|DBPR RULEMAKING IS DESTROYING LEGISLATIVE INTENT!|
An Opinion By Jan Bergemann
January 3, 2006
We all know that Florida is famous worldwide for its elections -- or should we say infamous? I guess our legislators realized this in 2004 when they added election monitoring to the tasks of the Office of the Condo Ombudsman, trying to create fairer elections in our associations. The idea was simple: If 15% of the condo owners agree by petition, an election monitor is appointed to monitor the election or conduct it. So far -- so good!
But it seems not everybody is looking for a fair election? It is pretty obvious that certain sitting board members will do anything to stay in power. Some have been caught red-handed, signing ballots for absentee unit-owners who showed for the election. Some “suspect” unit owners were never sent a ballot or their ballot somehow just got lost.
So much for the legislative intent -- and the idea to create fairer elections in Florida's condominium associations.
When our legislators created these laws, they had good intentions, but obviously didn't figure out that fair elections are not in everybody's mind! Some board members, some attorneys and -- oh miracle! -- the Department of Business and Professional Regulation are obviously not very much in favor of preventing election misconduct. I understand the reason for power-hungry board members not to like fair elections. They want to stay in power! I understand why certain attorneys are against fair elections -- they might lose a paying client if a new board is elected.
But I don't understand the DBPR! Or -- maybe I do? From Day One the DBPR has tried to tie the hands of the Condo Ombudsman. I guess the DBPR never got over the 2004 legislature creating an independent office to stop the endless calls of condo-owners complaining about a useless DBPR. Don't forget that the Office of the Condo Ombudsman was created because everybody knew the ineffectiveness of the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes!
Or is it -- as many condo-owners suspect -- even more widespread? Condo-owners often feel that the Arbitration Division takes its orders from the special-interest attorneys! Over the last few years we have seen quite a few DBPR Secretaries come and go, but the people behind the scenes -- the ones really creating the problems -- are still in place.
We talked last week about an attempt by the DBPR to create a "rule" that would effectively change the legislative intent behind the creation of an election monitor.
It's hard to understand why certain rules are being made -- or even considered -- by the DBPR. Instead of trying to protect the unit-owners that filed the petition they created a rule that allows the board to see the petition before the actual election. It was easy to figure out what would happen -- the writing was on the wall -- and it did happen: Board members and managers visited the unit-owners, harassed them and "asked" them to withdraw their signatures from the petition. That creates the same scenario as before when board members went around with ballots "asking" unit-owners to sign them.
We had two recent occurrences -- in the OCEANIA II CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. and in the BRAVURA I & II CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. In both cases unit-owners complained that sitting board members and managers visited them trying to coerce them to withdraw their signatures. The election monitor rule currently defeats part of the purpose of the election monitor!
When will the DBPR officials understand that they are supposed to work with the Office of the Condo Ombudsman for the condominium owner-- not against it?