When Robert Lichter wanted to see how the Timber Oaks subdivision spent his homeowners dues, he did something state law allows any resident to do.
He asked to see its financial records and minutes of board meetings.
But in a battle that began in 1995, the subdivision's board of directors either refused many of his records requests or told Lichter he would have to pay a $10 fee to have records retrieved.
Late last year, a judge ruled that Timber Oaks was wrong.
And last week, the subdivision agreed to pay Lichter $38,000, including $33,000 in attorney fees, to settle the lawsuit.
It is the latest victory by a group of Timber Oaks residents who have long complained that the board unfairly harasses residents who live in a part of the subdivision called Driftwood Village.
Most of Timber Oaks is restricted to seniors. Driftwood Village, however, does not have any age restrictions.
"This was just another example about how they continually harass us," Lichter said in an interview. "I pay an assessment. I should have every legal right to look at their records. They're trying to intimidate us. Maybe they'll treat us right from now on."
The subdivision's administrator and the president of its board of directors did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
Some residents in the 1,999-unit subdivision accuse the board of diverting money paid by Driftwood residents to pay for the maintenance of areas of the subdivision only seniors can use.
Lichter, for one, thinks the subdivision, controlled by a senior-dominated board, is being secretive to hide this fact.
"I know they're hiding something," he said.
A year ago, Timber Oaks was ordered to pay $23,475 in legal fees to a resident it unsuccessfully sued because it said his clothesline violated the community's deed restrictions.
The same resident also won a lawsuit the subdivision had filed against him because it said his lawn was in disrepair. A judge has not yet decided to award legal fees in that case.
"You would think that sooner or later the board would get some flak from residents about filing these unwarranted lawsuits," said attorney John Renke II, who represented Lichter.
Renke said all the residents of the community pay when the subdivision loses a lawsuit. Those legal expenses, he said, are ultimately paid by all residents through homeowners dues.
"It's simply ridiculous," he said.