DELRAY BEACH — Just days before he faces Delray Beach voters as an incumbent in a city commission election, Mitch Katz is among several defendants fighting a nasty lawsuit brought by a homeowner in the neighborhood he presided over for nearly 10 years.
And the homeowner originally alleged that Katz’s Bexley Park Master Association conspired to keep some money from the insurance company that paid to have her home rebuilt after a devastating fire.
The plaintiff, former North Broward Academy of Excellence principal Staci Valbrun, also claimed the Association made her life miserable after she lost her possessions so that she would leave the neighborhood.
Valbrun is white but, according to the lawsuit, she is raising two black children as a single mother.
In time, however, Valbrun’s original complaint was dismissed and she backed off those charges in an amended lawsuit that’s still going through the system for its second year.
The 46-year-old Katz has been a Delray Beach commissioner on Seat 3 since 2015 and runs for his seat March 13 against challenger Ryan Boylston, a local business owner.
And Democrat Katz has been advocating for affordable housing in Delray while making a big deal out of celebrating International Women’s Day recently.
Still, if you believe Valbrun’s lawsuit, Katz and his cohorts on the Bexley Park Master Association were not so humane to her.
They’re now up on civil charges of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Katz, according to corporate records, was the president of the Association in 2015 and 2016, when most of the alleged wrongdoing took place. He resigned in late 2016 after he and his wife Heather moved in another community down the street.
In a nutshell, here is what happened:
Valbrun’s townhouse just west of I-95 burned down in March 2015. The Association was responsible to repair the roof and outside walls.
Valbrun, however, says she had to wait for more than a year and a half to get the place fixed to its original shape, all the while renting somewhere else since her crib was inhabitable.
Valbrun eventually had to the take the Association into mediation, and even then, she claims, things didn’t get fixed right. In time, the Association abandoned the project, letting the house sit for months while Valbrun ended up spending her money to finish.
At one point, she claimed the Association tried to get the house fixed for less money than what it received from its insurance company. And the entire ordeal, she claimed, was designed to run her out of the community.
Katz bristled at the thought he wasn’t responsive to Valbrun’s needs.
“That’s not true and that’s why her first complaint was dismissed,” Katz tells us. “Bexley is one of the most extremely diverse area in the city.
“This woman is trying to extort the association.
“First of all, she left her kids home alone and they started the fire. Then we felt bad for her because she had no fire insurance, and we did more than what we’re supposed to. Her amended motion is going to get dismissed just as quickly as the first.”
We reached Valbrun by telephone today, and she said the fire put such a strain on her finances she had to move to Maryland after selling the house.
She declined further comment.
Peter Wallis, her attorney, said he has not been able to account for all of the $121,000 that the insurance company paid for Valbrun’s house.
“It’s a strange thing,” he said. “They got $121,000 and spent $84,000 on fixing my client’s house.”