An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

April 24, 2006


When kids act obnoxious, psychologists usually see two reasons for their outrageous behavior:

Somebody took their toys away or they feel they don't get enough attention!


I consider it a similar obnoxious situation when I see CALL's (Community Associations Leadership Lobby) executive director Donna Berger file a lawsuit for not getting requested documents in a timely manner.  It seems Donna Berger thinks that everybody else has to drop everything they are doing when SHE wants something. She has to realize that she is just a member of a law firm that represents a minority of disgruntled lawyers and board members -- and she only has the same rights as every regular citizen.


If Berger would request copies of just a few pages -- it would be a different ball game.  But she wants ALL the records of all elections monitored by the election monitors appointed by the condo ombudsman in 2005.  We are talking here seriously time-consuming work, difficult to achieve with a tiny staff as appropriated by the legislature.  Remember that this hard-working staff still has to do a lot of regular work, often working unpaid overtime!   Finding time to make copies of all of those requested records is not something the ombudsman's office is set up to do, especially when the check for the cost was so far never received!


But, it's a smart move by having CALL file the lawsuit.  First, it creates more revenue for the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff P.A.  Second, having the lawsuit filed by this lobbying group it is actually financed by condo owners' dues. Don't forget, we are talking here money paid by power-hungry board members using association dues, often without the knowledge of the owners, most likely violating their own deed restrictions and their fiduciary duty. Because normally deed restrictions don't list under "Use Of Fees" cost for lobbying against condo-owner friendly bills!  Even a board vote -- secret or public -- doesn't allow for paying dues to CALL.  But, as usual, most of the board members supporting CALL make up their own rules as they go along.  That's why they need a law firm to defend their frequent violations.


As in the case of Playa Del Mar, where the board still tries to hide the fact that one of the members sits on the board clearly violating the bylaws that only allows recorded owners to serve.  Yes, that is the same condominium, where attorney Robert Rubinstein, a member of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff P.A. successfully stopped the appointed election monitors from doing their job. That election took place at the same time when Donna Berger made the record request.  Because whatever these attorneys are saying now, “nobody knows” what happened with the ballot box while the monitors were not allowed to enter the election room -- and where the people charged with running the election failed to sign in the members present.


To my knowledge still today “nobody knows” whether or not there was a quorum at the membership meeting -- and whose vote counted or not!  Great organization by these highly paid "professionals"!  They surely proved that they know how to run a condo election -- just kidding!  Did Berger file a complaint that the DBPR still hasn't taken action in regards to the "illegal" board meeting that took place -- admitted by all participants?  Did Berger file a complaint about the fact that the DBPR refuses to take any action against a condo board that allows a non-member to serve on the board thereby violating their own bylaws and ignoring written complaints, using the often-abused excuse of “lack of jurisdiction”? 


Some interesting angles on the side:  Judge Horowitz, the judge assigned to the filed lawsuit by CALL lives in the Playa Del Mar Condominium.

The Becker & Poliakoff P.A. attorney on record is Stuart Zoberg, the same attorney who is involved in the lawsuit of the COLONIAL MANOR WEST APARTMENTS CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., where he tries to convince Judge Horowitz that it is totally OK to spend the money from a special assessment for legal fees paid to the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff P.A., especially since well-known Broward County lobbyist Judy Stern is the president of this association.  Judy Stern as well created uproar in another condominium, the CAPISTRANO TOWNHOMES CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. -- and was there removed as president!


What do you say: "THE PLOT THICKENS"?


Let's make one thing very clear: The whole problem could have been avoided if Division Chief Michael Cochran had taken a stand and had "educated" attorney Robert Rubinstein, as Secretary Marstiller advised Cochran to do in an e-mail. But, as usual, his "education" obviously didn't go very far, and the attorney most likely laughed about this "education" -- if something like that even took place.


It seems the Division is up to its old tricks, making the weirdest decisions without concern to the unit owners.  Those unit owners end up paying for the mistakes of the Division, after paying for the salaries of the employees in the first place. The Division showed another outrageous example of being useless with the decision about the election of the THE COVE AT SOUTH BEACHES CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. The Division based its decision on a statement by the president, who cancelled the election on short notice, because he was “under the weather” -- opponents claimed he was sick because he knew that he didn't have enough votes to win re-election. The DBPR investigators believed this president when he told them that there was an emergency board meeting to cancel the election. But other board members confirmed that such a meeting never took place!   Then the Division decided that this same president should be in charge of calling the new election.  And -- as predicted -- he mailed out wrong forms.  Now what, Michael Cochran? 


For every observer, it's very obvious why these specialized attorneys are fighting the Office of the Condo Ombudsman and the election monitors. Honest and fair elections have removed more long-term board members from office than ever before. And since these crony board members guaranteed the retainer contract with certain law firms, fair and honest elections are definitely not on the priority list of these law firms -- or the board members supporting CALL. They rather loved the time when election shenanigans allowed boards to stay in office forever -- and play their own little games! 

Actually, Donna Berger received the requested documents last week -- but the condo ombudsman is still not in possession of the check to cover the cost for mailing the documents! The check still seems to be "lost" in the chaos of the DBPR.


Now everybody is already looking forward to Berger’s next move to distract from the problems in Florida's condo world. 


In my opinion it's just a smoke screen blown to prevent legislators from seeing who is really behind all the problems condo owners all over Florida face!