HISID: See you in court! Board rejects settlement offer in Bischoff class-action suit

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- More than 200 property owners and residents attended a jam-packed and at times highly emotional meeting at the Clubhouse Monday night to hear the Board of Commissioners discuss and vote on settlement offers made in two lawsuits against the district.

In the case of Bischoff v. HISID, property owner David Bischoff initially filed suit questioning the legality of the Assessment of Benefits performed in 2011. Bischoff later filed two amendments to the complaint, the second dated Jan. 25. It expands the complaint to an illegal exaction class-action suit, alleging that HISID has engaged in illegal levy and collection of assessments over many years, resulting in no balance in its AOB upon which to levy assessments anymore and challenges several types of expenditures, such as the sewer plant debt fee, the security fee, the water tower fee, separate amenities fees, the contract for deputies and marketing.

In a letter the district received Friday from Bischoff's attorney, Tim Hutchinson, Bischoff offered a "settlement framework" that gives HISID relief from having to repay all past levies and establishes an arbitrary method of continuing to generate revenue, but only for a few years. The settlement offer asks for payment of Bischoff's attorney fees, which currently stand at around $200,000.

The HISID board voted unanimously on a motion by Commissioner Ken Brown to fight this suit "to the fullest extent of the law" and to engage a law firm with success in defending class action suits to assist Attorney Matt Bishop in the case. Bishop said he would welcome help in the case and warned the board the entire process would take at least two years if it goes to court.

Brown, addressing the suit, said reading it is "not something to go to sleep on; it will keep you awake."

He said it would "just about make you cry" and that if it's passed by a judge and not fought, "We're done at Holiday Island. We're done."

He added he was "shocked that two of our homeowners would bring this upon us."

Commissioner Linda Graves said she believes there is some basis on which to fight it.

"If I have anything to say, by God we are going to fight this."

She also said she has no reason to believe the district assessor, Tom Reed, who is a certified appraiser, did the assessment wrong, but "if we find he did it improperly, we should sue him, too."

Property owners were allowed to speak, and several urged the board to settle the suit to avoid miring the district in a drawn-out, costly court case. But others, such as former BOC Chairman Linda Griswold, urged the board to "hire the best damn lawyers money can buy and counter-sue."

Some appealed directly to Bischoff, who was at the meeting, asking him to drop the suit.

"I pray you will go home tonight and think seriously about what you're doing," said a tearful Mary Smith. "...Please, when you go home, have the dignity and courage to rescind this lawsuit."

"You may have a cause for action -- we may have done some things wrong," said Barb Kuhn, "but wouldn't it have been better to try to come up with a solution rather than take us all down?"

Commissoner Bruce Larson said the suit seems like "legal extortion," to pay $200,000 in attorney fees and then use arbitrary numbers for any further assessments, which will only keep the district afloat for a year or two. But he also later urged people not to "vilify" the Bischoffs.

"I think they started in on this with some valid concerns, and then it got out of control."

Commissioner Greg Davis said the board should continue to use Bishop to try to negotiate a settlement. He was the lone dissenting voice at the start of the meeting to add hiring a law firm experienced in class action suits to the agenda.

Chairman Ken Ames' voice was the most vehement when he said to the crowd and to Bischoff, "Most of you know me -- I cut to the chase, I don't mince words, so here is my comment: See you in court!"

His statement was greeted with cheers and loud applause.

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  • The past Board members may have some liability by not giving the Bischoffs some simple answears to their questions and telling the Bischoffs if they did not like what transpired to sue them..........

    -- Posted by LITTLE DOZER on Tue, Jan 29, 2013, at 5:00 PM
  • The $1,000,000 loss to HISID and $400,000 loss to the Cty., is just the tip of the iceberg. The Wastewater bond holder might call-in the bond (based on the possibility that the BOC used illegally gotten funds as collateral).BOC will have to re-assess in order to cover the enormous legal fees incurred. That means more monies out of the property owners pocket book. Mortgage entities may not want to approve future mortgages. That would result in lost RE sales. Lost RE sales results in lost income to RE agents/brokers. Just to name part of the domino effect. Most important the decaying infrastructure will suffer further. Etc., etc., etc...........

    -- Posted by CommonSense22 on Tue, Jan 29, 2013, at 6:58 PM
  • So did anyone understand "WHY Bischoff's will see HISID in Court"? The BOC gave no facts, not even a reasonable accounting of what this is all about. Reading the amended complaint it seems our money has been spent on things it should not have been and in fact, HISID "used up" the money it was able to tax because the "benefits" were paid for perhaps 20 years ago! That means everything we have paid since was an illegal tax. It was good to know that Linda Graves "read the law" a few days ago. Guess we can let the attorneys go as she seems to be an expert now (?) The structure suggested in Attny. Hutchinson's letter appears to be a way to "save us" until we can find a new revenue source -- my guess incorporate. Instead of really looking into this, the BOC instills fear and panic in the owners to cover up past sins. Last nights meeting was a mockery and insult to us all. Point fingers and pass the buck? May I suggest, if the shoe fits wear it? BOC, work for us not against us!

    -- Posted by Important to do it Right on Tue, Jan 29, 2013, at 7:57 PM
  • I full stand behind the lawsuit. I moved to HI in 2007 and since then my assessments have gone up from $375 to $695. There has not been one thing done to the property. Not only that we incur the additional fees on our water bill and have a fee from Carroll County Electric because we live in HI. I can understand a increase if there had been any improvement to the property or if we as property were getting the same treatment straight across the board, i.e. asphalt roads, street scraping, when there is ice. Even if we could get the same treatment as those that are paying the same amount in fees but live in a lot higher appraised properties but we don't. It takes a miracle of God to get a straight answer on any question asked and you end going in a vicious circle. I feel Bischoff and the other plaintiffs have brought this suit because too are tired of the nonsense that HI rules under!

    -- Posted by bnatrl on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 8:11 PM
  • This probably won't satisfy you but after the infrastructure is installed, O&M (operations & maintenance) costs kick in. Over time those cost grow and grow. Somebody has to pay whether it be the SID, the city, the homeowners' assoc, whatever, it still falls on Us. There's no such thing as a free lunch. See us in court.

    -- Posted by Golferbemyname on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 10:29 PM
  • "There's no such thing as a free lunch.".

    Your right, but the funds must to 'equalized' according to AR law, plus the AOB must be assessed and collected according to AR law. Bischoff vs. HISID is about doing things legally. I repeat LEGALLY! The Bischoff vs HISID's last offer to settle, offered HISID's BOC to come up with the arbitary figure, BOC d/n get it. They have their hands in our pockets and d/n not care if they take us ALL to bankrupcy.

    -- Posted by CommonSense22 on Thu, Jan 31, 2013, at 1:30 PM
  • The BOC had no problem having Bishop explain the pts. of TLR suit, but did not do so for the Bischoff vs HISID lawsuit. Those interesed in learning the facts w/o prejudice via a 'Townhall' meeting. So state in an eMail to: hihopes12@yahoo.com. If enough interest is solicited, a meeting will be scheduled.

    -- Posted by CommonSense22 on Thu, Jan 31, 2013, at 2:28 PM
  • Gosh, WHAT IF: Sam Barr determines due to cty. loss of $400K in taxes, he c/n afford to forward Cty. Monies for HI roads?

    -- Posted by CommonSense22 on Fri, Feb 1, 2013, at 12:43 PM
  • I am SO GLAD I don't live in HI. What a giant rats nest it is. It has always been this way though...

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Sun, Feb 3, 2013, at 3:08 PM
  • Golley!!

    And you said I was radical. I love it!

    Even Crosson knew we should incorporate. Street talk has it the kool ade drinkers on the golf course didn't want to loose control of the money for golf. That's just what I heard!

    J. Paul Brown

    Smokhous

    -- Posted by smokhous on Sat, Feb 9, 2013, at 1:05 PM
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