FLORIDA ELECTIONS: CROOKS EVERYWHERE
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published October 11, 2010
While our leading politicians use the upcoming elections to fight for the privilege of being the biggest crook of all, the crooks in our community associations use many loopholes in the election regulations of the Florida statutes to fiddle around with elections. The vague language and the total lack of enforcement enable power-hungry board members to do as they please.
The Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes has jurisdiction over elections and recalls in condos and homeowners' associations. But arbitration [FS 718.1255] takes forever -- or until the next election -- and the Bureau of Compliance, which only has jurisdictions over condo and co-op elections, is more interested in finding excuses to do nothing than in taking any action to remedy even serious problems.
Recent changes to the election provisions for homeowners' associations [FS 720.306(9)] have done absolutely nothing to improve the election regulations. It still allows sitting board members to do more or less whatever they please.
One of the most common violations: Just not holding elections as required by statutes and bylaws. Both HOA [FS 720.306(2)] and condo [FS 718.112(2)(d) 1.] statutes require annual meetings with elections, a wide majority of governing documents is even more detailed and specify even the month -- sometimes even weeks and/or weekdays -- when the annual meeting with election should take place.
But you can put anything on paper -- it's useless if the folks who should uphold these rules are the ones who knowingly ignore them -- and the folks who should enforce the rules are desperately trying to find excuses for the violators.
The result: Lots of rules -- lots of paper wasted -- but daily life shows that often the people in charge ignore these rules -- because nothing happens to violators anyway.
In many homeowners' associations the boards and management companies willfully fail to give proper notice of the upcoming annual election, resulting in a lack of quorum [FS 720.306(1) requires 30% in person or by proxy] and no new meeting will ever be called.
The quorum requirements are as well used to crash the election. Who counts? I have gotten many complaints from owners who claimed that the clubhouse was filled with owners, no real count was taken, but the board announced that due to lack of quorum no meeting can take place -- and please leave the clubhouse. The sitting board members just helped themselves to another year in office -- without going through the gruesome process of having to defeat an opponent in a real election.
In other cases only the yea-sayers among the owners are invited to the meeting -- not the disgruntled owner who always complain. Where this method is applied, elections result in landslide victories for sitting board members.
The list of ways to cheat is nearly endless -- the loopholes in the statutes are huge and very flexible -- and the professional service providers seem to be only too happy to share their wisdom on how to circumvent the election laws. A happy sitting board guarantees a contract for services for at least another year.
In condominiums you have to find ways around the ability of owners to file complaints with the Bureau of Compliance. But that isn't too difficult, as recent cases have shown.
Remember the Golfside Villas case? CONDO ELECTION -- A CASE FOR EINSTEIN?
what -- nothing ever happened! And the only board member rightfully
elected, according to
Condo board members, afraid that elections could unseat them, can prolong their term easily for minimum 5 months by plainly ignoring the upcoming election date. Who cares if owners complain and remind the board that the notifications have to be mailed out according to FS 718.112(2)(d)3a? The Bureau of Compliance only takes notice after the fact -- and then you can string them along for quite a while, especially if you know the tricks, like being a licensed attorney. When finally the pressure gets too big and no more convenient excuses are available, you can finally give in and mail out the first election notices (meaning election another 60 days away) -- quite a few months too late -- announcing proudly that you really complied in full with the demands of the regulatory agency.
In the meanwhile it gives you time to take care of "needed" business to make sure that all your friends are taken care of -- just in case the election doesn't go your way. More will have to be said about this case -- with some well-known "players" being involved.
Board members' rule of thumb: You always win; you just have to know how to play the game.
Fair elections -- one of the pillars of democracy -- are clearly not something Florida's leaders are striving for. It's all about money and power. Violating some laws to reach the goal? Who cares! Is that the reason why we see so much corruption -- so many crooks running for office?
But it fits to the reputation of the state that was formerly known as the Sunshine State: FRAUD FRIENDLY FLORIDA!