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

Published April 28, 2012


What else could have been the reason for a HAZMAT team in full gear storming into the Plaza East condominium building in Ft. Lauderdale on April 1, 2009? And no, it wasn't an April Fool's joke -- these guys meant business. When Captain Patrick Gillis from the Fire Marshal's Department was making a regular annual fire inspection at the condo, he was shown pictures of big amounts of household cleaning supplies stored in Unit 12L. Security Chief Lombardi never mentioned to Gillis that these pictures may have been enhanced or that they are six years old. But according to the deposition, Lombardi was anyway only used as a scapegoat to do the bidding of board president Tim Smith and community association manager David Beswick, who both steered clear of the building on that day.


After taking a look at the pictures handed to him, Gillis called Chief Finley, the hazardous materials chief and notified him about the issues and the pictures that were shown to him. 


And the event took its course! A lot of good taxpayers' money plainly wasted!


But was there really any danger -- or did board president Tim Smith and CAM David Beswick just try to ruin Harold Wechsler's reputation, because he had the audacity to be an opposing candidate for the upcoming board election?


That is definitely the question in this case that created just another lawsuit!


It's pretty obvious that things would have been handled differently by the Department of the Fire Marshal if they would have been clearly informed that these pictures were actually six years old and that the owner of the unit was Harold Wechsler, personally known to Fire Captain Patrick Gillis.

Six-year-old enhanced photos were used to have a complete HAZMAT team in full gear storm into the Plaza East condominium building.

Admittedly, these pictures looked pretty scary -- and there were more than just the two pictures that were handed to Captain Gillis.  (Pictures shown here on the web page.)  But calling in a HAZMAT team in full gear based upon six-year-old pictures?


This is a transcript of the deposition of Fire Captain Patrick Gillis:

Attorney Blane Carneal: "Okay. So, to the best of your reaction to the circumstances, you believed it to be a current situation, ownership unknown, whereabouts of owner and/or tenant unknown, and what seemed to be to you a circumstance which would call for the appropriate fire

department response; is that correct?"

Fire Captain Patrick Gillis: "That's correct."


These pictures were already used earlier trying to discredit Harold Wechsler's candidacy -- together with a letter from sitting president Tim Smith was posted in the locked bulletin board.  In the letter Smith calls Wechsler a "Plazanista" and a "Urban Tranquility Terrorist."

Next to this insulting letter were copies of pictures with all the chemical bottles, pictures that were later shown to Captain Gillis. 

Smith and Beswick were obviously not satisfied with the result that posted letter had on the opinion of the eligible voters in the Plaza East.

Maybe they thought that having a HAZMAT team in full gear storming the building would be more effective than posting such letter behind the glass of the bulletin board.

Pictures like this were used to coerce the fire department to send a HAZMAT team to the Plaza East, trying to make them enter Wechsler's unit.

Or was it just supposed to be an April Fool's joke?

This is in my opinion just another example for how far The Powers That Be will go in order to discredit unwanted candidates for an upcoming board election. Power corrupts, and more power corrupts even more.

The LETTER from Harold Wechsler's attorney Blane Carneal with the settlement checks attached, shows clearly what the insurance companies thought about the methods used by Smith and Beswick to deter Harold Wechsler from running as a candidate for the board of directors.

It is very obvious that CAM David Beswick played along with Smith -- for whatever reasons. It's bad enough if a CAM is willing to do the president's bidding to subdue unit owners that oppose board members that sign his paycheck.

But David Beswick is more than just a regular CAM -- he is a member of RCCAM (Regulatory Council of Community Association Managers). This Council was created to supervise CAM policies -- watching out for proper licensing of CAMs -- a licensed profession here in Florida. But putting members on this Council that clearly lack integrity is like letting the fox guard the hen house. But in reality it shows why the profession of community association managers is held in such low esteem. What can you expect from a profession that is regulated by members like David Beswick?


David Beswick's excuses used in his DEPOSITION speak for themselves. Are they the statements of somebody who should be in charge of the ethics of members of his profession?