TOMS RIVER, N.J – A volunteer with a New Jersey anti-poverty program said Friday he kept the money he made from selling a homeless man's house because the man caused him major problems.
Wallace Doman III, a former real estate agent and the housing director of Solutions To End Poverty Soon (STEPS), told The Associated Press he felt no obligation to turn over money from the 2010 sale of Doug Hardman's house in Bayville after the homeless man signed it over to him for $50.
Doman says erratic behavior and complaints to authorities by Hardman led to the loss of Doman's job, and to his being investigated by police and state real estate regulators. Hardman, who lives in Tent City, an encampment of homeless people in the woods of Lakewood, is suing Doman, alleging he cheated Hardman out of his home.
In an interview after a Superior Court judge allowed the lawsuit to continue against Century 21 Pacesetter Realty, for whom Doman once worked, Doman said he did not feel he had to give Hardman any of the money from the sale of his lagoon-front home.
"After he put me through this, why should I?" Doman asked. "Not for what I was put through. He signed it over to me. I didn't deserve to go through that. I don't deserve to go through this. That man knew exactly what he was doing at all times. I know I did nothing wrong.
"I lost my job at Century 21," he said. "I was investigated by the Lakewood Police Department. I was investigated by the New Jersey Real Estate Commission. They found no wrongdoing."
In his lawsuit, Hardman claims his signature was forged on a deed purporting to turn over ownership of his house to Doman's company, Platinum Home Management on April 6, 2010. Doman says Hardman signed the document in the presence of an attorney, and that he was sober and coherent the entire time.
The two men met in Tent City, which Doman had visited in his role as volunteer housing director for STEPS. The two agreed Doman would try to sell Hardman's home for him.
But when Doman found out that Hardman had already signed a contract to sell it to two other real estate investors he had met while living in temporary housing, "I said, `We're done."'
Doman said he offered to deed the house back to Hardman, but Hardman refused. At that point, Doman said, he felt no further obligation to Hardman. Doman considered the house to be his own property.
"Everything became null and void when I tried to give it back to him. Nothing in the law says I can't sell my house for profit -- I sold my house for profit," Doman said, emphasizing the word "my."
He sold the house for $215,000 to the two investors with whom Hardman had already signed a contract, and who he says were pressing their claim to the property. The two men are not named as defendants in Hardman's lawsuit. They later sold the house to another buyer for $355,400.
At Friday's court hearing, Superior Court Judge E. David Millard refused to grant Century 21's motion to dismiss it from the case, ruling that additional information needs to be presented to the court. The real estate agency maintains it never listed Hardman's house for sale, that it had no business relationship with Hardman, and that anything Doman did, he did on his own and not as a Century 21 employee.
Mary Chatten, one of the lawyers representing Hardman, said outside the courtroom she has a hard time understanding how Doman can claim he had no obligation to share the proceeds of the home sale with Hardman.
"It's troubling that Mr. Doman does not view his actions as unlawful," she said. "The fact that he thinks he has no responsibility to share the proceeds from the sale of the house is not shocking given his take on the circumstances."
Hardman found a part-time job this week working in a sheet metal business for 90 minutes a day, according to his son, Christian, who attended Friday's hearing. He said he hoped that might help motivate his father, who acknowledges he has a drinking problem, to straighten out his life.