A Ryland Homes saleswoman has sued two homeowners in the troubled Bridlewood Park subdivision, accusing them of harassing her and causing her to lose at least $26,000 in sales commissions.
Several homeowners in the new neighborhood in Live Oak had been protesting for months near the model homes where she works and also have been airing complaints on Web sites about unaddressed problems with their homes.
Ryland sales counselor Rachelle Tomerlin last week sued Bridlewood Park neighbors Todd Ferguson and Thaddeus Kochan, contending that they followed her around the neighborhood, called her names, posted her Social Security number on the Internet and congregated in front of her office in a "confrontational and threatening manner." She says she lost seven sales contracts, and the resulting commissions, because they interfered.
She was granted a temporary restraining order that keeps Ferguson and Kochan from contacting her or gathering in front of the sales office. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
The suit comes at a time when most of the neighborhood's homeowners including the defendants have been hammering out agreements with Ryland Homes to have their homes repaired by the builder.
"People need to know that you can't treat people that way and get away with it," said Henry Ridgeway, Tomerlin's attorney. "There's a time and a place to settle disputes, and it's not by following women around."
Both Ferguson and Kochan said they have not harassed or followed Tomerlin and that they were taken aback by the lawsuit.
Also, they haven't staged a protest since Aug. 18 and have been working with Richard Schroeder, division president for Ryland Homes in San Antonio, to have their homes and others repaired.
"Things were going well until this," Kochan said. "We haven't protested in Bridlewood in five weeks or so. Where is this coming from? It's outlandish."
Ferguson said Tomerlin's Social Security number was posted accidentally on the protest Web site RylandTroublesToo.com because it was listed in a police report, which she filed this summer, and which the Live Oak Police Department gave to Kochan.
"It was inadvertently done," Ferguson said. "This was never anything personal against anybody."
Ferguson removed the police report from the Web site when he discovered it contained Tomerlin's Social Security number.
"We were actually starting to feel like we were getting back to our lives. Then we got hit with this," Ferguson said.
Ridgeway says the posting of Tomerlin's personal information has put her at risk of identity theft. He said he represents only Tomerlin not Ryland Homes.
Ryland executive Schroeder could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
This summer, he and several homeowners were at an impasse because the homeowners wanted Ryland to repurchase their homes, and Schroeder wanted to repair them.
The conflict landed the group in front of the Live Oak City Council on several occasions but since has become a more cooperative effort, the neighbors say.
"Mr. Schroeder has gone above and beyond. He's stood by his word," Ferguson said. "I don't want to drag Ryland into this. We're happy with the way things are going."
Kochan, who has a meeting tonight with Schroeder, is hoping that the division president might be able to intervene somehow in the lawsuit.
Ferguson was to meet with an attorney Friday afternoon.