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

Published May 12, 2011


What happens if the board president, after establishing that a quorum is present, wants the complete sitting board reelected with one single vote, but the owners don't vote YEA? Then the board president needs to quickly adjourn the meeting -- without holding an election at all -- in order to keep the sitting board in power. It so happened during the annual membership meeting of the MIAMI LAKES WINDMILL GATE HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION, INC. 


The annual meeting quickly began to unravel when board president Tom McGrath came to agenda item: Election of the Board.


McGrath thought to make short business of the election after announcing the next agenda item: "Next business: We have elections of the board members."


After explaining that the members of the current board are willing to stay on, McGrath proposed to the attending owners: "Anybody in favor of the consistent board staying on? Vote YEA!"


But as you can see and hear in the video, only a few "YEAs" could be heard. A clear majority of the owners wanted NAY! They were there to make some changes!

Agenda item: Election of the Board!

 Watch VIDEO


But when Tom McGrath realized that his attempt to "hijack" the election had clearly failed, he quickly changed tactics and told the owners who held lots of proxies [  Watch VIDEO ]: "Bring the proxies up. They will not be accepted until they are validated." Shouldn't proxies already be validated at the beginning of the meeting, since proxies count for the quorum as well? See FS 720.306(1)(a) -- in person or by proxy are the magic words!


When McGrath announced that the sitting board will be staying on -- for the time being -- one homeowner definitely asked "The Question Of The Evening": "How can you stay on the board? That's not really an election!" I guess it was never planned to be a real election.
After the question about validating the proxies came up, another issue was raised
[  Watch VIDEO ]: "Just based on hands here, there are more NAYs than YEAs!" Looking at the faces of the board members -- they obviously didn't have an answer to that common sense remark.


Board president McGrath hit the nail on the head when saying [  Watch VIDEO ]: "You are free to pick whatever board you want, but understand that the reason why you pick a board is because the board is acting on your behalf." But considering the reaction of the owners in attendance, McGrath's statement may have been pretty empty words since the comments of the audience surely didn't agree with this statement. It seems that the majority of owners in the audience felt that the sitting board is clearly not representing their interest. With the words: "You are free to do whatever you want," board president Tom McGrath officially closed the annual meeting -- without an election being held.


Now a new election has to be called -- at the expense of the homeowners -- this time with attorneys charging hourly fees. Waste of time and money, caused by the lack of proper election regulation in FS 720.306.


Already during the meetings of the HOA TASK FORCE in 2003/2004 the provisions regulating elections have come under heavy fire for being vague and unenforceable. The provisions as written in FS 720.306 are an open invitation to rigging elections and straight election fraud. Election arbitration is like playing the lottery, since the arbitrator has few rules to go by. You're lucky -- or you're not.


It would be so easy -- because the necessary language is already in existence in the Condo Act: FS 718.112(2)(d). Just move the pertinent language over to FS 720 -- and voilą! PROBLEM SOLVED. It would avoid many intra-community fights among neighbors, costly arbitrations and lawsuits. 


The last attempt to create reasonable election provisions for about 2.5 million homeowners in HOAs [according to OPPAGA] was made during the 2011 legislative session in the original version of H1195. But the language disappeared faster than it had been written -- and the bill sponsor, George Moraitis, allowed his originally good bill to be loaded with anti-owner provisions, turning his initially good bill into another BILL of SHAME.


The Powers That Be, meaning the folks making a living by fleecing the owners of property in HOAs, don't want FAIR ELECTIONS. They don't want anything that would turn HOAs into peaceful communities where neighbors are friends and disputes are settled in friendly conversations -- not in court rooms.


And don't expect our current legislative leaders to favor FAIR ELECTIONS. During the last session it became very obvious that The Powers That Be in Tallahassee consider the word "FAIR" a really nasty four-letter word. Remember, Republican leaders in both chambers have set aside about $20 million to litigate the Fair Districts amendments -- the same amendments we voters passed last year to make it more difficult to gerrymander legislative and congressional districts (meaning creating fairer elections).


So we will see more of the BANANA REPUBLIC elections like the one shown above -- and the attorneys will be only too happy to bill the owners for election disputes caused by the lack of proper regulations in the Florida statutes FS 720.306.


The lack of reasonable election provisions is one of the reasons why we think that every HOA should have a sign posted at the entrance: YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN ZONE.