Annual Dog and Pony Show

in Tallahassee -- 2006

CALL -- Community Association Day


An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

Published March 15, 2006


It's that time of the year again -- CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby) is on the way to Tallahassee. CALL is actually the lobbying arm of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. But in order to spread some credibility in public, informed citizens and legislators know anyway who they are, they like to cover up their real intentions by using some board members to make it look like they are doing something for the good of the associations, meaning the homeowners. That's farther from the truth than Fidel Castro claiming he is the poster-child for democracy! 


It seems the CAI attorneys are getting more desperate every year. Recent defeats in legislatures around the nation and in higher courts show that they are losing their credibility!  Donna Berger, the executive director of CALL - an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. -- is now already into name-calling. She  "promoted" homeowner activists, who are unwilling to follow the attorneys' party line, to "anarchists." That sounds familiar, since the British king used the name “anarchists” to describe our founding forefathers. Maybe we should be proud of it -- if it weren’t so sad!  Berger is a so-called officer of the court, calling the opposition names because of lack of factual arguments? Berger's evaluation of the filed association reform bills (Click here to listen to radio interview) was an obvious attempt to confuse the issues and circumvent the real facts. Her statements are clearly aimed at well-meaning board members who often are not familiar with the actual bills. These gullible board members are being told that the sky will fall down if these reform bills are being enacted. Absolutely not true!


I can absolutely understand why attorneys are against any association reforms. They are afraid that better written laws would finally protect the owners and would be detrimental to their income. These specialized attorneys have created a cash cow for themselves by creating laws that automatically create lawsuits -- creating big income for these attorneys for very little work. And the attorneys know they always get paid -- win or lose -- since the homes of the families living in these associations are collateral for their payment.


The people supporting CALL have various motivations. There are the well-meaning board members, who plainly don't know better and think they are doing something good for the community. Just read some recent letters to editors, written by these board members, in various newspapers.  We met some of these innocent board members last year in Tallahassee and realized immediately that they had mistakenly fallen for biased propaganda. Last year’s deceptive tall tale was the provision of mandatory reserve funds that was used to twist the facts. Board members and owners had been told incorrectly that this bill would force them to pay more than $500 in additional monthly dues if this bill were enacted -- and they would be priced out of their homes. No truth to that statement, but an effective way to scare little old ladies!


Quite a few owners would have later been happy to have reserve funds -- after Wilma blew through their condos!


Then you have the groups who are supporting the attorneys for political reasons. See COWBRA  (Coalition of West Boynton Residential Associations) -- a so- called umbrella organization for associations in Boynton Beach. The president, Sandy Greenberg, known for "my way or the highway" policy, is determined to see Senator Ron Klein becoming an US Representative. Under her tenure COWBRA went far astray from representing the owners in the associations. She is just using this organization, once founded to represent the interests of the owners, as a political machine. How else can it be explained that she is supporting a candidate like State Senator Ron Klein, whose law firm Sax, Sachs & Klein is responsible for many lawsuits all over Florida, where association members were sued to become mandatory members in golf country clubs? Backing a candidate proven to be not necessarily owner-friendly?


Owners in Boynton Beach now have considered forming their own organization, since they feel that COWBRA deserted them and is not working for the interests of the owners any longer!


Then you have the board members who run their "empires" since many years and feel that they have a "right" to run the show! Power corrupts -- and more power corrupts even more. These board members consider fair elections and accountability of the people in charge as a direct threat to their leadership. They favor "Oligarchy" -- a system CALL obviously supports!


And then you have the CALL supporters, who are afraid that any kind of owner-friendly reforms, or even actual enforcement of existing laws would kill their financial gain or make it easier to uncover their "little" income on the side. A recent example for these allegations is Robert Rozema, the president of the Galt Mile Community Association in Fort Lauderdale. A complaint alleging even criminal misconduct shows that there is often financial interest behind the opposition for reforms. 

How else to interpret the statement of the auditing firm (quote): "The president of the Association is the acting property manager. In addition to his compensation, the Association is paying his maintenance, property taxes, and car expenses."


Many owners living in condos along the Galt Mile feel that the Galt Mile Community Association, known as a strong supporter of CALL, has ceased to represent the actual owners of these condominiums. Owners from various associations in this area are in the process of creating their own organization, an organization to represent the interests of the owners, not the people interested in financial gains! 


These are just a few examples why some board members are supporting the service providers -- and falsely claim to represent all their association members. I can assure you -- this is not the case. Many association members are actually openly complaining about this false claim and the fact that many of these board members participating in this Association Day event in Tallahassee pay the $300 fee from association dues, violating their own deed restrictions that forbid dues being used for lobbying purposes. 


It will again be interesting to see which legislators will openly be willing to show their support for CALL?  We owners, as constituents, are definitely very interested in seeing who openly supports this group of people who oppose any consumer-friendly laws for their own gain. Especially legislators running for higher office, meaning they have to get votes from outside their districts, will realize that there are many owners who are against CALL -- and the legislators supporting their cause!


So -- let the DOG and PONY SHOW begin!