Make us your home page

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 [email protected] 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

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.