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

Published February 2, 2010


Only too often we see that the good guys finish last when it comes to elections and recalls in our community associations. Too many legal shenanigans and a DBPR Arbitration Section, which loves to write its own statutes, often prevent fair elections and recalls to succeed that were signed by a majority of homeowners.


Once in a while even the good guys in our community associations are allowed to celebrate victory, but only after hard work and after defeating all the legal challenges thrown in their path, paid for with own their association dues.


In December 2009 I wrote an article about the upcoming elections in the FLAGLER POINTE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION OF WPB, INC.. Under the headline: FAIR BOARD ELECTIONS A CURSE? I told the story of board president Joseph Hermes, who succeeded to stay in power for another year after losing last year's election -- coming in last out of six candidates.


But now you can finally call Joseph Hermes the "former president." After the well-conducted election that took place on January 22, 2010, Election Monitors Nan Green and Geraldine D’Escrivan could finally announce the official election result many of the owners in this association had to wait for much too long.


It ended in a landslide victory for the three candidates, who had tried in vain for years to get justice for the owners of their association, only to run into legal challenges that kept a board in place that the wide majority of owners didn't want to see in power. 


The official result speaks for itself.

If you compare the vote count of the incumbent board members Rich Connolly
(34), Michael Scarfia (32) and Joseph Hermes (30) with the numbers of the new board members Michael Fach (135), Chantal Von Alvensleben (129) and Maria Santigate (127), you know that the owners were sick and tired of the shenanigans of their former board members. 


Even last-minute challenges by former treasurer Rich Connolly, who had defended before the fact that board members were reimbursed for travel expenses to board meetings, and a letter from association attorney Laura M. Manning-Hudson from the law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Lerner, de La Torre & Sobel, P.A. couldn't derail the annual election any longer.


My KUDOS to Harold Hyman from the Division's Bureau of Compliance, normally not one of my "favorite" DBPR employees, who finally put his foot down and wrote a very straightforward letter to association attorney Laura M. Manning-Hudson -- a letter that left no doubt that his patience with board and attorney shenanigans was coming to an end:

Dear Ms. Manning:

The Division is in receipt of the attached email from the Board of Directors at Flagler Pointe. The information contained besides being inflammatory is inaccurate and not in accordance with Florida Condominium Law. Several misconceptions are contained within the email which you may wish to address with your clients. The law specifically addresses the issue in regards to who can submit the ballot envelope for handicapped unit owners and thus we are aware of no provision in the law preventing or restricting the same for all unit owners.


As far as any denial in regards to your request for copies of the complaints or emails from the unit owners who have registered complaints, your request was received today and the Division will be forwarding same to you. Therefore, the Division is concerned as to this allegation and perceived denial on the State’s part in providing copies of the complaints to the Association.


In reference to the election process, Rule 61B-23.00215(7), Florida Administrative Code, states in part that: “The monitor shall conduct the election. . . “


Please be advised the Division may impose a civil penalty individually against any officer or board member who willfully and knowingly violates a provision of the Condominium Act.  The term "willfully and knowingly" means that the Division informed the officer or board member that his or her action or intended action violates Chapter 718, or a rule adopted under this chapter, and that the officer or board member refused to comply with the requirements of Chapter 718 or a rule adopted under this chapter. A penalty may be imposed on the basis of each day of continuing violation, but in no event shall the penalty for any offense exceed $5,000. Consider the current board members forewarned as a result of this email. Please advise your clients that interference with the election process or the election monitor’s duties will be viewed as an intentional willful and knowing act for the purpose of violating Florida Condominium Law.  


Harold B. Hyman

Investigator Supervisor


This letter -- and the fact that the condo owners finally woke up -- caused the election to be held and a board was finally ousted that had been accused of financial mismanagement and serving for personal gain.


From what I hear, the new board will be very busy going through the association's finances and are comparing notes with the folks from PARK PLACE AT THE LAKES CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., the condo where Joseph Hermes was president before they kicked him out and foreclosed on his unit!


This example should serve as a warning sign for all of Florida 's condo owners and homeowners. Apathy can get really costly. For many of you the purchase of a condo/home is the biggest investment of your life. Many of you have worked hard to own your own home. Please make sure that you watch over your investment. Go to board meetings and read the flyers and other information that ask for your attention. 


Watch if there is unrest in your association and various groups are fighting amongst each other. All of it may not be true and/or totally correct, but you know the saying: "Where there is smoke, there is fire!"


Always watch for red flags popping up in your neighborhood. Your money is at stake, and the longer you wait before waking up the more financial damage can be done.

And make no mistake: YOU ARE THE ONE PAYING FOR IT!


Only if all owners are on alert, watching their investment, we can say more often: