Judge orders developer Glenn Straub’s Polo Club to pay $86K. “Big deal,” Straub responds
Straub alleged civil rights violations in suit against village over code fines
Developer Glenn Straub lost another round in a yearslong dispute with Wellington tied to his Palm Beach Polo and Country Club and the Big Blue Preserve ecological site embedded within the club.
Straub, who owns the 2,250-acre Palm Beach Polo with golf and tennis courses as well as a clubhouse, and Wellington have been locked in litigation, in part over the village having sought $6.2 million in fines from the club over alleged code violations, including at Big Blue. The 92-acre preserve, which includes wetlands, is considered one of the last remaining Cypress hammock sites in South Florida.
In one of the skirmishes, Straub’s Palm Beach Polo, which owns the club, sued Wellington in 2019 for $50 million, claiming a pattern of “discrimination” and civil rights violation over the village’s code fines, according to the complaint.
Now, a federal judge in West Palm Beach upheld a magistrate’s report that called Palm Beach Polo’s suit “frivolous, unreasonable and without foundation” and recommended the club pay $85,903 in attorney fees to the village, court records show.
Judge William Dimitrouleas adopted in late October federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman’s recommendation.
“A little district judge makes a ruling on a little issue on attorney fees,” Straub responded when reached by phone on Tuesday. “It’s $80-some thousand dollars. Big deal. We spent over $10 million with just one law firm in Miami,” he added, illustrating the significance of the ruling when compared with his multiple companies’ legal fees.
“If we lost, it wouldn’t be one day’s earnings for us,” he said.
Matthewman’s report was on the attorney fees, as Palm Beach Polo lost on both its civil rights and trespassing claims against the village in May, when Dimitrouleas had granted Wellington’s motion for summary judgment.
Palm Beach Polo’s appeal on the judge’s ruling on the civil rights claim is pending.
The code violations in which Straub took issue in his suit go back to at least 2015, when the village deemed there was unlawful paving at the preserve, and that Palm Beach Polo transferred roughly an acre of the preserve to the property owners association for a dog park, according to Dimitrouleas’ May order.
Palm Beach Polo purchased the polo club, including the preserve, at a government auction in 1993. In 2013, it transferred operation of the property owners association to Palm Beach Polo residents.
In part of its suit, Palm Beach Polo claimed “selective enforcement” against it, alleging the property owners association for residences at the club also made code violations, but the village would let the association off the hook.
Straub’s attorney, Alexander Domb, declined comment on the attorney fees issue, citing the pending appeal.
Attorneys representing Wellington in this case did not immediately return a request for comment.
This hardly is the only legal issue for Straub, who was arrested last year on criminal felony charges tied to allegations he filed fraudulent liens against his ex-girlfriend Jessica Nicodemo for ending their relationship. The charges are pending.
In other disputes, he tried to credit-bid on the storied Palm House Hotel property that was sold at auction in 2019, following litigation alleging EB-5 visa fraud. A judge had shot down Straub’s no-cash bid several times.