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

Published June 17, 2010


Everybody knows that condo associations' funds are less protected than cookies in a cookie jar without a lid. And in case we don't know, we are reminded on a permanent basis by media headlines reporting about huge sums stolen from associations -- to the detriment of the owners who have to make up for it with paying special assessments.


Please take a look at: 



This has been ongoing since many years, not only since the economy crashed. And the most annoying part: Most of our law enforcement agencies consider it a civil matter if committed by board members and are not prosecuting the guilty party. Robbing condo owners blind is a lot more lucrative than robbing a bank -- and the robber doesn't have to be afraid of being prosecuted.


I recently stumbled over a blog written by Donna DiMaggio Berger, headlined: How Co-op & Condo Boards Can Recognize "The Fraud Triangle".


It's a well-written guideline trying to give advice on how to prevent fraud and embezzlement in community associations. The article clearly acknowledges that fraud and embezzlement are pretty common occurrences in our communities. From putting checks and balances in place to carrying the proper insurance -- her article covers it all.


But, as we all well know, this is by far not enough and covers just some theories which are often enough not sufficient in daily life.


And it would be a good start if the same law firm controlled lobbying groups that preach protection against fraud and embezzlement wouldn’t fight any proposed legislative program that might put teeth to all these nice-sounding suggestions.


Not only are these law firms responsible for making record requests more difficult and expensive, they now even succeeded in hiding more important documents from owners' view by passing Senate Bill 1196. Everybody knows that TRANSPARENCY would help to prevent fraud and embezzlement. But that is not really the goal of these so-called Association Advocacy groups. Look at their priorities: S 1196 demands owners to make record requests by certified mail, but attorneys can send owners letters threatening to lien and foreclose on owners' homes -- no certified mail required, no proof needed that the letters were ever sent!


Remember the statewide Condo Scam Pilot Program Representative Julio Robaina wanted to create in order to stop the rampant fraud and embezzlement in associations in Florida? Governor Jeb Bush vetoed the $100,000 line item in the budget that was supposed to pay for this important program.


In 2009 Representative Julio Robaina proposed in House Bill 1397 the creation of a special Division "police force" of 4 specially-trained DBPR employees with the power "to investigate, enforce, and prosecute, throughout the state, violations and violators of part VIII of chapter 468, chapters 718, 719, 721, and 723, and the rules adopted thereunder."


Considering the reaction of these lawyer advocacy groups to this proposal, you got the impression that Julio Robaina had suggested to dissolve the Florida BAR. From constitutional concerns to cost, from private contract law to civil rights, Robaina heard it all from these attorneys and their lobbyists.


Most of the concerns were plainly bogus, like the concern about violation of constitutional rights. Constitutional rights are only considered important by these attorneys if it serves their purpose. Look at S1196: That bill contains more constitutional rights' violations than any other community association bill before. Did they care? Definitely not! They praise this bill as the savior of Florida's community associations -- totally ignoring the fact that bill completely fails to solve the real problems.


As to cost? That's the most ridiculous argument of all. The Condominium Trust Fund -- the fund that Florida's condo owners pay into for protection and enforcement of condo laws -- has more than enough money to pay for this and much, much more. The Trust Fund always has lots more money than is ever needed for the purpose intended. The Florida legislature moved tens of millions of dollars from the Trust Fund to the general fund in the last few years -- like $15 million in 2009. Ever figured out how many investigators and specialized law enforcement officers could be hired for that money? Money condo owners pay without getting anything in return!


In my opinion people should only preach things they as well want to live by. And it's pretty obvious that these lawyer advocacy groups surely don't want any action taken to stop fraud and embezzlement in our associations. Some of their most valued clients might be the first victims of these laws providing teeth for the fight against fraud and embezzlement in our community associations.