An Opinion By Jan Bergemann
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.
May 30, 2007
some arrests -- and the promise from some of our elected officials to stop
financial mismanagement, uncontrolled spending and even clear embezzlement
of our association funds. For many years homeowners and condo owners from
have begged the legislators to stop this blatantly illegal
writing was on the wall -- for many years. Consumer advocates among the
legislators have filed bills for many years -- only to see those bills go
up in smoke, killed by special interests and their colleagues.
Some of the legislators kill the bills, because they either don't
want to understand the many problems that exist -- or they have more
disturbing reasons to see these bills killed!
the cover of "protecting associations" trade
organizations like CAI (Community Associations
Institute) and CALL (COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
LEGISLATIVE LOBBY, INC.), the lobbying arm of the law firm
of Becker & Poliakoff, are using their influence to
water-down or kill bills that would protect owners against
many of these problems. These trade organizations have the
help of some board members, who may even have a serious
interest to leave the cookie jar -- called association dues
you closely listen to the House representatives during the
press conference, you'll know why: SPECIAL INTERESTS have
been able so far to stop any legislation that would protect
owners against these financial "mishaps."
JOY COOPER OPENED THE PRESS CONFERENCE
does it take examples like this -- creating headlines like: 2
arrested in multi-million dollar fraud scheme at Hallandale Beach
condominium - - to wake up the masses and maybe even
legislators? Make no mistake; the apathy of the unit owners is helping the bad guys to fleece
the associations. In my opinion a whole industry is living off it -- and
as Representative Joe Gibbons worded it: "These
problems are rampant!"
Williams tells the story -- and how difficult it was to get to
the bottom of the problem!
|This sad example shows
that there have to be safeguards, because the huge amounts
of money are absolutely unprotected.
Maybe now legislators will understand
why these board-volunteers will fight to stay in office,
even falsifying election documents. While elections in
condominium associations minimum have some protective guidelines -- there are still a lot of loopholes left for the bad
guys -- homeowners' associations have no real election
regulations at all. Actually, that was one of the first
provisions that was removed from the Community
Association Bill H 1373 by the House leadership
under Speaker Marco Rubio. Don't ever forget, that Marco Rubio
worked for the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff!
In the case of Parker Plaza Estates it
took an election
the supervision of an election monitor from the Ombudsman Office to
finally remove the board of many years. No such luck for owners in
homeowners' associations. They are left with RECALL, the last resort to
remove a board suspected of wrongdoing.
|The new board of the
association, under the leadership of new board president
Robert Fisher and his wife Julie -- and the help of Don
Pinkus, a retired U.S. Customs officer -- searched the
financial records for suspicious documents. They finally
engaged the help of attorney Lisa Hermann, who brought her
legal expertise into the investigation. But
even a fair election doesn't often bring the required
result. In the Midport Place II Condominium Association in
Port St. Lucie owners tried for many years to remove from office Linda
Miller, who doubled as president and manager. A
detective, who couldn't find proof of the alleged
misappropriation of funds, arrested her anyway -- for
practicing community association management without a
license. Wouldn't it be nice if the DBPR (Department of
Business and Professional Regulations) -- that is supposedly
regulating licensed professions -- would be as eager to do
its job as this detective?
Palm Beach County law enforcement and the state attorney's office in Palm
Beach County faied to go after a president who allegedly embezzled
$650,000. The new board of the BOCA
RIO TOWNHOME ASSOCIATION, INC. had to sue
former board president Betty Marshal in civil court to attempt to
retrieve the money, despite bank
tell the whole story! Maybe our
law differs from county to county -- or some law enforcement agencies take
white-collar crime less seriously than others?
Robaina minced no words discussing the serious financial
problems in associations. Since serving as chairman of the House
Select Committee on Condominium Governance, he has tried to create serious reforms to
protect owners living in associations.
But special interests are fighting
this serious attempt. These loopholes in the legislation and
the nearly complete lack of enforcement of the existing laws
lead to financial disaster.
And the service providers still haven't changed
their tune. They
still claim that all is fine and dandy in our associations
-- just a few disgruntled owners are "unlucky”!
The explanation for this desperate
excuse of the service
to keep the status quo: Owners, unprotected by the law, are much easier
stuff is rampant!
hope that condo officers should think twice before they steal
from the residents! This is all about greed, nothing but
greed! Hopefully this sends a clear message to officers and
contractors: You will be prosecuted!"
Joe Gibbons used very strong language during this press conference. We can
only hope that he really means it! He is the president of a condominium
and, according to Donna Berger, Gibbons is a member of CALL, the same
organization that has so far fought any bill in
that has tried to create education of board members and owners,
enforcement of the regulations and laws and accountability of the people
this really sends a clear message to everybody involved. This kind of
"behavior" is more rampant than special interests really want to
admit. The day after the press conference I received six calls from
owners: The new board of a condo association in the Panhandle is
missing $1.2 million -- a homeowners' association is trying to find
"only" about $250,000. Only?
HAS TO STOP -- AND THE PEOPLE WHO DO THE CRIME
HAVE TO DO THE TIME!