By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
For the twenty percent who opposed the deal, which also included five million dollars in renovations costs, the mood was bitter. "We happened to think $22 million is buying a pig in a poke," one disgruntled resident told New Times. A major flaw of the deal was yet to be revealed: One parcel of the common area was retained by the Trump Group. This land, along with a plot that Trump's original site plans intended as a low-rise shopping complex, was recently sold to developer Martin Margulies for seven million dollars. He is now planning to construct a 22-story high-rise there that will leave residents like Harvey Houtkin with a view of a parking garage.
The closing of the clubs acquisition marked the opening of the feud that led to enmity between Houtkin and White and the fight at the January POA meeting.
The February meeting was canceled.
George Tower, born George Theodoracopoulus, is the quintessential Floridaretiree. He wears a black polo shirt and gray shorts; his socks reach mid-calf. His sneakers are blindingly white. He is a tall man with a bit of gray around the edges of his black hair and a bit of a paunch starting to show. His cell phone ring is "Bittersweet Symphony" by the Verve and his teeth are adorned with clear braces. He is 42 years old.
Tower likes to speak in metaphors.
"In the summer of 2004, I fell in love," he begins. "She was a very beautiful woman. The more I knew her, the more her beauty blossomed." He pauses for dramatic effect.
"She seduced me. I couldn't live without her," he says. "Her name was Williams Island. The honeymoon ended quickly."
Tower drives a black Lexus SUV that glistens like a wet seal. Security guards in uniforms and safari hats wave him along as he rolls through the gated Williams Island entryway. Tower nods in greeting to the costumed guards. As he drives he points out the community's assets: the perimeter security, the marina with slips large enough for 150-foot yachts, the tennis courts, the landscaped foliage, the curving roads.
Tower is the development's resident gadfly. A couple of years ago he ran for a spot on the Property Owners Association. His detractors hired a private investigator, according to documents from a lawsuit they later filed, who found that Tower is married to an 83-year-old woman and controls most of her assets. The two have never lived together. Property records show Tower's condo was purchased for $367,500 in 2004 in the name of Tower Trust. His wife, Eleanor, lives in a community in Boca Raton for residents age 55 and older.
Tower acknowledges his marriage is atypical. "We were the best of friends for fifteen years and we have been married for eight years. So I'm 42 and she's 83. So what?" George visits her almost every day and drives her to medical appointments.
Before he moved to Florida his job was conducting morbidly themed tours in New York in a hearse, as a character named Paul Bearer. The business went under. Tower declared bankruptcy in the early Nineties, which is regarded as something of a faux pas in a monied community like Williams Island. These revelations, along with the fact that he exaggerated his education and work experience in his campaign material, effectively ended his chance for political success on the island.
Tower continued attending POA meetings, criticizing the board over its management of condo fees. He started a Website, www.wiowners.com, where similarly dissatisfied residents posted documents, questioned the integrity of their board members, and complained.
Tower found in POA expense reports that two POA employees had expensed a $225 lunch at Morton's Steakhouse to residents. The reports also revealed that Rod White, the board's president, expenses his cell phone bill to the association.
In August 2005 Tower held a meeting to discuss the POA's doings, which he says attracted 250 residents. Jan Brooks wrote a memo to his building discouraging attendance, calling it a "gripe session" organized by "dissident residents" who "have never had the real opportunity of experiencing the Williams Island lifestyle."
In November 2005 Tower sent a mass e-mail referring to POA board members as the "Policed Owners Association" and the "Williams Island Gestapo" after they proposed to station two off-duty police officers at what had become fairly rowdy POA meetings.
He included a sound clip of gunshots, intended as a joke. On Thanksgiving eve, police officers knocked on Tower's door. A POA board member, Jonathan Evans, had claimed Tower had made a threat on his life. Evans's wife, Jo-An, wrote a letter to residents describing Tower's e-mail as "terrifying," inviting residents to come over to read it "and hear the hideous, frightening audio download." The police report was later amended after a police officer read the e-mail and determined that it was not, in fact, threatening.
Evans, Jan Brooks, and Rod White sued Tower for harrassment in 2006. The lawsuits are still pending, according to court documents, but the revelations from plaintiffs' deposition of Tower included details of his marriage and two declarations of bankruptcy. A DVD of Tower's videotaped deposition was distributed around the island.