Limited purpose public HOA board; slander; AZ HB 2052

This writing is not meant to scare homewners from expressing their political free speech rights regarding HOA governance issues, but to observe certain precautions.

I’m disturbed by the appellate court’s rejection of theappeal in Tarter v. Bendt with respect to limited purpose public figure immunity pertaining to complaints against an HOA. The homeowner’s  complaints consisted of verbal statements, written communications, and a newsletter.

If Arizona’s HB 2052 (to be voted on by the full House), as a start,  were law today I believe your outcome would have been favorable. In part, the bill  

Allows a member or group of members to organize to discuss or address planned community business, including the following: a) Board elections or recalls; b) Potential or actual ballot issues; c) Revisions to the community documents; d) Property maintenance e) Safety issues; or f) Any other community business or actions. (Sec. 1, 2)

(See more, Arizona HB 2052 restores homeowner constitutional speech protections).

My nonlawyer view is that the case was a harsh application of the laws in an instance of an entity that functions for all intents and purposes as a local government;  allowed to operate outside constitutional protections. It is not  an “as usual” slander/libel situation but was treated as such in a memorandum decision.

The crux of the opinion was,

The parties stipulated that Mr. Tarter, as the HOA president, was a limited purpose public figure. Thus, the Tarters were required to prove that Mrs. Bendt’s defamatory statements were “made with ‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

In spite of the homeowner’s loss, the case can serve as a hard lesson to other homeowners, warning them of the dangers of rambling against their HOA and board of directors,  as the Court saw it. It serves warning that ALL relevant issues be brought before the court at trial as they may not be allowed in an after-the-fact appeal.

The Court summarized the defamatory statements, as charged by the HOA,  consisting of:

The Tarters introduced evidence that Mrs. Bendt called Mr. Tarter “idiot,” “fool,” “spineless,” “disgusting,” “chicken shit,” “lowlife,” “low-class sneak,” “unethical,” “lazy,” “weak,” and “a complete fake” in front of fellow HOA members. . . . . Mrs. Bendt also disparaged Mr. Tarter’s legal education, insulted his alma matter, referred to him as a habitual liar, and unethical. Mrs. Bendt accused Mr. Tarter of violating his attorney ethical obligations, and wrote that he could be disciplined by the Arizona State Bar and investigated by the Attorney General (“AG”).

As the Court saw it, very important issues of compensatory and punitive damages were raised and found in favor of the HOA.  The court allowed large sums, totalling $1,500,000, for nonmonetary damages as harm to reputation and emotionsl stress, and others, so beware! 

Support HB 2052 to be soon voted in  the House COW; date to be set.

Legal Disclaimer

The information contained in this written or electronic communication, and our associated web sites and blog, is provided as a service to the Internet community and does not constitute legal advice or opinion. We perform legal research and case analysis services, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in any report, finding, recommendation or any communication, or linked to this web site and its associated sites.  No document prepared by HALRIS or George K. Staropoli is to be considered a legal document to be filed in a court or in a legal proceeding. Nothing provided by HALRIS or George K. Staropoli should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.  George K. Staropoli and no person associated with HALRIS, AHLIS, HOA Constitutional Government or Citizens for Constitutional Local Government are attorneys nor are employed by an attorney.

Published by

HOAGOV

"The Voice for HOA Constitutionality". I have been a long-term homeowner rights authority, advocate and author of "The HOA-Land Nation Within America" (2019) and" Establishing the New America of independent HOA principalities" (2008). See HOA Constitutional Government at http://pvtgov.org. My efforts with HOAs took me to a broader concern that was deeply affecting the constituionality of HOAs. Those broad societal and plotical concerns caused me to start this new blog for my commentaries on the State of the New America.

6 thoughts on “Limited purpose public HOA board; slander; AZ HB 2052”

  1. Unbelievable and just plain wrong! So if she would have said, “in my opinion” first, would this case have turned out the same way? Makes you wonder…

    1. Hello I agree. We are now proceeding to the Arizona Supreme Court. As the United States Supreme Court about students in the Tinker case, students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” I would say “homeowners do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the HOA building entrance”.

  2. I live in Chicago. I know how it works. Dirty judges, politicians, HOA attorneys—NAZIs.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. It has been my 20 years experience of active engagement in HOA reforms that homeowners often are faced with a rogue board, with the majority of the members in the HOA community remaining silent and noninvolved, with no protection by their local town/city district/county attorney or the the police, and with the attorney general’s office saying not my job, see the legislature. It should not be surprising that, understanding the above and in view of human nature, a homeowner will become frustrated, angry, distressed and lashes out in desperation to defend himself.

    1. I agree. Not one person including me reacts without being provoked. Sadly, they did not include what the person did in the HOA President position to have me react such as disparaging me in front of homeowners in a meeting he was in charged of and prohibited me from calling in on the phone so I could listen and defend myself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.