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Litchfield Plantation: Developer argues for control of POA

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The current and former developers of Litchfield Plantation say the development company still has control over the property owners association, and want a Circuit Court judge to confirm that.

Judge Larry Hyman set a Sept. 26 deadline for Litchfield Plantation Co. to file its arguments in a case brought by five residents who say they are the properly elected board of the homeowners association. They brought suit in March, asking the court to rule that the development company no longer has control because it defaulted on its obligation to fund a share of the maintenance of the common areas.

The case was delayed because the undeveloped property was sold and a new president, John Miller, took control of the company. He was unable to get company records from the former president, Scott Trotter, according to filings in the case.

But Miller and Trotter were in agreement in affidavits filed this week that the property owners association is still governed by a covenant that gives Litchfield Plantation Co. one more vote than all the other owners.

Hyman is expected to rule on the homeowners’ motion for summary judgment now that the company had submitted its arguments. Trotter, who was allowed to join the case individually, and the Litchfield Plantation Co. have also filed for judgments that affirms their position.

The plaintiffs in the civil case – Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas Eckard, Carol E. Kirby, Robert F. McMahan and Thomas M. Phillips – also filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office in June accusing Trotter of assigning $926,881 worth of notes and mortgages payable to the property owners association to his own firm, the Litchfield Plantation Buyout Group, after he had been ousted as president of the homeowners association.

Trotter was arrested for grand larceny.

In a complaint filed in the civil suit last week, Trotter says the special meeting at which he was voted out was improper.

Trotter asks the court to rule that the officers of the property owners association remain “as they were prior to the special meeting.”

Because the Litchfield Plantation Co. still controlled the property owners association, it had the authority to “disapprove the actions of the board,” which it did at the meeting where he was ousted, Trotter says.

The covenants for Litchfield Plantation Association create two types of shares: Class A for the property owners and Class B for the developer. The Class B shares equal all the Class A shares plus one, giving the developer control of the association.

The property owners say that the Class B share period ended Jan. 1, when Litchfield Plantation Co. – then headed by Trotter – failed to fund a shortfall in the association’s maintenance budget or pay an assessment on its undeveloped lots.

In an affidavit filed in June, Trotter stated that the development company was unable to fund the shortfall because of the poor real estate market. So he changed the fiscal year for the association, and issued a new assessment Jan. 1.

In the affidavit filed this week, Trotter says the change in fiscal years provided enough funds to cover expenses, so the company “was not in default on its obligation.”

He says the property owners knew this because they scheduled a special meeting to vote him out just three days before they would have been delinquent on their assessments and therefore ineligible to vote.

Trotter filed a financial statement showing the association had $35,678 in income as of Dec. 31.

The plaintiffs also filed documents challenging that claim.

An affidavit from John Boselli, chief financial officer for K.A. Diehl and Associates, which was hired by the new association board to manage the property, says a loan from Trotter’s real estate company and prepaid assessments account for the balance in the account. Otherwise it was $1,759 in the red, he said.

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