VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach jury has found board members of a local condominium community guilty of neglecting their responsibilities to condo owners.
The two-day trial brought by Sawgrass condo owners against the Sawgrass Association ended Tuesday night. The board members were found to be negligent of their fiduciary responsibilities, and must pay condo owners $50,000 to cover attorney fees related to the case.
The jury also ruled the an audit of the association’s spending over the last several years.
“The jury said basically we don’t know, the plaintiffs didn’t carry their burden, and they want a professional to go through and do the accounting. That’s what we have. We’re not afraid of any of the results,” said defense attorney Todd Gaynor.
Sawgrass condo owners originally called 10 On Your Side for help after they learned they were no longer allowed to use the pool or tennis courts in their community. The rule caused suspicion because the pool and tennis court were allegedly covered in their monthly condo fees.
10 On Your Side learned the reason behind the rule: the Sawgrass Association was behind in pool fees about $30,000. Owners then wanted to know where their money was going. So, a dozen condo owners banded together to take the current board members to court.
Owners say they have been denied copies of budgets and spending statements from the board. They say the lack of transparency started in 2012 when the new board members took over. Their suit claimed Kim Edwards, Brenda Shaffer and and former board member Lisa Kettner purposely withheld documents. The suit also questioned the board’s spending.
“The board’s got to be accountable to the people that is sees over,” said one of the plaintiffs, Pete Sessa. “So far, we’ve had little accountability, and maybe this will change the way things are handled in Sawgrass.”
The attorney for the plaintiffs argued over and over again the fact that his clients asked to see spending reports, but weren’t allowed access to them. The defense worked to discredit the plaintiffs’ witnesses and claimed a former management company didn’t give them documents, so they weren’t able to provide them to the condo owners.
Many of the witnesses said they would have not gone though with the lawsuit if they would have just been given the documents. With the documents the owners could double check to see how their money was being spent.