OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICERS BEING USED TO VIOLATE THE LAWS?
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published November 2, 2019
I’m getting more and more complaints from owners of communities, where dictatorial board presidents are using off-duty police officers to remove “unwanted” owners from meetings, in order to stop any kinds of complaints from “unhappy” owners.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a “sergeant-at-arms” to keep meetings orderly. But the Florida Legislature gave owners explicitly the right to speak THREE (3) MINUTES on any agenda item. There is no restriction what the owner has to say, or if he is criticizing the board for any wrong-doing, as long as the owner speaks in a civilized manner.
Criticizing the board is definitely no reason to have an owner in good standing removed from the meeting.
Just a reminder: Dictatorial boards often quote Robert’s Rules of Order in order to stop owners from speaking at these meetings.
Never forget: The Florida statutes are superior to Robert’s Rules and are often totally adverse to Robert’s Rules. Robert’s Rules of Order should really only be used by somebody fully familiar with Robert’s Rules AND Florida statutes.
One, in my opinion, serious violation of the Florida statutes happened last month in a homeowners’ association in Orange County. An off-duty police officer was used by the board president to remove an owner who just tried to make use of the right to speak three minutes on an agenda item.
The off-duty police officer, despite the owner quoting the law, removed him from the meeting room. And not only that, the owner received a “TRESPASS WARNING” on an official form of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Funny enough, the “Warning” was only signed by the board president, not by a deputy or his/her supervisor.
It seems to me that the person who filled out the Trespass Warning form is not very knowledgeable when it comes to Florida statutes. There is no provision in the Florida statutes that allows a president to "BAN" members in good standing from future meetings, just because the president doesn't like what the owner has to say.
I wrote a LETTER TO SHERIFF MINA, asking him to make sure that off-duty officer know the Florida statutes regulating community associations, before serving as sergeant-at-arms at these meetings.
In my opinion it doesn’t paint a good picture on our law enforcement officers, if they allow themselves to be used to subdue “FREE SPEECH” at these meetings and blindly follow the orders of a board president who doesn’t like what an owner in good standing has to say.
Police officers, on-duty or off-duty, should know the laws and make sure that they are not being used to violate these laws.