HOW SPECIALIZED ARE SPECIALIZED ATTORNEYS?
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published April 20, 2011
If the board fails to inform the owners about simple rules -- like expiration terms of board members or identifying the number of open seats before asking for nominations -- any meeting has to end in disaster. It is clearly the obligation of board members, association attorney and management to know how many seats are open for election at the annual meeting. If the board members come unprepared, have no answers to simple questions and have to adjourn the annual meeting, it's definitely disingenuous to blame the membership for the extra cost.
During the initial Annual Meeting of the Marcus Pointe HOA it became pretty obvious that the sitting board members had hoped that the meeting would go smoothly and the membership would vote in favor of the candidate suggested by the board -- so the sitting board could go on with business as usual.
According to the association bylaws, even the association attorney agreed that 4 seats are open -- caused by prior misinterpretation by the board. And now the sitting board members have to "invent" some new tactics to stay in power.
During the meeting it became more and more obvious that the board had underestimated the fury of many homeowners over the ill-advised JOINDER that forced homeowners to pay annually $480 to support a failing golf course that is not part of the homeowners' association.
This new situation forced the board to make a change of plans and find some ways to make it easier for their candidates to win so they can continue to hand over homeowners' money to the developer -- the owner of the golf course.
At the board meeting on April 6, 2011 -- just read the MINUTES -- the foundation was laid to prevent owners opposing the sitting board from voting -- or to make it outright difficult.
can come in handy if a board wants to revoke voting rights of members who
might not vote for their candidates. After deciding that there should be
an election to fill four open seats, the board immediately discussed the
possibility of revoking voting rights. And the BYLAWS
of Marcus Pointe grant the board the power to suspend voting rights for
non-payment of any assessments and infraction of rules. And despite
association attorney Suzanne Blankenship from the Coastal
Association Law Group being present at the meeting, she supported
that move and didn't even bother to point the board members to the Florida
statutes that surely supersede the bylaws. FS
720.305(3) only allows boards to "suspend the voting rights of a
member for the nonpayment of regular annual assessments
that are delinquent in excess of 90 days." And since the
golf course assessment is definitely anything but a regular
annual assessment, the voting rights of the folks who refused to pay this
"SPECIAL" assessment can't be suspended according to
The CAI attorneys are working hard to remove what little consumer protection is left in the community association laws. But this bill is not enacted yet -- meaning the current version of FS 720.305 is still valid!
seems that the sitting board members up for re-election are scared that
they will be ousted in a fair election. So they made voting more difficult
by creating rules that make it harder to vote. Changing the rules in the
middle of the game is neither fair nor is it "playing by the
rules." But it seems that board members in power will do
everything to stay in power -- no matter what. No
trick too dirty to stay in power?
Any real proxy (Florida General Proxy) carries this sentence (or something similar): "The undersigned ratify and confirm any and all acts and things that the proxy may do or cause to be done in the premises, whether at the meeting referred to above or at any change, adjournment, or continuation and revoke all prior proxies previously executed."
Meaning that the proxies given for the first meeting should be still valid for the upcoming meeting.
Instead the board was sending out NEW PROXIES, stating at the bottom (exact wording): ONLY ORIGINALS PROXY ACCEPTED! I guess they better accept the proxies that were submitted for the initial meeting -- because they are valid according to generally accepted Florida law -- if no proxy with a newer date is submitted in the meanwhile.
And the latest news: The Scrolling sign reads: ID REQUIRED TO VOTE................
Now they are getting really tricky. The signature under the JOINDER -- that costs homeowners annually $480 -- surely wasn't validated with a valid ID -- but in order to vote at this meeting you better bring your valid ID. It will be interesting to see how the board deals with all the issues they created to keep some people from voting.
Video cameras will be watching. And board members and some of their supporters should reread Florida statutes before getting all excited about being videotaped. Check the wording in the Florida Statutes 720.306(10) "RECORDING.-- Any parcel owner may tape record or videotape meetings of the board of directors and meetings of the members. The board of directors of the association may adopt reasonable rules governing the taping of meetings of the board and the membership."
says nothing about taping only board members or speakers --
and not video taping the audience. As
an attorney put it during one of the many legislative committee meetings
Florida already has a bad reputation when it comes to FAIR ELECTIONS. The current board members shouldn't add another chapter to this sad reputation by trying to make voting difficult for eligible voters and proxy holders -- just in order to win the election with unfair methods.
It's all about financial responsibility and transparency. Homeowners shouldn't elect neighbors with a private agenda unwilling to conduct a fair election.