don’t have to tell governing boards why they want to examine
their associations’ financial records. And owners, not
boards, are allowed to decide whether the examinations can
be conducted by themselves or their authorized
Those two rights were
affirmed by a Palm Beach County circuit judge on Tuesday in
a ruling against the Boca View Condominium Association’s
three-year effort to deny access to its records to the
attorney of a unit owner it called a “troublemaker.”
Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes concluded a three-day bench
trial in West Palm Beach by shooting down nearly all of the
numerous legal arguments raised by Boca View attorneys from
the powerful Becker law firm to justify denying records
access to Eleanor Lepselter and her attorney, Jonathan
“I’m just happy it’s over, to get this monkey off our back,”
a tearful Lepselter said after Kastrenakes announced his
decision. “This is something you can’t imagine having to
Andrew Schwartz, Lepselter’s
co-counsel, called the ruling “a substantial victory, not
just for Mrs. Lepselter but for all members of associations
seeking their rights to inspect records.”
The trial was the latest courtroom skirmish in a decadelong
conflict between the governing board of the Boca Raton
complex, including its president Diana Kuka and treasurer
Giuseppe Marcigilano, and a group of unit owners critical of
the board’s management.
During the trial,
Marcigliano labeled the unit owners “troublemakers” while
Kuka said after the ruling that they were “bleeding the
Boca View attorney Adam Cervera accused Lepselter and her
husband, Edward, on Tuesday of being involved “in some way,
shape or form” with 27 arbitration requests, numerous
lawsuits, and a 2020 federal civil rights complaint.
The bulk of the trial focused on a provision of Florida’s
Condominium Act that requires associations to allow
inspections of its records by a unit owner “or” the owner’s
Boca View argued that the provision gave it the right to
determine which of the two gets to see the records.
Lepselter argued that the unit owner gets to choose.
Lepselter filed her inspection request via certified letter
on Feb. 6, 2019. The letter stated that she had appointed
Yellin to inspect the records on her behalf. On the same
day, Yellin sent his own letter stating that he planned to
inspect the records personally.
On Feb. 22, 2019, Boca View’s property manager told
Lepselter by email that the board had decided that she, and
not Yellin, could inspect the records the following Monday.
When Lepselter and Yellin showed up to
the property manager’s office, the property manager and
later Boca View’s treasurer informed the pair that only
Lepselter could inspect the records.
The Boca View Condominium, located just blocks from
the ocean on Spanish River Road, as it appeared Tuesday after an
owner seeking access to the association's financial records won at
trial. A Palm Beach County circuit judge shot down nearly all of the
arguments raised by the governing board and its attorneys from the
Becker law firm.
Lepselter next sought
non-binding arbitration from the Department of Business and
Professional Regulation, as required by state law. In
October 2019, DBPR’s arbitrator sided with Lepselter,
finding that she had the right under state law to appoint
Yellin to represent her in the review.
After the arbitrator’s order, Boca View’s association
appealed the ruling by suing Eileen Lepselter and adding her
husband to the suit as an “indispensable party.”
Kastrenakes concurred with the arbitrator in his ruling on
“It’s the right of the [unit owner] to make that choice, not
the right of the association,” he stated. “It’s ludicrous to
Rules governing record access, the judge noted, “always
apply to the rights of the member” — not associations’
In his ruling, Kastrenakes affirmed other findings by the
arbitrator, including one disallowing Boca View’s
contention, based on a section of state law pertaining to
nonprofit organizations, that it could deny access to
records if it determined the requests were not made “in good
faith” and for a “proper purpose.”
Boca View argued that Lepselter was set up as a “straw
person” for another couple, David and Dganit Shefets, whose
own record inspection request was denied after the couple
transferred ownership of two units to a limited liability
corporation they had formed.
The Shefets had agreed to pay attorneys fees associated with
a later record inspection request by another unit owner,
Eileen Breitkreutz, and Boca View’s board argued that
Lepselter and Yellin wanted access to the records so they
could share them with the Shefets.
But a 2010 revision to the nonprofit law barred the “good
faith” and “proper purpose” requirements from being applied
to condo, homeowner, and mobile home owner association
members, Lepselter’s attorneys argued.
And Kastrenakes noted that the board did not cite any such
requirements when it originally decided to give Lepselter
access to the records. He noted that numerous arbitration
rulings found that unit owners weren’t required to provide
any reason for seeking records.
He also rejected the board’s “straw man” argument, finding
that neither the Shefets nor anyone else were coercing
Lepselter to request records or paying Lepselter to retain
Yellin as her attorney.
“She wanted to see the records herself with no persuasion
from anyone else,” the judge said.
The ruling represents a rare defeat for the Becker firm,
which has been criticized in recent years for helping condo
associations defeat challenges by their unit owners by
subjecting them to voluminous and costly litigation. Critics
say the prospect of being sued by litigious associations
dissuades unit owners from exercising their legal rights
under Florida’s Condominium Act to hold their associations
Boca View’s 2016 suit over Breitkreutz’s record inspection
request spawned six years of litigation and a $395,544 legal
fee judgment against the single mom. In that case, Circuit
Judge Donald Hafele agreed that the association fulfilled
its obligation to provide access to its records.
This time the giant attorney fee bill will be delivered to
Boca View and its 72 unit owners — unless the board decides
to appeal Kastrenakes’ ruling and wins.