NEW TAMPA — Twenty Cory Lake Isles residents filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough Circuit Court on Friday accusing developer Gene Thomason of using homeowner association fees to pay for items such as a motor for a relative's boat, a well on his property and brick pavers at a shopping center outside the development.
According to court documents, residents have paid about $4.6-million over five years for operation and maintenance of the fashionable gated community, but they believe Thomason spent some of the money for personal items and pet projects.
Attorney Mark Basurto said his clients came to that conclusion based on more than 15,000 pages of documents that they received from Cory Lakes Ltd. and the property owners association. Eight residents sued those two entities last year for the records.
The documents were "grossly inadequate," and a "complete mess," Basurto said. There were receipts for items not listed in ledgers, and items recorded on ledgers with no receipts.
What they were able to decipher from it was telling, he added.
The lawsuit states the property owners association made the following expenditures:
• $3,400 for a boat motor.
• $6,700 to have a well installed on Thomason's property.
• $4,500 for brick pavers at the Cory Lake Isles Professional Center, which is outside the community and is owned by Thomason.
• $100 to $1,000 holiday bonuses for employees of Cory Lakes Ltd., the development company, also owned by Thomason.
Basurto also noted that homeowners were required to pay for a Canary Island date palm on their property when they moved in; yet homeowner association money also was used for the trees.
"I think there is a couple million dollars out of the five years' worth of assessments that we have no idea what has been done with the money," Basurto said.
The lawsuit names: Thomason; his wife, Betty; his son Cory; Cory Lakes Ltd.; Cory Lakes Isles Realty Co.; Cory Lakes Isles Professional Center; Northeast Development Co.; Suzanne Manzi and Jane Taggart, two current taxing district supervisors; and Judy Tagliarino, a former property owners association officer and director of the Cory Lake Professional Association.
Gene Thomason did not return a call for comment.
Manzi, who is currently running for re-election on the taxing district board against three of the plaintiffs, called it a smear campaign.
"If you want to talk about who is creating negative things in this community, it's these people," she said. "They can't run on their record, so they're going to try to defame who they possibly can. They have reached the point where they are a joke."
The residents filing the lawsuit are Mark Lee, Dan Morford, Curtis Perry, Marc Chambers, Andrea Tullo, Scott Shaw, Herbert Reigle, John Harders, Kerri Ringhof, Alecia Collins, Haresh Ramphal, Carole Fotopoulos, Bruce Vitale, Tom Wegge, Vicki Castro, Marshall Chernin, Jorge Castillo, Frank Bacon, James Dugas and Donn Spalding.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.