Don’t mess with Murf Klauber
RICHARD L. HERSHATTER
If at first you don’t succeed,
Don’t try again.
Klauber’s record’s all you need:
A warning to all men.
(apologies to R. Kipling)
The Town of Longboat Key has long been blessed with lovable characters, persons who loved the town and contributed to its uniqueness – individuals who one might find in the pages of Reader’s Digest under the caption of “The most remarkable character I’ve ever met.”
Sadly, time and mortality have reduced the number – Jim Durante, who sparked the creation of a park in memory of his beloved wife, was the most recent loss to the goal of keeping Longboat Longboat.
We still have Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber, however, the creator of the historic Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, who has been notable for speaking up at Town Commission meetings and offering constructive suggestions on many topics.
Not the least of his consistent issues was advice on how best to control beach erosion – a subject on which he has been proven to be more expert than the coastal erosion specialists hired by the town.
Longboat Key’s Town Commissions have occasionally ignored history and legal precedent and bull-headed their way forward without regard to probable consequences.
More recently, in regard to the problems involving extending the grandfathered status of the derelict Colony, commissioners were heard to threaten stopping the clock and reverting to a greatly diminished unit density if sufficient progress was not evidenced during the next twelve month period.
One week later a federal bankruptcy judge awarded Murf Klauber and his general partner nearly $25 million in damages against the Colony’s unit owners, payable over five years, as well as an assessment of $100,000 per unit for repairs, all to carry an interest rate of 6% per annum until paid.
This is not the end of the litigants’ dancing the fandango in various court houses, but don’t sell the mighty Murf short.
It wasn’t too many years ago that Klauber took Longboat Key to court for withdrawing permits on one of his projects because work was not progressing as fast as the then Commission thought it should.
The result was a $10 million judgment in Murf’s favor, which he charitably reduced to $8 million because he so loved his town.
There is a lesson to be learned here.
It is true that Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber is a town character: one of a very few left owing to the vicissitudes of aging. But his regard for the town, his experience and his contributions toward Longboat’s measured progress are beyond argument.
The Colony imbroglio is very likely headed for the appellate courts in a process that could drag on for years as a feeding frenzy for lawyers, but without significant changes in the ultimate status of the parties.
It’s true that the drawn out process is hurting the town, but Murf is not responsible for matters beyond his control.
If the current Commission ignores history and attempts to influence results politically, one can be certain that once again Murf will stand up for his rights. Another multi-million judgment against the town, especially in these economic times, is not needed.
Since it is unlikely that matters will come to a head before the Commission mandated one year deadline, Klauber will undoubtedly come before that body as many times as necessary to get the present Gordian knot untangled.
If the Commission is wise, it will not mess with Murf and accede to his demands.
Both Sarasota and Manatee Counties have a history of looking upon Longboat as a “cash cow,” and the courts tend not to be sympathetic in suits against the town. The tendency is to regard the island as a Goliath, with individual plaintiffs in the role of David seeking justice.
As the saying goes: “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Richard L. Hershatter is a retired Connecticut lawyer and novelist who writes an occasional column of interest to Floridians. He can be reached at Banyan502@AOL.