Hit 'Em Where They Live

In a contentious case of townhouse tumult, resourceful residents kick management maniacs to the curb

Rachel Dugger, wearing a black power suit and teal blouse, walks authoritatively into one of the classrooms located in the Universal Truth Center; the church also runs a preschool day-care center. Blue contact lenses intensify her laser-beam stare, which could melt the wax off a communion candle. She is clearly not here to play with children.

She takes a seat at a desk to the left of Nat Miller and Claudette Brinson, the presidents of the two HOAs. "I am proud that we file liens and foreclosures so homeowners will pay their association fees," she says. "Timberlake is not here to be nice to people. We're not here to win a popularity contest. We are here to do our job."

Taimira Perez refuses to pay her association dues 
because she claims Timberlake does nothing to 
maintain Miramar Gardens and Vista Verde
photos by Jonathan Postal
Taimira Perez refuses to pay her association dues because she claims Timberlake does nothing to maintain Miramar Gardens and Vista Verde

Miller, Vista Verde's slim, goateed president, who sports cornrows beneath an elastic knit skullcap and a baseball cap, accuses the "radical" Perez of trying to undo the good the two boards and Timberlake have done. In fact, he suggests, Perez has no right to call for changes in his community. "How can a person have any say-so in something they don't pay into?" he asks. "She can't be telling you what go on in Vista Verde cuz she don't own no property in Vista Verde. This whole thing is propaganda, and it is time for it to stop."

Dugger claims that attorney Glazer was never a business partner with her husband, even though both men were listed as the only officers of the defunct Florida Condominium Center. Glazer, she says, actually lost money representing Miramar Gardens and Vista Verde, and came onboard as a favor for the Duggers. "We told him, 'You are well paid by some of our communities. This community has a problem. It can't pay its bills, much less pay you.' When you look at the amount of work he did in this community, Eric Glazer is owed about $70,000."

Court records show that between 2001 and 2003, Glazer filed at least 200 liens and foreclosure notices in Miramar Gardens and Vista Verde. Despite Rachel Dugger's assertions that the attorney has lost money, he did charge homeowners settling their past-due association payments sizable attorney fees. For example, Vista Verde homeowner Richard Unzueta negotiated a settlement with Glazer in August of last year, agreeing to pay $2310 in unpaid association dues and another $1875.75 in attorney fees under a ten-month repayment plan with interest. Another Vista Verde owner, Donald Cook, who hadn't paid his dues for two years, settled up by agreeing to pay $980 in past-due maintenance plus $3854 in attorney fees. Cook paid off the debt over a period of ten months between 2002 and 2003. Other homeowners were not so lucky. Patrick Moulton lost his Miramar townhouse on June 5, 2002, to the HOA when he was unable to pay $1715 in overdue dues and $2893.50 in attorney fees.

Last October, however, according to board president Miller, both association boards decided not to renew Glazer's contract and he was replaced by Maritza Betancourt, a Hispanic black who, Dugger says, can "identify" with the Hispanic and black property owners in the neighborhood. (Glazer still represents at least half of the homeowners associations managed by Timberlake.) "Attorneys don't work unless they get paid," she says, stating the obvious. "I knocked on a lot of doors before I found Maritza."

Since she was hired by the two associations, Betancourt has filed at least 26 liens and foreclosure notices against Miramar Gardens homeowners, and 38 liens and foreclosure notices against Vista Verde homeowners. She charges a $235 attorney fee for each lien she files. According to Dugger, Timberlake provides two warnings to homeowners who fall behind on payments, after which the company notifies the association attorney to file a lien and initiate foreclosure, which is typical of most HOAs in Miami-Dade.

Dugger also had an answer to the mystery surrounding Al Coletta's dog removal service. "There were two dogs that died, and I kept receiving calls about how bad the stench was," she recalls. "I called several vendors to please come pick up the dead dogs. They said no way. So Al Coletta, who is a friend of ours, did me a favor by picking up a street person and paying him $100 to pick up the two dead dogs full of maggots and put them in bags. The man did not have a bank account, so we gave Al a check for $100 so he could cash it and give it to this man. Believe me, Al did not pick up any dead dogs."

Jack Arias is a Brooklyn-born real estate investor and mortgage broker who bought and sold townhouses in Vista Verde when Timberlake first arrived on the scene and is now selling the last three townhouses he owns there. He says of his first encounter with Bob Dugger: "There was this abandoned townhome next to one of my properties that had been turned into a crackhouse. For weeks, I would call up Timberlake to do something about it, but never got a response. I finally insisted on meeting with Dugger. As the property manager, I told him, 'Can you board up this wide-open crack den, which is a plague to the neighborhood?' He told me to board it up myself."

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