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

Published May 8, 2008


Every time I read some of Donna Berger’s e-mails or quotes in newspaper articles it reminds me of my German heritage – and German history.


We had in Germany a “Propaganda Minister” named Joseph Goebbels, who was a very good speaker, great in addressing crowds and able to convince the folks that the worst defeat was actually a great victory – the battle of Stalingrad comes to mind! Nowadays you can read in every history book in the world what happened to the people who believed Goebbels.


I’m not comparing Donna Berger with Joseph Goebbels. I’m saying that her way of twisting the facts and claiming victory after defeat very much remind me of his methods.


Condo Bill H 995 is the typical example. Many of the provisions contained in this bill, which passed the legislature and was already signed by Governor Charlie Crist, had been included in bills that Berger and her fellow specialized attorneys – supported by lobbyists like Peter Dunbar and Travis Moore – had fought against to the bitter end, claiming provisions like that would destroy condo life as we know it.


In an e-mail dated April 18, headlined “CAN ALERT: HB 995/SB 2084 Still Contain Troublesome Provisions” Berger complains about some bad provisions contained in the bill. That was just six days before the final vote in the Senate. In between her comments and the vote, barely anything important changed in the wording.


But after the bill passed unanimously in House and Senate, H 995 suddenly turned into a good bill -- in the eyes of the special-interest attorneys.  Berger was quoted: "CAN and its members should be very appreciative of Rep. Robaina listening to our concerns and his willingness to ensure that Florida's condominium owners are protected."


Not quite sure where she saw the cooperation, but most of the provisions passed as proposed – and they surely were not proposed by Berger or CAN. But she had to find some success based on her “great cooperation” in order to show some gullible board members, who prefer power of board members over owner protection, why they are wasting good association dues for CAN membership.


But Berger goes even further. In an article published in the Naples News on May 4, 2008, under the headline “New laws give condo directors more power” owners can read that in her opinion Rep. Julio Robaina’s (R-Miami) attempt to protect condo owners from overly powerful condo directors failed, because some of those provisions were watered down – thanks to Berger coming to the rescue of these board members under siege. What follows in the article is a long list of powers given to boards under the newly created Association Emergency Power provisions (FS 718.1265). Before board members go overboard with their newly acquired powers proclaimed by Donna Berger they should really study the new provisions and note that certain powers can only be exercised in the event of an emergency declared by the governor – and the powers are limited to prevention of further damage and emergency repairs.


But these same board members should pay attention, because the new condo bill contains a lot of provisions that allow holding these directors accountable for their actions.


·    FS 718.111(1)(d) -- Liability for Monetary Damages

·    FS 718.111(12) 11 -- Civil Penalty for Destroying Records

·    FS 718.112(2)(d) 1 -- Location Meeting; Eligibility to Serve on Board

·    FS 718.112(2)(n)  --  Board Member Removal Due To Delinquency

·    FS 718.112(2)(o) -- Removal of Director charged with Theft or Embezzlement

·    FS 718.1224 -- Prohibition Against SLAPP Suits

·    FS 718.3025 (1)(f) -- Disclosure Requirement of Financial Interest

  • FS 718.501 (4) -- Civil Penalty, Removal from Board

  • FS 718.501 (5) -- Subpoena Requirement for Requested Records

  • FS 718.501 (5)(n) -- Obligation to Cooperate with Investigation; Referral to Local Law   Enforcement Authorities

Just a little note:  All these provisions are in effect 24/7, even though the governor didn’t declare an emergency!


Donna Berger should finally understand that creating legislative reforms in association laws is not about bragging rights – or who succeeded in pushing what provision.  It’s about the protection of Florida's condo owners. And some board members should understand that they themselves are unit owners as well.


It’s not about declaring victory or defeat.  It’s about successfully creating a lifestyle for Florida ’s condo owners that protects their financial welfare and the welfare of their families. 


But it seems to be very hard to understand for certain people, if the paychecks of specialized lawyers are at stake!