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Dispute between Michael Pinson and real estate company catches title company in the middle

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A dispute over a real estate commission has caught a Pinellas title company in the middle.

Now the company is asking the court to take control of the fee and decide who’s entitled to the money.

The dispute arises from the sale of a condominium owned by Pinson Development LLC of Clearwater. Michael Pinson, a Republican activist, is the manager and registered agent for Pinson Development, according to records from the Florida Department of State corporations division.

Pinson said he was surprised the suit was even filed.

“A judge is going to roll his eyes and throw this out,” Pinson said.

According to the lawsuit, Pinson agreed to pay Garnik LLC, which does business as Keller Williams Realty, a commission for selling a Clearwater condo. Star Title Partners of Palm Harbor, which has an affiliated business arrangement with Garnik, was supposed to disburse the funds.

The condo sold for $715,000, which included a $35,500 real estate commission. But, according to the lawsuit, “disputes arose between Pinson and Garnik concerning the real estate commission. Garnik demands that Star Title pay the real estate commission to Garnik, but Pinson demands that Star Title hold the real estate commission or risk [a] lawsuit for damages.”

Rather than continue to hold the funds or risk giving the money to the wrong party, Star Title is asking the court to take charge of the funds until the differences between Pinson and Garnik can be resolved or adjudicated.

Star Title “has no interest in the money,” the company’s attorney Lori Heim of Tampa said.

Heim also represents Garnik; but there is no conflict, she said, because Star Title is not claiming the money, and as such has no adverse interest to Garnik. She declined to comment on Garnik’s position, except to say she does not understand why there is interest in the case.

“It’s about the most boring [type] case that gets filed,” Heim said. “It’s a private matter. It should stay that way.”

Pinson agreed that the dispute arose from the sale of the condo. But, Pinson said he and Garnik/Keller Williams had agreed to go to arbitration to settle their differences over the commission. Before they could go to arbitration, Pinson said Star Title told him that, if the money was not disbursed within 60 days after the sale, it would “automatically” be deposited with the court until the situation was resolved. Pinson said he was fine with that.

But, instead of getting a notice that the money was in the court’s hands, he found his company at the wrong end of a lawsuit. Pinson said he wasn’t given a chance to sign a release approving a transfer to the court nor was he notified of Star Title’s intent to sue. Pinson said he was more than willing to sign a release.

“We just want to arbitrate … get this worked out,” Pinson said. “We don’t want to litigate.”

He sent an email to Star Title, Heim and her co-counsel Yolvee Gordon.

“I am shocked that you have filed a civil claim against the Keller Williams and myself without any prior written letters to either us of at any time in good faith,” Pinson wrote. “These actions filed are frivolous and frankly insane.”

Pinson said he was also questioning the fact that Heim represents both Star Title and Garnik/Keller Williams.

“I have done nothing but act in good faith with everyone involved here,” Pinson said.

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