Courtesy of Gainesville.com
Posted June 4, 2006
The nation's first condominium ombudsman was fired this
week amid criticism that he refused to comply with state oversight.
Virgil Rizzo, 69, a retired doctor and lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, was
replaced as Florida's state condominium ombudsman Friday by Danille Carroll,
39, an attorney with the state's health department.
The job - which the Legislature created two years ago - entails working with
condo unit owners and board members, mediating disputes between them and
recommending necessary legal changes.
Gov. Jeb Bush's office referred calls Saturday to the state Department of
Business and Professional Regulation. The agency has administrative oversight
over the ombudsman, but Rizzo refused to acknowledge their authority,
spokeswoman Meg Shannon said.
"He's refused to acknowledge our oversight," Shannon said, citing
examples of botched timesheets, travel forms and a delay in responding to a
public records request that has resulted in a lawsuit against the department.
"It just became clear that a cooperative relationship was not going to be
possible," she said.
But others say Rizzo was fired because he did his job too well, creating a
stir among condo boards and their attorneys in his effort to be fair to condo
"The fight went on from day one," said Jan Bergemann, president of
the DeLand-based Cyber Citizens for Justice, which represents unit owners.
Bergemann said several of his members have called and e-mailed Bush to
complain about Rizzo's termination.
"The condo ombudsman's office was created because DBPR doesn't do it's
job," he said. "We lost the person who was doing an excellent
Rizzo, who is recovering from surgery, did not immediately return messages
left at his home Saturday.
While Carroll has no condominium experience, her legal background and
leadership skills make her a good fit for the job, Shannon said.
Bush appointed Rizzo to the position in December 2004. At that time, the only
state with a similar position was Nevada, where an ombudsman serves mandatory
homeowner associations, not condominiums.