"Board Elections" At The Cove At South Beaches Condo



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

April 5, 2006


Here we have another condo election gone sour, and lots of people are upset about the ruling of the DBPR investigator Trudy Toorie, who ruled that serious mistakes have been made, but ordered a new election organized by the same person who is blamed for most of these mistakes.


The stories about the cancelled election differ widely. While the past president maintains that there was an emergency board meeting in which the decision was reached to cancel the election on short notice, the opposition claims that this alleged emergency meeting only took place in the imagination of the board president, who, according to the opposition, was in Maryland the day this meeting supposedly took place. One board member even says there was no such meeting -- and if it really took place -- he wasn't notified. Condo owners say that there never was any notice about such a board meeting and the president just cancelled it because he felt "under the weather"!

Others go even further and claim that the president cancelled the meeting on his own, because he realized that he would lose the election, having not enough support among the owners to win re-election. Canceling the meeting would buy him more time to drum up more votes!


Then everything turned into a comedy. The owners held the meeting anyway, with a participation of more than 50% of the owners and elected a new board. The manager, who had ballots mailed to her, didn't produce them for the noticed meeting -- on advice of the president. The manager resigned in the meanwhile. Some more Seinfeld?


Owners, present at the officially noticed meeting on January 9th, realized that the manager kept their already cast ballots and signed new ballots. What would you do if the manager disappears with your ballots?

The bylaws of the association say: "Annual meeting and election must be held on the second Monday in January." So, what is the real reason for postponing the election? If there really was an emergency meeting of the board, why didn't the board vote for a new vice president, if that was the reason for not holding the meeting? 

Canceling the meeting is costly, since the whole notification process has to be redone as required by statutes. The bylaws were clearly violated by postponing the meeting. 

Let's say -- for argument's sake -- there was such an emergency meeting -- the bylaws would allow to postpone the annual meeting with election as they do not -- and the DBPR ruling would be correct.  Where does that leave Florida condo owners?

Any board that doesn't feel it has enough support among the owners and would expect to lose its re-election bid would just postpone the annual meeting. Buys them time to finish some pet projects and maybe drum up some more support.  If this ruling is allowed to stand, we will see a lot of presidents suddenly being "under the weather" and elections postponed on short notice!

What a better way out for a president under siege?

Let's say there was no such "emergency meeting"? Then the result is more or less the same, only this time legalized by the DBPR.

This election bought the former board about 4 months more time -- maybe valuable time to finish some of their pet projects?

If the DBPR finds that the people in charge the last time made all kinds of mistakes that created an irregular election, they should have ordered safeguards to make sure that the new election will be held according to the statutes. This could create the possibility that the board, feeling it might lose again in the next election, makes serious mistakes on purpose -- and buys another 4 months in power?

We need a government agency that uses not only the law book, but as well common sense. If you realize that Party A is unable to conduct a proper election, you should look for a different option to conduct a fair and honest election. Maybe the election monitors of the Condo Ombudsman should have gotten the task to mail out the notifications, to collect the ballots and to conduct the elections?
That surely would stop all the ongoing shenanigans!

But allowing a president to postpone an annual meeting on very short notice because he doesn't "feel well" and then rewarding him by allowing him to organize the new election?

I'm not really sure about that!





March 28, 2006



CERTIFIED NO. 7005 0390 0001 0688 9732


Ms. Rhonda Lewis, Secretary

Cove at South Beaches Condominium Association 

34 Cove Road

Melbourne Beach, Florida 32951


Re:     Cove at South Beaches Condominium Association, Inc.  

          Case No. 2006006612 & 2006007159


Dear Ms. Lewis:


As discussed during our March 21, 2006 telephone conversation, the Division has completed its investigation of the following allegations:


1. The association altered the candidate information sheet for Mr. Ron Bockhold.


The Division's review of. the candidate information sheets revealed that the association omitted half of the information submitted by Mr. Bockhold.  The Florida Administrative Code Rules states that no association shall edit, alter or otherwise modify the content of the information sheet.


2.  The association sent out candidate information sheets to the voting interests that exceeded one page.


The Florida Administrative Code Rules states that the information contained in the candidate information sheet shall not exceed one side of the sheet  which shall be no longer than 81/2 inches by 11 inches.


3. The 2005 board failed to properly notice the annual meeting/election.


Our investigation revealed during an emergency meeting, the board voted to postpone the annual meeting/election from January 9, 2006 to January 30, 2006.  The board made this decision as Article V - Section 2 of the bylaws requires the board president or vice-president to chair all meetings.  As the president was too ill to attend the meeting and the association has no vice-president, the decision was made to postpone the meeting.  After the meeting the board posted a notice on the property regarding the cancellation along with a notice that the meeting and election was postponed until January 30th.  The board failed, however, to send an amended second notice of election to the unit owners.


The law requires that at no less than 14 days and no more than 34 days prior to the election the association shall mail or deliver the second notice of the election.

4. The association counted ineligible ballots during the election held on January 9, 2006.


Specifically, one board member and a few unit owners decided to hold the annual election on January 9th , even though the board of directors had previously voted to postpone the meeting and election until January 30th . During the meeting/election held on January 9, 2006, unit owners were allowed to submit ballots even if the owner had previously submitted ballots to the association.  The complainants allege this was done because the board president refused to send the ballots to the January 9, 2006 meeting/election.  The board president confirmed that the ballots were not brought to the January 9th meeting as the board had voted to hold the election on January 30th.  Unit owners were asked to sign a form acknowledging that they considered the ballots submitted, to the association "null and void" and that they were recasting their ballots in person.


Further, at least one ballot that was counted at the election held on January 3 was different in appearance from the other ballots.


As discussed, rule 61 B-21.002(4), 'Florida Administrative Code, provides that associations must provide a written response to a Warning Letter.  A response to this letter is due no later than April 7, 2006. Due to the seriousness of the issues cited in this letter, the Division believes that the only appropriate corrective action would be for the association to conduct a new election for 2006.  The association should start from the second notice of election making sure to include the properly formatted candidate information sheets, ballots, envelopes and an agenda, As the statute and rules do not allow for the association to alter candidate information sheets, the association should go back to the candidate who submitted the two page candidate information sheet and ask that they submit a new one page sheet.  Should the candidate not comply, please remember that the association is not permitted to send out a two page candidate information sheet.  Finally, the new election should be held no later than April 28, 2006.


Failure to reply, take corrective action as requested herein, or repeated violations of a similar nature within two years from the date the violation is resolved may result in an enforcement action by the Division, which may result in civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.


Please address your response to me at the address noted -at the left.  If you have any questions regarding the foregoing, you may contact me at (813) 356-1720 Ext. 111.









Trudy Toorie

Investigation Specialist II


Enclosures:            Election Brochure (including flowchart and checklist)


cc:      Ron Bockhold

          Diane Delderfield

          Peter Delderfield

          Matthew Kritzer

          Dale Ruiter

          Patricia Stump

          Matthew Thornton

          Dean Vaughan