The Villages is going over the head of a U.S. magistrate in an ongoing legal fight to rein in rogue sales agents who went their own way.
Properties of The Villages last week filed a renewed motion for a preliminary injunction against former top producers Christopher Day and Jason Kranz, founders of nascent real estate firm, KD Premier Realty.
The pair, who last year left lucrative sales positions at Properties of The Villages to found their own firm, won a crucial victory last month when U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip Lammens recommended that Properties of The Villages’ motion for a preliminary injunction be denied. If The Villages had won the preliminary injunction, KD Premier Realty could have been shut down.
In its latest motion, Properties of The Villages seeks to have the judge overrule the magistrate’s recommendation against granting the motion for preliminary injunction and halt the activities of KD Premier Realty.
Properties of The Villages wants to enforce a 24-month non-compete clause and claims Day, Kranz and the sales people who followed them into the new venture benefitted from confidential information and “customer goodwill” built up by The Villages. Day, Kranz and other former Properties of The Villages independent contractors have maintained they were treated more like employees, forced to ride the trolley, memorize and never deviate from tightly-written scripts and act as “Uber and skycap” for prospective homebuyers.
In the most recent motion on behalf of The Villages, attorney Patrick Muldowney argues that Day and Kranz gained an edge in their new real estate venture thanks to their prior careers with Properties of The Villages.
“Defendants gained incredible advantages in The Villages community through their association with Properties of The Villages,” Muldowney wrote in the motion. “Put simply, (Day and Kranz) are competing with business interests that do not belong to them.”
Properties of The Villages alleges that the pair are in a position to “take unfair advantage of Properties of The Villages.”
During their time at Properties of The Villages, Day and Kranz were leaders in the sales department. By their own estimates, Day was earning $500,000 per year and Kranz said he made in excess of $400,000.
“Without question, (they) were able to use years of accumulated knowledge and know-how obtained from Properties of The Villages to hit the ground running. Soon after starting their business, defendants targeted the Properties of The Villages community and the majority of their listings are now there,” Muldowney wrote in the motion.
Properties of The Villages did not want to see Day and Kranz leave the organization.
Kranz, whose wife Angela was also working at Properties of The Villages, described in a deposition how Vice President of The Villages Jennifer Parr waged war with the couple and used as a bargaining chip their children’s enrollment in The Villages Charter School.
A year before his 2019 departure, Kranz had a heart-to-heart conversation with Parr about his aspirations to achieve more in his role at Properties of The Villages. He had sold 118 homes in the previous 12 months and wanted to reach 200 sales.
Parr bluntly rejected his plan and Kranz testified in the deposition, it “crushed my spirit.”
Kranz began looking at other opportunities including at a firm in Tampa, where the couple had two daughters attending the University of South Florida. That search hit a major snag when Parr discovered that Kranz was shopping his talents.
“Actually, the whole thing came crashing down on me a little bit with the conversation with Jennifer Parr. She knew I was out there looking,” Kranz said in the deposition.
“It started off with what I was trying to pursue, and I — my wife was going to stay here at The Villages, and it was stopped abruptly, and she asked how my kids liked the school. And my wife started crying, and I knew exactly what that meant and it felt like a threat to me,” Kranz said.
He said there was no question what Parr was implying with regard to his two youngest children who were enrolled at The Villages Charter School.
“My kids would be kicked out of school. My wife would be fired and my kids would be kicked out of school if I did this,” he said in the deposition.
At that time, Kranz decided to “recommit” to Properties of The Villages and phoned Parr on a Sunday. He and his wife met with Parr the following Tuesday.
Kranz testified that Parr hugged his wife and said, “We got him now, Momma.”
In his deposition, Day described a toxic work environment at Properties of The Villages.
In Kranz, Day found a kindred spirit.
“I think when you’re a top producer of The Villages, you talk to a lot of other top producers. And I know him and I were both not happy with what we were seeing in the direction of the company,” Day said in his deposition.
“The controls, the scheduling, the fear, the manipulation, the toxic work environment, they were all things I had to leave at the end,” Day said in the deposition.
Day and Kranz reached the breaking point in December and both sent out bombshell emails to their colleagues, announcing their departures.
The wrath of Properties of The Villages came fast and furious.
“They proceeded to call the school to make sure my kids were kicked out of the school because we didn’t qualify anymore with two days before Christmas break, two days to find a job that qualified for the school. And we did that,” Kranz said.
His wife landed a 20-hour per week job as a hostess at Lopez Legacy Country Club, thus sparing the family the potential humiliation of being ejected from the charter school.