I’ve witnessed a lot of pathetic displays of human pettiness in more than 40 years of journalism but nothing, repeat nothing, can match the courtroom melodrama that played out in Floyd County general district court Thursday afternoon.

A long-simmering neighborhood squabble involving Floyd County’s only gated community, Park Ridge, erupted into full-fledged legal warfare in front of Judge Thomas Frith and displayed just how incredibly carried away people can become over minor problems.

On one side sat the angry father of a combat Marine and an ally of a neighborhood association board of directors ousted in what one resident calls a “hostile takeover.” On the other, the new board and its leader, an arm waving hysteric who loses control while accusing others of doing the same.

“Your honor, this has been a circus,” current Park Ridge Association president Larry Martin told Judge Frith after more than four hours of testimony. Martin should know. He was one of the ringleaders of the carnival that played out in the courtroom and Judge Frith had to tell him to sit down and shut up more than once. But both sides share the blame for allowing what was once a simple neighborhood dispute turning into a long-running legal battle in both civil and criminal courts. Neither can claim the high road if such a road actually exists.

This latest war erupted when Chris Koumparakis, father of a property owner – Marine Capt. Speros Koumparakis – – appeared before the Park Ridge Board in August of last year to ask for a waiver of his son’s community association assessment while the Marine served overseas in Iraq and also to demand payment of an overdue bill for survey work the elder Koumparakis performed for the old board of directors.

Martin and his backers say Koumparakis was there simply to stir up trouble at the urging of Donald Stoneman, president of the old board of directors. That’s probably true. Animosity runs deep between the two factions and you could feel it from the snickers and giggles from both sides of the spectators that packed the courtroom on Thursday.

So the new board went into a stall, telling Koumparakis they would check into the matter and get back to him. When he heard nothing, he came back in September and, from all accounts, things got nasty.

Next, the board banned Koumparakis from future meetings and threatened to place a lien on his son’s property for the unpaid assessment. Koumparakis returned to the November and December meetings only to be ejected by Floyd County deputy sheriffs.

He appeared in court Thursday as a defendant facing two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of criminal trespass. He also swore out a warrant for a Park Ridge owner, Reece Prillaman, for assault, claiming Prillaman belly-bumped him at the September board meeting and threatened him.

After four hours of charges, counter charges, some shouting and a lot of hyperbole, Judge Frith dismissed the two charges of disorderly conduct against Koumparakis and the assault charge against Prillaman but convicted Koumparakis of two counts of criminal trespass and fined him a total of $400. Frith told Koumparakis that he should have stayed away from the two board meeting and not made such a nuisance of himself. He also said Koumparakis should have sought remedy for his unpaid bill in civil court and not thrown a tantrum at the board meeting. But Koumparakis plans to appeal so the matter is far from over and the nuisance value continues. The two sides of this long-running squabble have tied up court time in three counties and no end is in sight.

“You folks have a real mess up on that mountain,” Frith told both sides.

Park Ridge is a community with a long history of neighborhood warfare. It illustrates the dangers of community associations and boards of directors who rule their fiefdoms in Gestapo fashion. Those who know Park Ridge’s story consider the neighborhood a joke and the best reason of all to do everything possible to make sure that no future gated communities with power-mad neighborhood associations spring up in our county.

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