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Week in review

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 4, 2001

PICKUP TRUCK BAN UPHELD: Don Archambault has two Chryslers and a Chevrolet pickup, but the advertising consultant uses his two-car garage to protect his three Harley-Davidson motorcycles. His Chryslers and his 1998 Chevy S-10 pickup stay outside his Carrollwood Village home. The Chevy made Archambault, 54, an outlaw in the eyes of his homeowners association, which prohibits parking a pickup truck outside the garage overnight.

After three years and more than 300 citations, Archambault and the association had a legal showdown Monday. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory Holder upheld the community rules. "It's not my job to decide what is ludicrous, asinine or archaic," Holder said. "Have times changed since 1978? You bet they have. But this association is charged with enforcing the deed restrictions."

While the restriction is decades old, the issue ignited in a 1998 crackdown on trucks. With last week's victory, the association might take up to six more residents to court.

PROBATION FOR HAPNER: A judge recommended former Hillsborough County Judge Elizabeth "Betsey" Hapner lose her law license for 90 days and then be placed on probation for a year. Pinellas County Judge Henry Andringa made the recommendation after a hearing into charges against Hapner, who was removed from the bench in 1998. "It's unfortunate that this was handled as it was," said Hapner, of Original Carrollwood. "All I can do is live with it and move on."

The Florida Bar charged Hapner in March with violating 12 rules. The charges were identical to the allegations brought against Hapner by the Judicial Qualifications Commission in 1997. The JQC charged that Hapner neglected her clients and law practice while running for office in 1996, gave misleading testimony during a bitter divorce, lied to get an injunction against her ex-husband, and failed to meet court-imposed deadlines.

The Florida Supreme Court removed her from the bench. Andringa, acting as a referee for the Bar, recommended a three-month suspension for violating Bar rules and then a year's probation.

CHEVAL MAN ALLEGES MAGAZINE SCAM: Cheval customer James Chester, fed up with payment letters from Time Inc., has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the company of orchestrating a campaign to mislead customers. The suit, which seeks certification as a class action, accuses Time of engaging in racketeering and fraud to trick customers into paying for magazines they didn't order.

Time spokesman Peter Costiglio called the allegations completely false. "We certainly would never do anything to confuse or mislead a customer or a potential customer," he said.

Chester first found one of Time's magazines, ECompany Now, in his mailbox in July. He had not subscribed to the magazine, but did get Fortune. He called the magazine's toll-free number to say he had not ordered it. "Oh, don't worry about it," a customer service representative told Chester, he said.

Later, Chester got a series of letters asking payment on the bill for $19.98 and threatening to put Chester's name in Time's bad debt file. "It went from extorting to defaming me," said Chester, a vice president at IBM.

In August, Time entered into an $8.1-million settlement with 48 states, including Florida, over sweepstakes promotions considered misleading. Since then the Attorney General's Office has collected more than 200 complaints about deceptive subscription letters from Time.

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