GOOD FOR A GREAT LAUGH:

CONDO ELECTION CERTIFICATION FORM

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

Published August 9, 2010

  

We all know in the meanwhile that community association bill S 1196 changed a lot of provisions in the statutes -- mostly for the worse. But the new CONDO ELECTION CERTIFICATION provision is minimum good for a laugh -- if you interpret it as written.

   

To me it looks like a reward for all the people and organizations that are actually to blame for this ill-advised bill. They couldn't even write a half-way decent bill, but they are now rewarded with being the Approved Education Providers, as listed on the website of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. The list is the WHO IS WHO of all the special interest that use community associations as their cash cows. 

  • Peter M. Dunbar, lobbyist, book author and shareholder in the law firm of Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar.  Dunbar, who served in the Florida House of Representatives, is certainly the most influential anti-owner lobbyist in Tallahassee .  In recent times members of Dunbar’s firm are using the same kind of methods that we owners had seen from the big CAI (Community Associations Institute) law firms, such as Becker & Poliakoff and Katzman Garfinkel & Berger. The latest example: MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY! BUY IT -- OR ELSE! (TAMPA BAY GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB). And don't forget: Changes to Florida's community association laws always increase his book sales!

  • Gary Poliakoff & Ryan Poliakoff, co-authors of the book: New Neighborhoods: The Consumers Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living. Gary Poliakoff, the founding shareholder of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, definitely did his share to make the community association statutes the financial dream of attorneys and community association managers -- and the nightmare for homeowners and condo owners that were lured into these associations under the false pretense of "carefree living" and "protection of property values."  In order to confuse legislators and owners, Poliakoff’s firm founded CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby), a lobbying group that pretends to represent the interest of community associations.  Any association wanting to retain the services of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff automatically becomes a member of CALL -- according to the retainer agreement.  CALL uses this automatic membership clause in order to be able to claim that CALL represents all the associations and its members.  Becker & Poliakoff attorneys and lobbyists always conveniently forget to mention that the association only hired B&P for legal representation -- not to lobby for bills that create more billing hours.

Listing these two books on the list of so-called “Approved Education Providers” is blatant advertising to sell these books. How can these books "submit a certificate of satisfactory completion of the educational curriculum administered by a division-approved condominium education provider"? Maybe the author of this provision meant for the elected board member to attach the purchase receipt from Amazon (or other book stores) to the signed certification? The wording of the statute surely doesn't make it clear!

  • Board Member Boot Camp® - Katzman Garfinkel & Berger and its Community Advocacy Network®  This is direct advertising for the services of KG&B and its so-called “advocacy network” CAN.  Previously, Donna Berger had been known as the mouthpiece of CALL, before she and many other Becker & Poliakoff attorneys switched firms and joined what was formerly known as Katzman & Korr.  Rumor has it that “more money” was the reason for the sudden switch of so many attorneys. Where do you think this money is coming from? The board member boot camp courses may have educational value, but it is in the end nothing more than advertising for the services of the law firm. 

  • Community Associations Institute (CAI) is the national trade organization of the community association service providers. Its members are specialized attorneys, community association managers, insurance agents -- and BANKERS! Their courses and education material reflect their policy: "The service providers know what's good for the owners!"  CAI tries hard to convince everybody that it is actually lobbying for the welfare of the associations. Sorry, but a trade organization has only one goal: To improve the profit of its members. And to be very honest: A Florida government agency shouldn't promote the business of an organization which delivered an AMICUS BRIEF to the New Jersey Supreme Court, claiming that some provisions of the U.S. Constitution are trumped by the Business Judgment Rule and free speech provisions are only applicable to board members. Don't our elected officials swear in their Oath of Office that they will uphold our Constitution?

All of the people and organizations listed above have a serious financial interest NOT TO EDUCATE board members and owners.  KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, which means that uneducated board members and uneducated owners can be easily steered in various directions, creating more billing hours for attorneys and better contracts and extra fees for community managers. 

 

Already in 2004 we had pleaded with the Florida legislature to create an unbiased education system under the umbrella of the DIVISION.  The money was available -- the Division even paid the Community Associations Institute $500,000 for education services at that time.  That amount of money would have been more than sufficient to build an independent education system that would have been able to give board members and owners an unbiased look at what is really right or wrong -- and how the associations should really be managed.  We even talked with Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in order to distribute education courses. PBS was more than willing to discuss this issue in detail. This would have been an education course that would have not ended with the normal statement: "For more details please contact a specialized attorney from our law firm" or "Your CAM will gladly help you with your problems before turning the case over to the association attorney." And guess who were the biggest opponents of this proposed education system?  Peter Dunbar and Donna Berger, at that time still working for Becker & Poliakoff.

 

None of these education providers will help board members to read and/or to understand the association’s declaration of condominium, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written policies -- a requirement for the certification . All this HOOPLA about the Election Certification has been watered down and turned into an advertising campaign for the major service providers -- nothing else.  It really doesn't serve any practical purpose – nor does it improve the dismal situation in many condos.  And changing the mandate of filing the certification form 90 days after the new board member has been seated plainly makes it a joke.  Where in the world do you have to provide the eligibility papers after the election?  ONLY IN FLORIDA 'S CONDOS!

 

The Division's list of Approved Education Providers doesn’t look like a list of educators.  It looks more like a list of who contributed their fair share of anti-owner provisions that were used to create the ill-advised community association bill S1196 -- a bill that does absolutely nothing to help associations/owners deal with the serious problem of unpaid dues. We need educators who could really help board members and owners to deal with the problems of association living and to understand what they got lured into. All this bill really does is provide some feel-good measures and increases the profits of the service providers without holding banks and mortgage companies liable for the damage they created with their irresponsible lending practices!

  

FS 118.112(2)(d)3.b.  Within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board, each newly elected or appointed director shall certify in writing to the secretary of the association that he or she has read the association’s declaration of condominium, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written policies; that he or she will work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and that he or she will faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members. In lieu of this written certification, the newly elected or appointed director may submit a certificate of satisfactory completion of the educational curriculum administered by a division-approved condominium education provider. A director who fails to timely file the written certification or educational certificate is suspended from service on the board until he or she complies with this sub subparagraph. The board may temporarily fill the vacancy during the period of suspension. The secretary shall cause the association to retain a director’s written certification or educational certificate for inspection by the members for 5 years after a director’s election. Failure to have such written certification or educational certificate on file does not affect the validity of any action.

   

Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes

Approved Education Providers

  1. The Condominium Concept: a practical guide for officers, owners, and directors of Florida condominiums. / Peter M. Dunbar. – 11th ed. This publication is designed to be a quick and easy reference source for condominium association operations under the Condominium Act.  This book is available at most retail outlets for $27.95, $21.95 (soft cover) and may also be acquired from the publisher, Pine Apple Press, Inc., P.O. Box 3889 , Sarasota Florida , 34230 , or www.pineapplepress.com 
  2. The Condominium Management Suite: Convenient, Affordable Online Training Available 24/7 to Condominium Board Members. The Human Equation’s suite of  courses, written in clear, everyday language, encompasses 10 hours of training in the 8 titles currently available. This courseware covers all areas of condominium governance and helps individuals comply with the new provisions of Chapter 718, The Condominium Act.  The full suite of courses is available at a discounted rate of $66.74; individual courses start at $9.95. In addition, a Board of Directors package is available and includes unlimited access to all courses, as well as document distribution and retention solutions. DVDs are also available. Visit www.floridacondotraining.com or call 800-527-9667.

  3. Community Associations Institute (CAI) offers numerous education and training opportunities for community association board members and unit owners. Maximize your role as a board member, volunteer leader or owner by better understanding the history, purpose and function of community associations. After participating in CAI’s live seminars, webinars and free online courses, and downloading resources such as An Introduction to Community Association Living, Community Association Governance Guidelines and Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities, you will have the specialized tools and skills needed to make your role and activities as a unit owner, volunteer community leader or association officer even more focused and effective. If you are interested in attending one of CAI’s local homeowner education programs, call CAI toll-free at (888) 224-4321, visit us online at www.caionline.org or contact your local CAI chapter in:

    • Southeast Florida (Miami-Dade and Broward counties)
    • Suncoast (Tampa, St. Petersburg area)
    • Gold Coast (Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie area)
    • Mid-Florida (Orlando, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville area)
    • North Gulf Coast (Florida Panhandle)
    • South Gulf Coast (Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Naples area)
    • West Florida (Sarasota and Manatee counties
  4. A Simple Guide to THE COMPLEX WORLD of COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS. This 22-minute VIDEO provides a summary on the basics a Board Member needs to consider, review and become familiar with if serving on the Board of Directors of their community. The video also comes with an easy to read companion manual and costs $14.95. CAM ACADEMY, Educating for Better Communities and Boards, also offers hands-on, in-depth classes on Association Budgets, Finance and Insurance Matters; Conducting Meetings, Elections and Community Association Operations; and Board Member Fiduciary Responsibilities and Legal Considerations. Classes start at $54.00 (Discounts given for multiple attendees from a community). You may purchase the video on-line and/or register for classes at http://www.camacademy.org/ or by calling us at 941-356-4688 or email us at email@camacademy.org.
  5. New Neighborhoods: The Consumers Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living / Gary Poliakoff & Ryan Poliakoff. This book will guide owners and volunteers through all aspects of the complex world of shared ownership communities (condominiums, co-ops and HOAs). It is the ultimate consumer’s handbook, detailing the most important aspects of buying or living in a shared ownership community and providing in-depth information on how to effectively serve as a board member or volunteer. This book is available at all retail outlets for $16.95 and may also be acquired from the publisher, Greenleaf Book Group, P.O. Box 91869, Austin , Texas 78709 or www.greenleafbookgroup.com
  6. Board Member Boot Camp® - Katzman Garfinkel & Berger and its Community Advocacy Network® present an interactive and exciting educational program for Board newcomers as well as veteran Board Members and Community Association Managers. “Basic Training” includes topics such as:
    • Adopting Best Practices to streamline operations and save money;
    • Interpreting and implementing legislative changes;
    • Preparing for hurricanes and other catastrophes, recovering from disasters and navigating insurance landmines;
    • Protecting your community from liability;
    • Tactical Warfare:  Pursuing Collections;
    • Negotiation with vendors and neighbors;
    • Preparing Budgets and Reserve planning

Come see for yourself how entertaining and memorable an education-filled Boot Camp can be! For further information and/or to view video highlights from our program, please visit www.boardmemberbootcamp.com


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