No racket: Judge won't punish Greene group

Plaintiff Mitch Miller lost his lawsuit that accused his neighborhood association of racketeering and extortion, but plans to appeal.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE

U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon has ruled for the Dogwood Valley Citizens Association, the defendants in a civil Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Act lawsuit brought by some neighbors in the Greene County subdivision called Dogwood Valley.

The plaintiffs did not prove a "pattern of racketeering" against the homeowners association, Moon writes in his August 28 decision. Nor, Moon ruled, did the association commit extortion when it levied special assessments in 2005– in apparent defiance of the 2004 Dogwood Valley v. Winkelman state high court ruling that said the association couldn't levy special assessments and auction off the property of non-paying homeowners as it had done in 1998.

The special assessments levied after the state Supreme Court ruling, writes Moon, were made in "good faith" because the association attorney had filed curative documents to meet the Virginia Property Owners Association Act and allow collection of special assessments to fix roads.

After the Supreme Court of Virginia said for the second time in 2006 that the Dogwood Valley Association lacked legal authority to levy such assessments, it hasn't levied any more, Moon notes.

"He looked at all the evidence," says John Loehr, attorney for the defendants, one of whom is association board member Gary Lowe, who is also the mayor of Stanardsville and the auction purchaser of one of the lots sold over a disputed special assessment of $35.

"There was no evidence of extortion or wrongdoing," says Loehr, "and that's from a person who listened to all the evidence."

Dogwood Valley residents have been embroiled in litigation for more than two decades. Plaintiff Douglas Dye took the association to court in 1984– and testified that liens still remain on his property, despite prior rulings.

Plaintiffs Mitch Miller and Grant Colby also have tussled with the association in Greene County General District and Circuit courts. And according to testimony in federal court, Dogwood Valley Citizens Association treasurer Matthew Brown, another defendant, bankrolled $159,000 worth of litigation for the group. Brown declined to comment on the decision. The other defendants are Judith McDavid, Dean Musser, and Keith Wyn.

"I'm a little bit disappointed," says plaintiff Miller. "We've got some reflecting to do."

"I have great respect for Judge Moon," says plaintiffs' attorney Joe D'Erasmo. "But we are going to appeal this decision. They're willing to take it all the way."

While the plaintiffs didn't get the decision they wanted in federal court, perhaps some things in the often-hostile neighborhood have improved.

"I'm no longer losing animals," says Miller, who claims a mule and dogs were poisoned. "I'm no longer falsely arrested, traffic stops [by police] have stopped, and the vandalism has stopped. I find that very encouraging."

"I'd say as an entity, they're pretty much done," says plaintiff Colby about the Dogwood Valley Citizens Association, which hasn't had a membership meeting as required by the State Corporation Commission since June 2005, according to Colby, although the board still meets behind closed doors, he says.

While declining to say how much he's spent on this case that's headed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Miller says, "I spent enough to get peace of mind, and that was worth it."

The version above has been changed to show the correct date of when the defendants sold lots at auction.

21 comments

I hate to say I told you so but.....

I doubt seriously if you really hate to say I told you so....

armchair quarterbacks, you certainly called it. What's going to be the outcome of the appeals?

Lisa - correct your facts before this goes to print and try to at least appear to be interested in the truth instead of sensationalism. The Board has not auctioned off properties since the late 1990's and the special assessment of 2005 was to "determine whether the filed declaration had remedied the deficiency" (Judge Moon's decision, Conclusions #7) and not as you suggested "in defiance" with all its semantic implications. Judge Moon goes on to state that Mr. Miller, Mr. Dye. and Mr. Colby "have been unable to offer any evidence of a "wrongful" use of fear of economic harm" and in Footnote 6 he goes on to state that "the evidence clearly establishes that Defendants simply tried to collect monies necessary to maintain the roads and common areas as required by the deeds of declaration and the DVCA bylaws.". Anyone interested in a clear and balanced history of Dogwood Valley should read Judge Moon's decision.

There is a real story here; you just haven't had the courage or energy to find it. Many people live in older HOA's and may experience the consequences of being denied the remedial provisions of the POAA. Look at Lake Arrowhead in Stafford County.
Furthermore it would seem the Millers, Mr. Dye and Mr. Colby were the ones who feel that Dogwood Valley is "often-hostile". The Hook does itself no service by publishing baseless charges of persecution ranging from animal cruelty to vandalism to harassment by law enforcement personnel and insinuating that the Board is in anyway connected because of the RICO trial. They have the whole County government, judicial system, rescue personnel and criminals in their pocket? Come down off your black helicopter and stop drinking the Koolaid.

This should be a heads up to anybody comsidering buying into a subdivision with an HOA. A few busybodies ruin it on one side and those who are not even willing to help maintain the roads are on the other.

As far as having the county fire depts etc in their pocket, that may not be the case but I guarantee you that employees of these orginazations enforce the laws selectively based on their own opinions and agendas.

Very few conservaticve republicans work for the EPA.

RICO is pretty much taylor made for Cosa Nostra and garbage companies. Any other application is a stretch.

Well, It ain't over till the fat lady sings!

Max,

Joe Miller and myself were both sued by the DVCA to stop us from maintaining the roads on our own time with our own money. They hadn't touched the roads in over a year before the lawsuit and haven't touched them since.

The only roads that truly received any work were those were most of the board members live, which they claim to do with their own money, they use the money collected from residents to sue other property owners in the subdivision.

Well, Steve, once again you're playing fast and loose with the truth. In Judge Peatross's decision enjoining you and your brother from working on the road he said "DVCA as owner has the right to control the roads and make reasonable rules for use, upkeep and maintenance.". All you and your brother needed to do was "present the Board with a written proposal before any work is performed" and present a "valid certificate of liability insurance coverage covering each and every individual who are intending to perform the work". That's pretty reasonable. Any other policy would put all lot owners at risk. You and your brother have to date refused to comply. No surprise there.

Ah Gary E. Lowe,

Who would we present such a certificate to a board who has no authority nor any obligation to work the roads nor any operational authority at all in Dogwood Valley (In the words of the Virginia Supreme Court).

A board who thinks a fraudulent deed gives them power of the lots and lot owners. We will have to wait and see where CL08-94 leads.

Steve,
Please stop the madness! You are beating a dead horse here. I know Mr. Collier, and your brother, and you are upset about losing the case. Take the high road. Just to witness your descent into insanity is starting to become painful.

Armchair,
Please do not discourage Steve from venting. It is entertaining.

Yes but all this bickering is tedious and counterproductive so I'm out of here. At least people reading this know to look for the truth instead of accepting Steve et al's disinformation campaign at face value. Speaking of entertainment value - the Hook in its snide and condescending way always seems to look for the stories that paint Greene County as a bunch of feuding rednecks. Anyone living up here knows that's not the case.
Max Re was right about the perils of buying in HOA's though; especially older ones. You have to weigh the benefits of common interest communities over the negatives. It's an interesting if painful time and there are some good books out on the struggle.

Okay Steve, cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war......

I did some research up at the Greene County general district court and found out some interesting stuff. I don't think Mr. Miller is being very truthful in this article. At least the false arrests and traffic stops have stopped. What false arrest? What traffic stop? According to public record, Mr. Miller has extensive history of swearing out warrants from the magistrate against many residents of dogwood valley. The problem with swearing out those warrants was numerous times the person being charged on the warrant Mr. Miller swore out went to the magistrate and swore warrants out on Mr. Miller. It appears that in most cases the judge threw out both cases after hearing the evidence. So if your arrested on a valid warrant that was sworn out by a citizen and issued by an impartial magistrate. How is that false arrest? Mr. Miller you spend more time in court than I do obviously. Maybe you could explain it. I was also able to locate two tickets for against Joe Miller for an expired county sticker. One of the tickets had a notation that the county was expired by four years. How is that an illegal traffic stop? Mr. Miller I'm beginning to think you have a little problem with the truth. OK! I'm spent good luck with your appeal. I hope nobody takes the time to do a little research or your crediblity may become suspect.

Now that is misinformation LOL

But I think I will just wait for another court date.

Like Mr. Lowe I am out of here too, I have a precipe to file!

So whats next?

Imagine that! Steve Miller has a precipe to file! Back to court again huh? I bet you couldn't wait to get back into court. Almost like your day just wasn't complete untill you stopped by the courthouse for something. Steve that was the shortest response you've ever given. Truth hurts!

Hey, Armchair!

Thanks for the info from your research at the courthouse. Now if Lisa Provence and The Hook would try the novel art of fact-checking maybe the Millers et al wouldn't have such an easy time sliming everything and everybody up here. If we can do it, so can The Hook.
Steve, Before you start one of your persecution campaigns against Gary Lowe please know that that's not me. Your vindictiveness and fear of the truth are a good reason to stay anonymous.

Listed for auction: 20 Dogwood Drive, Dogwood Valley s/d.(http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2008/09/11/REALESTATE-PropAuctions-07...) Is this the future of this subdivision? I can't imagine anybody wanting to buy in there.

Well Cville given the fact that properties are being put up for auction in your wonderful city one could draw the same conclusion..... how could anybody want to buy in there?

Well, Lisa - Thank you at least for correcting the date of the auction; of course other factual errors remain like the amount of the money Winkleman owed before the auction. Be that as it may, the terrible bias in the tone of your article and the sly innuendo are what remain really troubling about your writing. You may have covered yourself and your paper by only quoting what people have told you but unfortunately this does not rise above gossip-mongering. If The Hook ever wishes to be more than a muck-raking rag they will have to exhort their reporters to actually pursue the truth - the essence of a story - and present a fair account. This would take energy, intelligence and perseverance. Are you up to it? It remains to be seen.

Not Named! Thanks for pointing out that auctions are everywhere and a sign of the economic times and have little to do with Dogwood Valley.

My advice: Stay far away from Homeowner's Associations. Seems like a good idea on paper, make your own rules and live like you want to live. Well reality steps in and bites you on the butt when people fragment into two or more groups at odds with each other. I lived in a HOA for 10 years and although I liked the area the politics were terrible.

Now I only have the county, state, and USA to answer to...