A former Key Colony Homeowners’ Association manager was paid $36,000 as part of a legal settlement ending a defamation and retaliatory termination lawsuit, according to association records and court documents. But managers at the island’s largest condominium complex are still arguing about who should pay a portion of legal bills that have risen to at least $42,970.
The suit was filed by Erik Goff, who was fired by the Association in April 2019. Among the claims Goff made was that he was harassed and defamed by the Association and several of its current and former directors, including Louisa Conway, Gustavo Tellez and Antonio Camejo. Conway was an unsuccessful candidate for Village Council last year while Tellez recently unsuccessfully sued the Village to overturn a $100 million resilience bond referendum. Antonio Camejo is a former longtime president of the Key Biscayne Condominium Presidents’ Council.
Goff had claimed that Tellez and Conway made false allegations ranging from losing money to self-dealing. Goff alleged that a 2019 email sent by Camejo to unit owners was defamatory because Camejo wrote he had found “red flags” about Goff’s management operations. Goff’s suit also made claims under Florida’s discrimination and whistleblower laws, as well as breach of contract and other claims.
All of those claims were dropped as part of the settlement. The agreement states all of the defendants “strictly contest” Goff’s allegations and that the agreement is not an admission of any “liability, negligence, fault, or wrongdoing.” Significantly, however, the settlement also requires that the Association give a “neutral reference” to any inquiry about Goff’s employment.
Camejo and Tellez did not respond to requests for interviews. Conway declined comment.
“It was a disappointment,” Goff said, referring to his work at Key Colony and projects that stopped when he was ousted by a new board of directors. “We did a lot. I was hoping to accomplish more,” referring to his proposal to redo the complex’s notoriously congested entrance intersection on Crandon Boulevard.
Matt Bramson, a former Key Colony president who was the lone vote against dismissing the manager, said the episode was a setback for owners in the sprawling 1,179-unit complex.
“Even if a large percentage is covered by insurance, it’s still a significant distraction,” he said. “A board can only meet so often. It’s a zero sum game when it comes to volunteers who have to spend time meeting with attorneys” instead of working to improve the condominium.
Bramson, who like Conway also ran unsuccessfully for Village Council, said “some on our board are reckless with accusations.”
He drew a parallel between the accusations made against Goff and a more recent case involving the Village government and the Key Biscayne Community Foundation.
“I think we’ve seen some of them played out on a larger scale,” referring to the recent termination of a service contract between the Foundation and the Village. “It’s many of the same people,” Bramson said. The charity had cited criticism by a small group as the reason for ending its government work. And while it did not identify its critics by name, Conway and Tellez have often questioned the Village’s use of the Foundation to administer many programs.
While the case was dismissed in April, the condo association is still dealing with legal bills incurred defending the lawsuit. As recently as June 17, the Becker firm wrote that it had not been paid $12,736.
“We are just trying to finalize the reimbursement to the association from the insurance,” said new Key Colony president David McDanal, who took over from Conway earlier this year. At one point, the insurer declined to cover the condominium, but it now has paid at least $35,000 directly to Becker, records show.
McDanal said he intervened to get reimbursement for funds paid to Becker before the insurer got involved in the case. He said there is a $10,000 deductible that unit owners will have to pay.
“Any lawsuit is a distraction,” he said. Key Colony replaced Goff with former manager Michele Estevez, and later signed a management agreement with KW Property Management Consulting.
Goff said he’s “recovered” from the case and remains in the property management business.
“We’re doing well, thank God.”
NOTE: Bramson served briefly as the treasurer of Miami Fourth Estate, the parent company of the Key Biscayne Independent. He resigned when he ran for Village Council.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.