Article Courtesy of The Palm
By Mike Diamond
Published March 17, 2023
WELLINGTON — The tension level at Black Diamond has escalated to the point that
Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies are investigating allegations of unlawful
imprisonment, battery and the conduct of one of their own at a Feb. 22
homeowners association board meeting.
A gated community of 475 homes west of State Road 7 and north of Wellington
Regional Medical Center, Black Diamond has been embroiled in controversy since
November when efforts were made to recall four of the seven board members on the
A successful recall would result in targeted board members being removed from
office and replaced with new homeowners who had received the highest number of
votes based on filed petitions.
The board, alleging that signatures were forged, refused to accept the recall
petitions that contained the names of 283 homeowners, well above the required
50% plus one, or 238. The board's decision has sparked contentious litigation. A
circuit court judge is expected to rule on the validity of the recall within the
new few months.
The Feb. 22 meeting was the first in-person one held since the coronavirus
pandemic. It was full of drama.
Some HOA members allege that the deputy, whom the HOA hired, acted as an
enforcer for members of the HOA board targeted for recall. The leader of the
recall effort, Rick Darquea, says he was improperly prevented from going into
the meeting and that once the session started, doors were locked. People could
not leave, he said. A video recorded by Darquea has the deputy calling him "a
troublemaker," saying: "You can watch the meeting on Zoom."
"I'm a homeowner in good standing," Darquea said. "They had no right to keep me
from attending. The deputy acted as the personal bodyguard for (Brian) Papula."
Efforts to contact Papula, the board's treasurer, for comment, were
Darquea says he has filed an internal-affairs complaint against the deputy for
allowing the doors to be locked and for preventing him from attending the
meeting. Eric Taub, a former HOA president who supports the recall, said he was
injured when he tried to leave the meeting.
“I was afraid of the escalating tensions," Taub said. “I figured I'd better get
out of there. I had trouble getting out because they locked the doors and would
not let anyone leave. I eventually managed to get the door open and then someone
pushed it against my leg. It was a painful injury.”
Taub and Darquea say they gave statements recently to a sheriff's sergeant about
the incident. Ava Fields, 84, felt like she was falsely imprisoned when the
doors were locked, according to her son, Daniel. Both Taub and Fields say they,
too, want an internal-affairs investigation.
The sergeant assured Darquea that a case will be filed with the State Attorney's
Office for battery.
"Unfortunately, this is not something that can occur overnight because it is a
process," Sgt. Jean Similien wrote in an email to Darquea, noting that other
issues Darquea wanted addressed are civil matters that fall outside the
In a legal papers filed on March 3, Darquea's lawyer, Michael Gulisano of Boca
Raton, accuses the targeted board members and the law firm they hired, Pincus &
Currier of West Palm Beach, of conspiring to "to further their own personal
interests" and that the firm agreed to participate in the conspiracy in exchange
for future legal work at Black Diamond. Darquea’s homeowner rights have been
repeatedly and maliciously violated," according to legal filing.
The latest filing also alleges that "Black Diamond’s affairs have been
mismanaged and its assets havebeen wasted," resulting in a loss of property
How the HOA situation at Black Diamond
Tensions have been high for some time at Black Diamond. The
board filed a lawsuit in December challenging the validity
of the recall petitions after refusing to certify them at a
special meeting Nov. 30.
Rick Darquea, a resident of Black Diamond community
in Wellington, poses for a portrait on Thursday, December 1, 2022,
in Wellington, FL. A year ago, Darquea accused the HOA board of
conducting a fraudulent election.
May 2021, Darquea challenged the results of an election after he says he
discovered that at least 27 proxies contained forged signatures. A state agency
ordered a new election, but the agency was powerless to enforce its order.
Darquea and others then filed a lawsuit to enforce it but eventually settled the
case after the HOA agreed to pay their legal fees.