OPEN LETTER TO SIMONE MARSTILLER

SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION


 CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.

Dear Secretary Marstiller,

 

In a recent e-mail to legislators you wrote about Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.  (quote): “That organization, as you know, is extremely vocal in expressing contempt for condo associations/boards and for DBPR.”

I can assure you that quite a few of the legislators to whom your e-mail was addressed do not share your evaluation of our Consumer Alliance, because they hear the same complaints from many of their constituents! 

 

And there are still elected officials in this country who take the task of serving their constituents very seriously!

 

It seems you are not getting the point.  Or you feel that you rather refer to the propaganda used by CALL (Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.) or the Community Associations Institute – instead of listening to the facts and doing something about it!

 

There is a huge difference between the word CONTEMPT and the word CRITICISM. 

According to Merriam-Webster Online:

CONTEMPT: lack of respect or reverence for something

CRITICISM: the act of criticizing -- usually unfavorably

 

If you prefer the word contempt, let’s make it very clear: Yes, we have contempt for people not obeying the laws and rules and/or people getting paid for something they are failing to do right!

 

We are expressing contempt for people that don’t follow the laws and an agency that wastes taxpayers’ money by letting violators get away with clearly breaking the laws.  Over the last few years we went through four (4) DBPR secretaries.  All of those DBPR secretaries were more interested in covering up the inefficiency of their Department rather than trying to rectify the obvious shortcomings. 

 

But don’t forget, the names of the secretaries changed, but not the people who are involved in the day-to-day business and are -- in my opinion -- actually the ones who caused these secretaries to fail. 

 

Like it or not, we are criticizing the way business is run in our associations that cost Florida homeowners and condo-owners millions of dollars each year – tendency climbing! We are offering suggestions to remedy these problems. 

 

If you would care to read our proposals, you might realize that we are asking for enforcement of the laws and rules, for a regulating agency that reins in wayward boards and service providers.  We are asking to hold the people in charge accountable for their actions.  And we are asking to implement a system that helps all owners, especially owners with lower income and retirees on fixed incomes!   People who just can’t afford to hire legal eagles to fight for their rights!   And even if we had the money, we don’t want to waste it on useless litigation where the winners are the attorneys and the losers are always the owners.

 

Condo-owners pay annual dues into the condo trust fund to obtain a certain protection against abuses.  Looking at the complaints on a daily basis (the same complaints received by everybody who deals with these issues), it is pretty obvious that the consumers’ trust in the DBPR is very low!   But from all the actions we consumers see, it seems that the top executives of the DBPR would rather shoot the messenger than try to remedy the situation. 

 

While writing this letter, I received this e-mail from a Miami condo owner.  The important sentence (quote): “Our current board was investigated by the DBPR.  They found seven violations and unjustified expenses of around $30,000.00.  But nothing happened!”

 

Boards and service providers laugh about the so-called “warning letters” issued by the DBPR – and do business as usual, meaning that they continue to violate the laws and disregard the rules, to the detriment of the owners.

 

And the government agency supposedly regulating these associations and protecting owners from abuses is proud to announce in this recent quote from Deputy Secretary Andy Edwards: “According to division data, the average time to complete recall arbitration is 61 days.”

 

Let’s make it very clear: The Arbitration Section of the Division sometimes seems to think they missed their calling and should be the Florida Supreme Court.  It takes them forever to come up with rulings and they allow parties to file motions that are clearly attempting to prolong the process – nothing else!   Arbitrators have to realize that they are in a position to create a process that allows parties to get a fast ruling, without jumping through all the hoops and cost of court proceedings.  There is no doubt that the Arbitration Section of the Division leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Why waste valuable resources on an investigation that leads to nothing other than “warning letters”?  Many condo-owners have given up filing complaints with the DBPR, even in very obvious cases.   I hear from many owners that “it is useless to file a complaint with the DBPR” – because nothing comes out of it!  

 

For many years OPPAGA has tried to tell the DBPR that their system needs serious  improvement.  There are many OPPAGA reports available that criticize  -- or was it show contempt of? – the work of the DBPR.  But instead of trying to resolve some of the problems, the DBPR used its staff to find excuses and try to explain that the damaging report is not as bad as it looks!

 

The Advisory Council on Condominiums listened to lots of public testimony about the inefficiency of the DBPR.  Criticism ranged from “waste of money” to “useless”!   But if you read the annual report of the Council, you will see barely any mention of this testimony about the DBPR shortcomings.  I guess that’s the way if the report is written by Jon Peet, a Division staff member, and sanctioned by the specialized attorneys who are running the Council.  These attorneys are only too happy to see the DBPR being ineffective – a toothless tiger!

 

It is about time that the executives of the DBPR see the writing on the wall.  More and more big consumer organizations are realizing the problems of these associations.  We will see bill proposals coming from these consumer organizations demanding protection of owners and enforcement of the laws.

 

Even if the specialized attorneys and service providers try to downplay the many problems, in the long run nobody can ignore the increasing demand for consumer protection. 

 

Governor Jeb Bush appointed you as Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.   Many Floridians were hoping that this appointment would improve the dismal service of this Department. 

 

Many Florida homeowners and condo-owners are asking this question of you: “Do you really want to improve the service and take the necessary steps to solve the many existing problems – or do you just want to be added to the long list of secretaries of the DBPR who failed their calling?”

 

You may call it what you want: CRITICISM or CONTEMPT!   We will continue to be vocal about our opinion to make sure that Florida’s citizens receive the service from your Department they rightfully deserve!   We are not looking for excuses and/or cover-ups!  

 

We are looking for serious improvement of the services we are paying for!

 

Warm Regards,

Jan Bergemann, President
Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.
http://www.ccfj.net/

 

IN ALLIANCE WITH:
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

Property Owners Association in the Villages (POA) 

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 11 
Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches (FHCGPB)


JANUARY 2006          OPEN LETTER TO DBPR SECRETARY MARSTILLER     CYBER CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE, INC.
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