Hot Rods BBQ & Grill owner Rod Gaudin says he is in the fight of his life.
The longtime Lutz resident and community advocate opened the popular restaurant at 18430 Livingston Ave. about 16 years ago. Now, unless something happens fast, the property will be sold in a foreclosure auction on March 11, and the Gaudin family will lose everything, he said.
Attorney Michael Germain stepped in this week to represent Gaudin in his effort to stop the sale.
An emergency motion to vacate the final judgment and cancel the final sale was submitted Tuesday, Germain said. An emergency hearing was granted, and will take place Thursday afternoon.
How did it come to this?
According to Gaudin, David Potts, his wife's former boss of 26 years eliminated Helen Gaudin's position, and claimed the couple owed his companies money for unpaid personal loans. David Potts, who owns multiple corporations in Florida, then filed a civil suit against Rod and Helen Gaudin.
In that case, some of the claims, including one for $100,000, were thrown out, Gaudin said. Gaudin was able to produce a copy of the check and the lien release for the $100,000 claim. But the court found the Gaudins liable for about $50,000 for other claims, and Judge Sam Pendino entered a final judgment on Sept. 20, 2012.
Potts' attorney then filed a request for an equitable lien on the Hot Rods property, then filed a motion for foreclosure, which was granted by Pendino on Jan. 22, Gaudin said.
"I loaned them money to pay property taxes and their insurance and they didn't pay it back," Potts said in a phone interview. "(Gaudin) had a three-day jury trial that he requested and he lost."
Gaudin said he was never notified of the Jan. 22 foreclosure hearing; Potts' attorney sent the notification via email according to court documents, but Gaudin did not have his email address registered with the court for electronic notification, he said.
An attorney did not represent Gaudin when the lien and resulting court actions were taken, he said. He believes this lack of notification was wrong, and did not follow proper procedure.
"I don't believe they were properly served under the rule of judicial administration," Germain said.
The restaurant owner also could stop the foreclosure sale by coming up with about $100,000 to cover the lien and fees, but Gaudin said he’s not trying to raise funds.
"I'm not putting out a plea for money anymore," Gaudin said.
But he’s not going to let the property go without a fight. Gaudin is seeking reversal of the foreclosure judgment on various grounds, including lack of notification.
Gaudin feels the actions that led from a civil judgment for an unsecured loan to a lien and foreclosure on his business property were administered without due process.
The Hot Rods owner says he is sharing his story to put a spotlight on what he feels is a failed court system, which could allow a $50,000 judgment to take away his family's life savings— a million-dollar property and business his family built will be wiped out with the bang of a gavel.
“I served in Vietnam to fight for another country to prevent another country from taking their land, now I’m home and my country is going to take my land away from me,” Gaudin said.
If the motion to stop the sale is granted at Thursday's hearing, the foreclosure sale won't happen. But the equitable lien on the property will remain.
"it will essentially give (Gaudin) time to resolve prior issues," Germain said.