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

Published May 11, 2007

A recall petition served to the board of the Holley By The Sea Improvement Association, Inc. on January 22, 2007, finally received a favorable ruling on May 10, 2007!

It took the Owners For Recall about 60 days to collect 2510 signed petitions to make this recall possible, but it took DBPR arbitrator, James Earl, 98 days to validate this recall petition.

After the arbitrator convened a public hearing with testimony on April 9, 2007, it still took more than four weeks to come up with a ruling!

What's wrong with this picture?

As usual the sitting board used every possible excuse to avoid having to certify the recall. Under the guidance of an experienced attorney, Raymond Newman, from the law firm of Becker& Poliakoff -- in my opinion experienced in prolonging the process -- they pulled all the old tricks out of the bag.  For example, they disqualified petitions, claiming the owners who signed were delinquent with payments. Numerous arbitration rulings have rejected that reason -- but it's still a good enough excuse to keep the arbitrator thinking and avoiding getting kicked out immediately. Since they can use association money for the arbitration petition and the attorney, it buys them time to finish their pet projects, costing the homeowners lots of money. 

It is estimated that the former board spent quickly more than $300,000 for specific pet projects and entered into some three-year contracts with some "friends" of theirs, contracts they knew the community didn't like! Because arbitration as we see it is taking so much time, the sitting board can go on a spending spree and just waste the community's money. Something the owners tried to prevent by recalling the board!

Owners deserve a much faster decision, as was promised during the meetings of the HOA Task Force in 2003/2004. A discussion about the added time-limit for the validity of the recall petition (quote): "However, in no event is a written agreement or written ballot valid for more than 120 days after it has been signed by the member", created discussions in which we were assured that the arbitration rulings would be handed down much faster. But the fact that most arbitration rulings by the DBPR take longer than 120 days eliminates the re-use of the validated petitions, if a second attempt is necessary. The promise: Arbitration creates a speedy decision! OBVIOUSLY NOT SO!

Homeowners in the community were especially upset when a computer search revealed that one of the sitting board members, Tim Harrington, received a "desist and refrain" order from the CA real estate board for "commingling" escrow funds. The fact that association dues nearly doubled in a short time surely didn't help that cause. 

It is interesting to note that this huge community is in House District 4, the district of House Representative Ray Sansom, the next designated Speaker of the House. Amazingly enough, Representative Sansom is the chairman of the Policy & Budget Council.  Sansom was unwilling to hear community association bill H 1373. This finally killed a homeowner-friendly bill that would have helped immensely to avoid these kinds of problems for homeowners. In fact, the House leadership -- without a public vote -- had already ordered that most of the provisions, that were supposed to help homeowners dealing with problematic issues in their communities, were removed before the first committee hearing! Their way of thinking: Let's not bother to protect the homeowners!

Sometimes I get the feeling that some of our elected leaders don't know what happens in their districts -- or just don't care! Representative Sansom should have supported this bill, seeing how his constituents struggled in their community!


The ruling was a great success for the homeowners, but no thanks to the DBPR -- the ruling took forever -- or the legislators, who again failed to create some legislative solutions to stop the financial mismanagement, uncontrolled spending and even clear embezzlement in Florida's homeowners' associations.


This example shows what homeowners need to do to take control of their associations again. Recall the board and throw out the attorneys and managers -- often at fault for the many problems we homeowners endure in our associations. If the legislators don't want to help us, let's just help ourselves!

If you want to recall your board -- don't hesitate to send us an e-mail. We can send you the complete information and forms to do it the right way! If we don't help ourselves -- nobody else will help us! info@ccfj.net

FINAL RULING RECALL BOARD: Holley By The Sea Improvement Association, Inc.

Fate of homeowners association board members could be determined this week