Archive for April, 2013

Mediation fails again in Berkeley co-op lawsuit

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Parties, attorneys, an insurance adjuster, and a mediator tried for a second time on Monday to resolve a lawsuit over alleged misconduct at a Berkeley senior housing cooperative, but failed again, according to a statement filed in court yesterday.

Attorneys for plaintiff Jonathan Pool and multiple defendants agreed that the case was headed for trial, but disagreed on whom to blame.

Today the three attorneys currently involved in the case appeared before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven A. Brick at a hearing to plan the management of the case. Fred M. Feller, attorney for Berkeley Town House Cooperative Corporation and seven of the eight current and former corporate officials being sued, said that he would be asking the court to disqualify Pool as a representative of the corporation. David H. Schwartz, Pool’s attorney, informed the court that he would be asking it to disqualify Feller’s law firm from acting as the corporation’s attorney while also representing the individual defendants, and also order the corporation’s conduct of the case to be directed by a committee independent of the defendants. Feller added color to his statement by saying that he couldn’t imagine what Pool would do if the lawsuit were resolved, since “Mr. Pool has nothing else going on in his life except this case.” Schwartz held out hope that the case could be ended more rapidly if the parties could agree on some of the issues in it. Otherwise, according to estimates by the two attorneys, it might take from 5 to 12 months before both sides were ready for a trial.

The judge sought clarification of the relationship among the two original sides in the case and five cross-defendants recently added to the case. Attorney Charles A. Koss, representing two of the cross-defendants, Garry Secrest and American Pacific Coatings, Inc., said he would not be representing the other three cross-defendants, Esteban Cardiel, Pacific CFC, and Esteban Floor Covering. Feller stated that his clients agree with Pool that waterproofing and construction performed by Secrest, Cardiel, and their companies had been defective, and said the cost of correcting it had been estimated at $400,000 by the corporation’s insurer, Travelers Property and Casualty Company of America. Schwartz replied, similarly, that Pool would be happy if funds for the corrections could be recovered from the contractors who had done the work.

Judge Brick informed the attorneys that their disqualification motions raised “threshold” issues that must be resolved before anything else. He ordered the attorneys to proceed with their motions promptly and scheduled the next case management conference on 6 July.

Berkeley co-op manager ratchets up attack on free speech

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Berkeley Town House (BTH), a senior housing cooperative, has been notified once again by its recently installed manager, Bay Area Property Services (BAPS), that spontaneous gatherings and discussions by its members in the kitchen, dining room, lounge, multipurpose room, halls, mailroom, elevators, stairwells, garage, laundry room, and outdoor patio will not be tolerated.

The latest warning was posted today. In standard BAPS style, the notice threatens members with punishment without citing any authority. It implies that “meetings held in the common area without reservation” violate some rule, but doesn’t cite the rule because there is no such rule at BTH. On the contrary, BTH has a set of governing documents that expressly grant to its members the right to use the common areas and don’t require that space be “reserved” before it is used. The only rule that requires a reservation requires it for “private” meetings, and then only when a member wants the space reserved for exclusive use. When confronted with this contradiction, BAPS manager Christopher Stanley didn’t respond.

The BAPS warning also threatens BTH members with fines, even though there is no rule at BTH permitting the imposition of fines.

All this is no surprise: BAPS and the directors that hired it have shown practically no interest in obeying the body of rules that they pretend to enforce. Their previous attempts to censor speech at BTH have included a prohibition on holding a discussion of affordable housing, a prohibition on videorecording, and a threat to arrest visitors if they tried to enter the building to discuss civil liberties. And, when reminded of the illegality of all this, they remain silent.

The BAPS threat is likely to prolong the chronic conflict with members insistent on protecting their freedom to assemble without prior restraint, and to intimidate other members into scurrying through the common areas with eyes to the ground, avoiding greetings and conversations in fear of being fined for the crime of “meeting”. As this photo illustrates, BTH’s common areas are already sterile, lifeless caverns. BAPS is intent on keeping them that way, and if it has to break the rules to do so it will.

BTH dining room

BTH dining room