Department of Business and Professional Regulation
February 20, 2004

Certified Mail Return Receipt

Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes
Office of the Secretary
Lianne Acebo, Deputy Secretary
1940 North Monroe street
Tallahassee, FL. 32399-0750

Dear Ms. Acebo,

It has been brought to my attention you have been assigned to reply to letters addressed to Governor Jeb Bush sent by his Florida constituents as well as letters (some enclosed) mailed to the Governor from interested citizens from 27 (to date) other states.

The letters as you know are in reference to their concerns for condominium rental rules and suggestions they had regarding legislation affecting governance of condominiums by association boards.

In your replies to these people you state, “As the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes is under my purview, the Governor has asked that I respond on his behalf………..  Chapter 718, F.S., does not empower the division to enforce the rules and regulations of a condominium, but is limited to violations of the Condominium Act and division rules……..The Florida Supreme Court ruling in Woodside Village (enclosed) Condominium Association, Inc. v. Jahren held that a condominium’s governing documents may be amended to ban or restrict a unit owner’s right to lease his or her unit, even where the resident purchased in reliance on the lack of such a restriction.”

I couldn’t help but notice in your letters to these individuals that there is no mention in connection of the Woodside vs. Jahren Case of Justice Peggy Quince suggestion, “I concur in the majority’s opinion decision which quashes the decision by the Second district Court of Appeal.  I write simply to encourage the legislature to seriously consider placing some restriction on present and/or future condominium owners’ ability to alter the rights of existing condominium owners….As the district Court pointed out the amendment has deprived these owners of a valuable right that existed at the time of purchase.  This valuable right may well have been the determinative factor for their decisions to buy these properties.  As the district Court suggested, there should at least be some type “escape” provision for those “unit owners whose substantial property rights are altered by amendments to declarations adopted after they acquire their property.”

I believe Governor Bush certainly wants his constituents to be fully informed of all the information related to this issue.  The only reason I can think why you did not include at least part of what Supreme Court Justice, Peggy Quince stated in her opinion was that you did not read the whole case.  Is my conclusion correct or did you believe it was not necessary to include what Justice Quince said?

If you were not aware of this, will you in the future consider including at least some of Justice Peggy Quince’s statement along with the rest of the cases you have felt is necessary to cite in your reply letters?  To the extent you might think it is not the Division’s role to suggest changes to the legislature of the nature described above, I challenge you to serve the state not just by doing the bear minimum of your job to enforce the rules, but to try and make the system better, for the sake of all the citizens of the State of Florida and beyond who may want to invest or fully retire here in the future.

I do not know if you are aware that this is exactly what Attorney Gary Poliakoff has selectively omitted in Florida Editorials (enclosed) he wrote about on this very subject.  Attorney Gary Poliakoff is the founding principal of Becker and Poliakoff, P.A., based in Fort Lauderdale, and a leading lobbyist and representative for literally hundreds of condominium associations boards.  He is an advocate for the boards that are responsible for destroying and limiting the rental rights of individual owners, like those people who have contacted you!  I do believe that when a government official like yourself speaks out in response to inquiries in a controversy, you have a responsibility to present all the facts to the public, especially when it can affect over 6 million Condo owners in the State of Florida, instead of just selecting one sided information as Attorney Poliakoff has often prepared in his editorials.  His focus is totally in advocating the interest of HIS CLIENTS (he’s advocate/lobbyist-that’s his job!)  But is that your goal too on behalf of the Division, to promote only the interest of Poliakoff’s Clients (the Associations and Boards??)  I hope not.

In other matters concerning your office: First: I still have not received a reply to my certified inquiry letter (enclosed) to you of January 26, 2004.  When can I expect an answer to that letter?  Second: In my E-mail of February 5, 2004 2:56 PM to Deputy General Counsel, James Varnado, I asked him to forward my questions to Secretary Carr which to date have also not been addressed.  As you are aware of I was told by several DBPR staff members to follow this procedure of going though the General counsel office of the DBPR because they were told they could no longer converse with me.  Would you kindly ask Secretary Diane Carr to address my statements and inquires contained in the February 5, 2004 E-mail? The following is what I stated and requested:  “On June 16, 2003 during a tele-conference call with investigator supervisor, Tracey Corbitt and Investigation specialist, Eurkie McLemore present, the Chief of Compliance, Michael Cochran stated to me, “the staff at the DBPR has been cut from 160 to 91, (40% decrease).  Secretary Carr, with a 40 percent cut in staff, in your opinion, can the DBPR operate responsibly and still keep up with all the new filings and complaints that continue to flow into your office?  Mr. Cochran also stated to me during our tele-conference call June 16, 2003 he would not honor my request to provide me and the legislature with any other problems his department were 
presently faced with.  In addition I requested he list what improvements he thought could be made at the DBPR.   I explained to him I thought I would have an opportunity to testify before the legislature and would be glad to make his comments part of the record.  He said he would not provide his thoughts to me or to the legislature unless a governmental body requested it of him.  Would you be willingly to list the problems that your department faces and what recommendations you and the rest of your staff would have along with what possible changes could be made in Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes?  I believe these are some of the first important steps that must be taken by you and your staff in order for the DBPR to accomplish the goals the legislature intended in order for the DBPR serve the Florida Taxpayers effectively.  Thank you in advance for your reply to my questions.”

Deputy Secretary, would you forward this part of my letter to Secretary Carr?

Respectfully submitted, 
Stephen B. Comley

cc: President of the Senate, James King Jr., Governor Jeb Bush, Speaker of the House, Johnnie Byrd, Rep. Robaina, Chairman of the Condo Governance Committee, Rep. Aaron Bean, Rep. Frederick C. Brummer, Chair, Subcommittee on Commerce & Local Affairs Appropriations, Senator Alex Villalobos, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, Secretary Diane Carr, Kim Mills, Inspector General DBPR, Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince & Attorney Gary Poliakoff.

Enclosures: Deputy Secretary, Lianne Acebo’s reply letter to Mr. Richard Gray of Amelia Island FL. & Mr. Ross Fleetwood reply to Mr. & Mrs. Stern, of Lake Ariel PA. written, in behalf of Governor Bush, Copy of the Supreme Court Case in regards to Woodside vs. Jahren, a copy of an Editorial written by Attorney Gary Poliakoff, Copy of our letter of 1/26/04 to Deputy Secretary, Lianne Acebo & copy of my E-Mail of 2/5/04 sent to Secretary Diane Carr.