Jennifer Parr was the star witness in the first day of a federal trial in which Properties of The Villages is suing former sales representatives now selling against their former boss.
The vice president of sales for The Villages, and the mother of TV star Megan Boone, dramatically cast herself in a number of roles on the witness stand Monday in federal court in Tampa. Properties of The Villages has filed suit against former sales representatives Jason Kranz and his wife Angela, Christopher Day, Nanette Elliott and Angie Taylor, who are now selling at KD Premier Realty. Former sales representative Cynthia Hughes settled with Properties of The Villages last week.
In a friendly examination by Fox News analyst John Lauro, Parr described her family’s early days in northern Michigan when they were in the hospitality business “in the middle of nowhere,” running a little venture known as Brownwood. She retold the familiar story of her father, H. Gary Morse, being invited down by his father, Harold Schwartz, in the early 1980s to consider an expansion of Orange Blossom Gardens, then home to 300 single-wide mobile homes. Morse had an idea to build a community based on one in Sun City, Ariz. and the rest is history.
Parr said she has been in hospitality all of her life.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” said Parr, who said she sold furniture, opened hair salons and waited tables in the early days of The Villages.
Parr said her family was intent on creating a place where people could make their retirement dreams come true.
Parr’s testimony became less homespun and increasingly business-oriented as she talked about the “enormous transformation of The Villages” over the past 35 years. She described the formation of Properties of The Villages in 2004, to unite the sales divisions marketing pre-owned homes and a second one selling new homes. Up until then, she said the two sales forces had been selling against one another.
The first 90 minutes of Parr’s testimony were plagued with technical problems involving the sound system. Judge James Moody Jr. tried to forge ahead despite Parr’s malfunctioning microphone. However, Parr’s faint voice drew pleas from court personnel and her own attorney, begging her to speak up.
After a break, the sound system was restored and Parr went on to describe the federal trademark she said she and her family have worked hard to build into a widely recognized brand.
Lauro showed a video produced by The Villages with residents extolling the pleasures of line dancing and visiting the square.
“The Villages represents a way of life to me. It’s a brand that is trusted and known. We’ve really worked hard to create it,” Parr said.
She also described the extensive training provided to the sales staff. She staunchly described the sales staff as independent contractors and said they were not employees and not treated as employees.
She said tremendous opportunities had been afforded to Christopher Day and Jason Kranz, who on Dec. 16, 2019 in a bombshell email to all of their colleagues announced they were leaving Properties of The Villages to form their own real estate venture.
Parr described what she was doing on that fateful Monday. She said she was at her Brownwood office when she opened the email.
“Hurt. Surprised. Really shocked,” she said of how she felt when read the pair’s sudden announcement.
Parr said she received the email at the same time as everyone else.
She described her previous relationship with Day and Kranz as a warm one, in which she wanted to see them succeed for the benefit of The Villages and their families. Several emails to Parr from Day and Kranz were read into the record, to bolster her claim. She described trips the pair had won thanks to their sales efforts, taking them to Alaska and Croatia.
Lauro then cued up a video that was a tribute to Parr’s father, created after he passed away in 2014. Lauro promised it would be a short clip.
But after several prolonged recorded speeches by Vice President for Community Relations Gary Lester and Vice President Marty Dzuro, Judge Moody abruptly interjected.
“Are you sure this is just an ‘excerpt?’” the judge asked.
With that, the video was cut off and the court recessed for lunch.
Cross-examination of Parr
While Lauro’s questioning of his client was heavy on schmaltz, the defendants’ attorney zeroed in on facts.
Right out of the gate, Jonathan Pollard, a Fort Lauderdale attorney specializing in competition law, asked Parr if the breakaway sales representatives had portrayed themselves as still working for The Villages.
“Do you think they are holding themselves out as ‘Properties of The Villages’?” he asked.
Parr looked down and quietly replied, “No.”
He asked pointed questions about whether the independent contractor salespeople were required to have four-door automobiles and subjected to periodic vehicle inspections to make sure they were presentable for chauffeuring prospective homebuyers.
“I’ve never heard about this,” Parr answered.
Pollard also described an incident in which Day had boldly put his cell phone on a Properties of The Villages For Sale sign, rather than adhering to the rule that the main number be listed on signage. Pollard asked about a Properties of The Villages manager’s removal of the sign.
“Mike Berning went and tore the sign down?” Pollard asked.
Parr, in what became a routine answer, denied any knowledge of what might have transpired.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Pollard also demanded that Parr provide a dollar amount to equate to the alleged damage the KD Premier Realty sales representatives have inflicted on The Villages.
“That would be very difficult to quantify,” she said.