Central Park Estates HOA accused of targeting children
Parent claims her son is being targeted by HOA of Central Park EstatesPhoto: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A local homeowners association is under federal investigation. Not for corruption, but for allegations of discriminating against children.
Darcy Spears' investigation got the feds' attention and landed the community in Contact 13's HOA Hall of Shame.
Riding his bike in the street is about the only thing 10-year-old Paul Busch can do inside his own neighborhood.
His mother, Eva, who moved the family here from Germany, has papered their kitchen with chore charts, homework schedules and rules of behavior.
"Rule #1 - I will do what I am told to do, when I am told to do it. Rule #2 - I will not do anything that I have been told not to do," Paul reads from the papers on the wall.
"I'm a professional person," says Eva. "I'm an RN. I work in Nevada. I pay my taxes. I don't have a criminal record."
But Eva says she and her family are being treated like criminals by the Central Park Estates HOA.
That's in the southeast valley near Gillespie and Richmar.
The last straw for Eva was what happened with Paul in February.
Darcy: "So it's one of these little irrigation pipes that waters the plants around here?"
Paul and another neighborhood boy were playing in the park recently when the sprinklers came on.
But their water play turned into the police being called after a member of the HOA's security committee claimed to have seen Paul and Ryan -- the other 10-year-old boy -- break the sprinkler pipe.
"It was legally questionable whether they had the right to detain Ryan or call the cops on him. And at the time I was just so shocked that it had happened," said Wendy Merrill, Ryan's mom.
She and Eva say the HOA provided no proof that their boys did any damage, but Eva took pictures that show a thick, weathered and exposed pipe, with a small slit in it.
"I'm looking at that pipe and I'm going, that was already in bad shape, no matter what happened to it," said Eva.
Though the boys and another witness who was with them at the time say the pipe was already broken when the water came on, the HOA chose to take the word of one man, who the boys say was driving in his car at the time.
Paul and Ryan have been held responsible for breaking the pipe. As a result, they've been banned from all HOA common areas for six months -- that's all summer long.
"It just feels like being locked up. Not being able to do anything at all," says Paul.
He can't go for a swim in the pool. Can't play on the basketball court. can't even go for a walk in the park.
"To tell a child he can't play in a park?!" Wendy said incredulously. "I mean, the whole reason why the developer put the parks in was so that children would have a place to go, so they wouldn't be in the street. I'm moving because of this. I can't be in a community where my son can't play outside."
A letter the HOA sent Eva says, "If Paul is observed in the common areas during (the six-month period), the police will be immediately called as he will be trespassing." And there will also be "an immediate fine."
Wendy and Eva were already fined $100 each, plus $150 more each to fix the sprinkler pipe.
Eva requested cost estimates and invoices to back up that $300 repair, but the HOA hasn't responded.
As far as she's concerned, "I'm not paying this for now."
Other parents we spoke to say the Central Park HOA harasses their children too.
They say their kids can't be kids and they feel threatened because the HOA's scrutiny verges on stalking.
"In East Germany," Eva recalls, "even there they were more subtle about the spying part of things. It's just very eerie."
An email to Eva sent months before the sprinkler pipe incident from her property manager says "It seems the HOA has it against your two boys."
And they sure watched us closely when we were there. One HOA member followed us when we were walking with Paul and Eva.
And another threatened that our car would be towed for parking near the pool.
"I'm not sure why I would be targeted," says Eva. "I really don't understand it."
She's received numerous violations, many for stuff she says is simply untrue.
Like one from July 2012 saying Paul and his brother were seen climbing over the gates and trying to pry them apart.
Eva: During the time when he was seen climbing the front gate, he was in Southern California and his brother was at the Marine Military Academy in Arlington, Texas.
Darcy: They weren't even in the state?
Eva: They weren't even in the state when they were seen climbing over the front gate, yes.
She also got a notice saying Paul was spotted in the park after he was banned.
"It's a day that I'm off and we leave at 4:30 for martial arts and I'm not... he was not out," Eva says.
Wendy Merrill got one too saying Ryan had been spotted in the park when she says he was simply walking on the sidewalk.
Before the ban, she got a violation letter because Ryan was climbing a tree.
"There's an element in the association that really doesn't want kids," Wendy believes.
We tried calling and emailing board members numerous times, with no response.
We went to the president's home and that of another board member.
"Hello?" Darcy Spears called through the front gate. "It's Darcy Spears from Channel 13, we need to talk to you about what the board here is doing to children in this community."
No answer. No response. But Paul hopes they're at least listening.
"I would tell them they may have made a mistake and thought again of what their actions are doing," Paul says.
The Central Park Estates board finally sent a written response saying the law prohibits them from commenting on actions they take against homeowners.
But the state says that's not entirely true.
Once a homeowner has talked to us about their situation, the board can too.
In this case, they're just choosing not to comment.
When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development learned what Contact 13 uncovered, they launched an inquiry out of their Fair Housing Division.
Darcy will keep us posted on their progress.
And if you believe your HOA belongs in our Hall of Shame, email us at email@example.com.