Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 8:33 pm

Who’s got their 6?

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:33 pm
Tags: ,

This is the kind of thing that absolutely, positively should not happen, ever:

Michael Clauer is a captain in the Army Reserve who commanded over 100 soldiers in Iraq. But while he was fighting for his country, a different kind of battle was brewing on the home front. Last September, Michael returned to Frisco, Texas, to find that his homeowners’ association had foreclosed on his $300,000 house—and sold it for $3,500. This story illustrates the type of legal quagmire that can get out of hand while soldiers are serving abroad and their families are dealing with the stress of their deployment. And fixing the mess isn’t easy.

Michael went on active duty in February 2008 and was sent to Iraq. After he shipped out, his wife May slipped into a deep depression, according to court documents. “A lot of people say that the deployment is more stressful on the spouse than the actual person who’s being deployed,” Michael, 37, says in an interview with Mother Jones. May Clauer had two kids to take care of—a ten-year-old and a one-year-old with a serious seizure-related disorder. In addition, she was worried sick about her husband. Michael’s company was doing convoy security in Iraq—an extremely dangerous job. “It was a pretty tough year for the whole company,” he says. “We had IEDs, rocket attacks and mortar attacks, and a few soldiers that were hurt pretty bad and had to be airlifted back to the States.”

Seeking to avoid hearing about the situation in Iraq, May stopped watching the news. She rarely answered the door, and Michael says he couldn’t tell her when he went “outside the wire”—off-base. May also stopped opening the mail. “I guess she was scared that she would hear bad news,” says Michael. That was why she missed multiple notices from the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association informing her that the family owed $800 in dues—and then subsequent notices stating that the HOA was preparing to foreclose on the debt and seize the home.

In Texas, homeowners’ associations can foreclose on homes without a court order, no matter the size of the debt. In May 2008, the HOA sold the Clauers’ home for a pittance—$3,500—although its appraisal value was $300,000, according to court documents.

Funny. The previous administration spent eight years trying to make the country more like Texas, as if Texas were some sort of model instead of an oligarchic Third World kleptocracy. (OK, granted, for some people, “oligarchic Third World kleptocracy” is a model, but those are not people I would place in any position of public trust.)

Granted, the homeowners’ association was within its legal rights to communicate only by mail. But isn’t a homeowners’ association also supposed to be your neighbors? And wouldn’t the … oh, I don’t know, neighborly thing to do be to knock on the door and find out what’s going on?

Another thought: My guess is that if Capt. Clauer were Regular Army, he’d’ve had more of a support system for his family. The Army actually is pretty good about that, from what its veterans have told me. Reserve and National Guard personnel, not so much, although the last time I reported regularly on the issue, the Army was at least beginning to come to grips with the gap between support for RA/active-duty personnel and Reserve/Guard personnel, in areas ranging from social support to health care.

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited Iraq in July, Michael says he told him about the problem. According to Michael, Perry called May and put lawyers in touch with the Clauers’ attorney, but couldn’t do much to alleviate the situation. (Perry’s office didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.)

Man, what a whiff. Michael and May Clauer’s case was a golden opportunity to look good and win at least two lifelong fans for any politician who could spare 15 minutes to make a couple of phone calls. Hey, Gov. Goodhair, life is not going to hang too many more curve balls out over the plate like that.

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