Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawsuit outlines strife in vaunted Sun City Center patrol

SUN CITY CENTER — For three decades, volunteers have been on the lookout for suspicious activity inside the expansive Sun City Center retirement community.

The security patrol touts a fleet of five radio-equipped patrol cars, more than a thousand volunteers and $1.2 million in assets.

The patrol was one of the first things people moving into the southern Hillsborough County community wanted to join.

But when the patrol's board of directors ousted the chief last fall, things turned dicey.

Suddenly, the security patrol itself became a victim of vandalism, asserts a lawsuit filed this month: a gas tank was filled with sand, and flat tires on patrol vehicles went from just a few to about a dozen in January alone. An anonymous letter calling him a "snake" and a "coward" was delivered to the new chief.

"I hope people wake up and realize this is just a dispute about one individual who didn't want to follow the rules," said the current chief of patrol and recipient of that letter, Robert Powers.

No police reports were filed about those incidents, and the board has not specifically named people it believes were responsible. A defendant of the lawsuit says no opponents of the ouster were involved in any such thing.

But the episodes are mentioned in a civil suit the directors filed last week in Hillsborough County against six former members it says are attempting to "hijack control" of the donation-supported organization.

Such upheaval is rare for the retirement community of more than 17,000. On average, the volunteer patrol reports one incident a month to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Powers said. It has the lowest crime rate in the county.

The complications started in the late summer of 2012, according to the lawsuit. The patrol's board alleged that then-Chief of Patrol Mike Albanese, 73, was violating policies by letting people use security vehicles for personal use and taking advantage of the organization's tax exempt status to buy a personal printer without paying sales tax.

The board fired Albanese from the volunteer position.

On Monday, Albanese deferred comment to lawsuit defendant Kai Rambow, then did not return calls later.

Rambow, who has lived in Sun City Center for six years and served on the patrol for three, said the Sheriff's Office investigated claims against Albanese and found no criminal wrongdoing.

Following the firing, Rambow and friends of the ousted chief held a special meeting to vote out the current board of directors. New members were chosen.

Pamphlets proclaiming "SECURITY PATROL BOARD VOTED OUT!" were placed on cars, golf carts and buses.

The board says in its lawsuit that the meeting was unauthorized and violated bylaws. The suit aims to put an end to this splinter group and establish, once and for all, who controls the security patrol.

Rambow said the protesters never claimed to be a new board.

The headline of the pamphlet, he said, was designed only to grab attention. He points to the bottom of the flier, which asks the board to accept the outcome but doesn't assert the legality of that meeting's results.

"When we asked them to change things, they ignored us, so we mounted the protest," Rambow said. "Virtually every action they've taken has been undemocratic. We have never said that we were an official meeting. We have never said that we were the new board."

Rambow said he and the other lawsuit defendants were removed from the patrol in January and were not allowed to have their own legal representation present at those hearings.

The defendants will likely file a countersuit, he said.

As for the accusations of threats, intimidations and flat tires, Rambow denies the opposition was involved.

"We made our case known, yes," Rambow said. "But have we ever done anything outside of that? Absolutely not."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Lawsuit outlines strife in vaunted Sun City Center patrol 02/18/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 12:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Navy expected to relieve admiral in charge of 7th Fleet in response to deadly disasters at sea

    Nation

    The Navy will relieve the senior admiral in charge of the service's 7th Fleet based in Japan in response to four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea, two U.S. officials said.

    Tugboats assist the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain on its way to Changi Naval Base in Singapore on Monday. [U.S. Navy]
  2. Trump chides media over Charlottesville

    National

    President Donald Trump is blaming the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Va., protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester.

    Trump met service members before the rally.
  3. Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    There are certain things that make HBO's Hard Knocks must-see television.

    Jameis Winston, left, has an exchange with Dirk Koetter that highlights Hard Knocks.
  4. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement