Judge calls Polo Club's lawsuit against Wellington 'frivolous,' orders it to pay village legal fees – Palm Beach Post

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WELLINGTON — A federal judge has ruled that a civil-rights lawsuit filed by Glenn Straub against the Village of Wellington was so frivolous that his company must pay the $85,903 in legal fees billed by village lawyers.  
Straub’s company, Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, has been engaged in a dispute with Wellington over code-enforcement issues relating to the Polo Club’s use of heavy machinery in the Big Blue Preserve, a 92-acre Cypress hammock said to be the largest remaining stand in South Florida.
The village is looking to collect $6.2 million in fines from the club, which surrounds the preserve off Pierson Road.
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Straub’s company, saying it is the victim of harassment, claims in the federal lawsuit that Wellington’s pursuit of the code issues violated its civil rights and due process. It also alleged that village officials trespassed on its property. 
But Judge William Dimitrouleas accepted the finding of U.S. Magistrate William Matthewman, who concluded there was no merit to Polo Club’s lawsuit. Matthewman called it “frivolous, unreasonable and without foundation. Plaintiff (Polo Club) utterly failed to support its position.” 
The lawsuit was dismissed at summary judgment, which means that Matthewman found that there was not enough evidence for the case to go to trial. 
Lawyers hired by the village’s insurance company represented Wellington. They had asked for $122,719, but Matthewman reduced the figure by 30%.  
Laurie Cohen, Wellington’s full-time attorney, disclosed the rulings to the Village Council at a public meeting last week. She said it is rare for a court to award legal fees in a civil rights case, noting it shows this lawsuit had no merit.  
Matthewman said the Village filed a 17-page statement of “undisputed material facts” while Straub’s Polo Club filed a two-page response and failed to refute any of the village’s points.
Efforts to obtain comment from Polo Club lawyer Alec Domb were unsuccessful. 
Matthewman found the Polo Club sued the wrong party for allegedly polluting the Big Blue Preserve. He noted that the Acme Improvement District operates the water management system at the preserve.
The award of legal fees to the village may be the least of Straub’s problems. 
He is facing criminal felony charges that could put him in prison for 15 years for allegedly filing fraudulent liens against an ex-girlfriend for ending a relationship with him. The charges are pending. 
The battle over the code-enforcement fines is being played out in a separate lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. At issue are the fines levied by Alan Zangen, a special magistrate for the village, concerning violations that occurred from April 1, 2015, to Aug. 1, 2017.  
Zangen agreed to reduce the fine to $1.3 million from $6.2 million. Not satisfied, Polo Club lawyers filed a lawsuit calling for an even greater reduction. The village’s response was that the fine should never have been lowered in the first place. It wants a judge to keep the fine at $6.2 million. 
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