's leadership - and the lawsuit - are mixed.

"I'm not a fan of Paul Hunt's," said Barbara Schickedanz, secretary for the Devonshire Condominium Association Board, one of more than 70 condo associations represented in the federation.

"He has a habit of not letting anybody speak but himself," she said. "I don't think he's been telling the truth about a lot of things."

She said she had heard "scuttlebutt" about the recreational facilities being sold off within the Hoffman family. But she didn't remember hearing that from Hunt.

"I'm not happy about the lawsuit," she added. "We didn't think it would go this far, this soon."

Larry Reece, president of the Devonshire board, said Hunt is doing a good job.

"He's a very strong federation president, and he wants to do things his way," he said. "But I think he's trying to do what's right for Kings Point in the long run."

Reece said he supports the lawsuit. But he also said that Hunt was not "open" with residents.

"He keeps things to himself and tries to make decisions on his own that should be made by the presidents of the associations here," Reece said.

Wayne Musholt, who serves on the federation board with Hunt, said WCI's allegations against him are unfair.

"His management style is maybe a little different from mine," he said. "I'm more of a type to try to persuade people. He's less of a persuader."

He said Hunt wasn't duplicitous. "I don't think he tricked anyone."

But, he added, "I think as a board we didn't get information out as quickly as we should have on these things, and didn't make it understandable."

Last week, as he got ready to rehearse his part in the Kings Point Follies, a yearly musical revue, Hunt bridled at being described as secretive.

"All I can say is, they did get all the information," he said. "We had the attorney here twice to talk to the people. Nothing has been held back."

The son of country doctor from Michigan, Hunt said he owned three different businesses and built a shopping center. He was president of an insurance company. Once, in 1952, he bought a dry cleaning business, and wound up as president of the Institute of Dry Cleaning and Laundry.

He and his wife, who have five children, purchased their home in Kings Point in 1973, almost on a whim. Back then, the place was only half built.

He first got involved with the federation, he said, when a group of residents felt that the board was being taken over by the "puppets" of WCI Communities.

He ran for the board with three other residents, he said. All four were elected.

How many are still there?

Hunt thought about it. "Roy is dead," he said slowly. "I'd say out of the four of us, I'm the only one living."

As for those who don't like his leadership, Hunt said, "I have nothing to prove to anybody."

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at 661-2442 or srosenbaum@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 16, 2006, 19:04:02]


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