A South Natomas couple in an ugly fight with their homeowners association won a partial victory last week, after a lawyer representing the association's board backpedaled on his assertion that they weren't homeowners because they had a home loan for military veterans.
While Allen Campbell, a 75-year-old disabled Marine, lay in a hospital bed on Tuesday night after fracturing his back in a fall, his wife, Cynthia Campbell, attended her first board meeting of the Sonora Springs Homeowners Association in months.
"We do own our home," she told about 20 residents at the meeting.
The Campbells were the subject of a Sacramento Bee story last month that raised questions about the actions of the board and its attorneys. Their neighborhood is a 192-home subdivision built last decade near Interstate 80 and Truxel Road.
The couple said that in response to their complaints about a broken pool lift and the association's finances, they were subject to fines and discipline and denied homeowner privileges.
In particular, they were excluded from board meetings after attorney Darren Bevan, with the Sacramento firm of Baydeline & Jacobsen, wrote them a letter in March saying they weren't homeowners.
The Campbells have a home loan through the California Department of Veterans Affairs that grants legal title to CalVet until the loan is repaid.
The department wrote a letter on the Campbells' behalf explaining that they were the "purchaser and homeowner" of their property and enjoyed the rights and responsibilities of ownership with regard to their HOA.
Davis attorney Elaine Roberts Musser, hired by the couple, wrote a letter to Bevan accusing him and the association of discriminating against the Campbells because they held a CalVet loan.
She cited a state appeals court case that says borrowers of CalVet loans are homeowners for all purposes, except for holding legal title. CalVet, too, wrote Bevan a letter citing the case law, Musser said.
Bevan replied to Musser in writing on Aug. 16. He said that based on CalVet's statement, "the Association accepted the assignment of Cal Vet's membership privileges to Allen and Cynthia Campbell. Accordingly, Allen and Cynthia Campbell may attend open board and member meetings and may exercise the privileges of membership as assigned by Cal Vet."
The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a written statement Thursday taking issue with Bevan's characterization of the relationship between the Campbells and CalVet.
"While CalVet is pleased with the outcome, we question the reasoning used by the homeowners association," the department said. "The privileges of membership in the homeowners association result not from an assignment or transfer of rights by CalVet, the lender, but from the recognized features of ownership which the Campbells enjoy in their CalVet home."
At Tuesday's HOA board meeting, Cynthia Campbell addressed the audience. She said that Bevan's letter, telling her aging husband he didn't own his home, was "devastating."
She said Allen Campbell had asked her to speak for him. The board members should fire their attorneys and resign, she said.
Board President Cherilyn Wilmore said the fight between the board and the Campbells had become personal. The couple filed a police report against Wilmore in May alleging that she had nearly run down Cynthia Campbell, then stopped her car and stared. They also sought a restraining order against her, which a judge denied.
Wilmore called the Campbells' allegations false. "This is harassment at its finest," she told those at the meeting.
The three board members present at the South Natomas Community Center declined to comment afterward. Wilmore later explained they had been instructed by their attorneys not to speak because of pending legal action.
The Campbells have filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. They say a handicapped lift that Allen Campbell needs to lower him into the association's pool has been broken for months. It was among the issues that started the feud more than two years ago.
The pool lift remains broken, Cynthia Campbell said.
Call The Bee's Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.