Convicted Felon on Condo Board?

(WSVN) - Sometimes living in a condo or homeowner’s association can be a nightmare, but how about this one: a condo president, who has a criminal record, has two residents trying to get a restraining order to keep him away from them. Why? Here is tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Rose and her husband moved to Leisureville in Pompano to retire in peace and quiet… they are not getting either.

Rose Austin, battling condo president: “The harassment and the name calling and swearing and the stalking.”

Rose says she does not get along with the condo president. That’s putting it politely after she described one verbal attack from him.

Rose Austin: “‘You’re nothing but an f-ing [expletive].’ You f-ing this and all kinds of screaming at me and I just turned around and said, ‘You are verbally assaulting me.’ I said, ‘I’m calling the police,’ which I did.”

Rose said the police told her it’s not against the law to cuss at someone. Rose says the condo president’s live-in girlfriend then joined in the verbal attacks.

Rose Austin: “‘You’re nothing but a drug addict’ and I kept my mouth shut.”

Rose said she didn’t bother to respond because that accusation was comical, but then her family got worried about the threats and checked the background of the condo president — Doug Hassinger. He has two felony convictions and a $40,000 lien from the IRS. His girlfriend, Donna Harrigan, has several convictions that resulted in time in prison.

Rose Austin: “They got 26 felonies. That’s when I got really panicky.”

Which brings up Rose’s first question — can a convicted felon be on a condo board? Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Absolutely not. Florida law says no one convicted of a felony can serve on a condo or homeowner board unless their rights have been restored. Since that hasn’t happened in this case, if the board doesn’t vote to remove the president, a condo owner can ask an arbitrator to do it.”

But the board did not remove Hassiger, and Rose says he did not stop bothering her, even banging on her door.

Rose Austin: “I’m trying to pull it closed and he’s pulling the door open. And I said to him, ‘Let go of my door. I’m closing my door.’ And he said, ‘You f-ing [expletive].”

Rose is not alone. Another neighbor feels so threatened by the condo president, she joined Rose as they went to court to try to get a restraining order against Hassinger.

Rose Austin: “Why do I have to live this way? I’m 75 years old and I’ve never had to live this way.”

Hassinger didn’t talk and hired an attorney to speak for him…

Jeremy Kroll, condo president’s attorney: “Their desire is to put the reset button on this and to be civil and courteous and try to live together in peace and harmony.”

The judge listened to both sides and decided to not grant the request for a restraining order against the condo president.

Judge John Hurley, Broward County: “I don’t believe there are two incidents of stalking in this case. There are some incidents of unwelcome and uncalled for behavior and probably rude behavior, but that is not what the statue is designed to prevent or address. There is not enough evidence here.”

So Howard, what can Rose do now?

Howard Finkelstein: “If the harassment continues, Rose needs to call the police and document it. Then go back to court and ask for a restraining order again. And if you feel you can’t articulate what happened to the judge, hire an attorney like the condo president did.”

Hassinger wouldn’t talk to us. As for Rose… she can’t believe she has to live like this.

Rose Austin: “They were saying it wasn’t stalking violence, just neighbors that didn’t get along. It’s far worse than that.”

Howard said it’s illegal for a board member to be a convicted felon, so which agency enforces that? In the State of Florida… no one. You can file a complaint with the state, pay an arbitrator $50 and they can recommend the board member be removed, but it’s not mandatory. Not a very effective law created by the people in Tallahassee…

Got a problem harassing you? Feel like you need to restrain yourself? Then get on board and let us attack it. Howard won’t be verbally abusive… he will be wonderfully eloquent. Or we let him think that anyway. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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