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The Villages
Friday, August 19, 2022

CDD 7 dumped by high-dollar law firm after spending $67,975 in legal fees

The Community Development District 7 Board of Supervisors has been dumped by its high-dollar law firm.

Hopping Green & Sams of Tallahassee has been hit with the mass exodus of its attorneys who practice in specialized units of government, including community development districts throughout Florida.

The CDD 7 board hired the firm after its then-legal counsel, Mark Brionez of Brionez & Brionez, concluded he had a conflict of interest representing CDD 7 with regard to the Project Wide Advisory Committee. Nearly half of CDD 7’s budget goes toward the annual funding of PWAC, and CDD 7 supervisors concluded they wanted independent counsel. CDD 7 Board Chairman Jerry Vicenti investigated law firms and recommended hiring Hopping Green & Sams, even though it was clear that it would cost more money. CDD 7 is funded almost entirely through maintenance assessments collected from its residents who live in Hemingway, Hadley, Duval and Bonita. The budget line item for legal expenses ballooned by more than 500 percent when CDD 7 hired Hopping Green & Sams.

To date, CDD 7 has been billed $67,975.39 by Hopping Green & Sams. That is far more than would normally have been billed by Brionez & Brionez, which represents the other CDDs in The Villages.

Hopping Green & Sams earlier this month wrote a letter to District Manager Richard Baier, informing him that 10 of its attorneys are leaving the firm and will be joining Kutak Rock LLP. Among those leaving Hopping Green & Sams is attorney Michael Eckert, who has been attending CDD 7 board meetings and advising supervisors, who appear to have been pleased with his performance.

Hopping Green & Sams has notified Baier that it “will no longer be providing legal services.”

Hopping Green & Sams’ letter asks what the firm should do with its CDD 7 legal files. The options spelled out in the letter include transferring the files to Kutak Rock LLP or Hopping Green & Sams will “shred” the files if an answer is not received by Dec. 1.

A special meeting of the CDD 7 Board of Supervisors has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8 at SeaBreeze Recreation Center.

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