ELECTIONS IN A
No, it's just around the corner:
BRENTWOOD HILLS HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION, INC. -- St. Petersburg
|An Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published Monday, November 28, 2005
We always laugh about elections in Banana Republics -- cracking jokes about it! We quickly stopped laughing after the presidential elections in 2000, which made Florida the laughing stock of the whole world.
But we sit idly by while the election shenanigans in our homeowners' associations take place. We hear from service providers -- managers and attorneys -- that there is a lack of volunteers. And often these "poor volunteers" have to serve over and over again -- for the welfare of the community.
The unanswered question: Why do the powers-that-be often do everything to avoid giving candidates a chance to serve?
In the case of the Brentwood Hills HOA, they just use the common way to rig the election, used all over Florida. Use the Nominating Committee to eliminate unwanted candidates by not adding them to the ballot that is sent out to the members -- and most likely will decide the outcome of the election.
The Final Notice for the Annual Meeting contains the same list of candidates plus adds the short description of the candidates' qualifications. And to make sure the deal works according to Florida Statutes FS 720: Let's add the required proxy, but make sure that it can't be used for the election of board members. Let's quickly close that door -- just in case!
The nominating committee of this association made sure that seven candidates -- the necessary number to fill all open seats – were listed on the ballot, even if they had to add both husband and wife to the ballot. Don't forget, that enables one family, allowed to cast only one vote at a membership meeting, to cast two votes at a board meeting. Gee, nice way to double the power of your vote, despite paying dues only once!
And to cover the tracks another sentence is quickly added: "Additional nominations for election to the Board will be accepted at the Annual Meeting."
Just for the record: It's not the board members who come up with these little tricks! The service providers -- attorneys and managers -- are the ones only too happy to provide the sitting boards with these "little tricks of the trade." Don't forget -- as long as the friendly board members are in charge, it's much easier to renew the contracts under much better conditions. A new board might not be so easy to persuade?
But nominations in this community would all be fair and square, if the powers-to-be wouldn't have left out a candidate, who announced his willingness to volunteer in the required manner, as told by the property manager. See his written statement mailed in timely fashion.
Some might say: “Oh, just an oversight -- or an innocent mistake?” Guess you could say that, if it weren’t for the fact that just this "candidate" had "dared to complain" that the sitting board had violated the deed restrictions by erecting a metal fence around common areas -- a metal fence that deed restrictions definitely don't allow. The deed restrictions of this community are actually very straightforward, if fences are at issue:
"4. Fences. No chain link fences shall be permitted on any residential lot. Chain link fences may be permitted in Common Area recreational areas as deemed essential by the Association. All fences shall not exceed six (6) feet in height. All fences shall be constructed of wood using pressure treated wood materials and galvanized nails and all stringers and/or posts utilized in such fencing shall be visible only from the interior of the lot upon which the same is constructed."
That actually throws a different light on these election procedures and the actions of the sitting board. "How can we allow a member who has dared to criticize the sitting board -- even if that sitting board violated the deed restrictions?"
Everybody in his right mind knows: The real election had already taken place by manipulating the ballot before the actual meeting. Many owners will use this ballot to cast their vote instead of going to the meeting. These homeowners will never know that there had been another candidate willing to volunteer his time for the welfare of the community. And that is exactly what the board intended by using this election method. As experience shows, the chances of a candidate winning an election after being nominated from the floor are about Zero -- Zip -- Nada! You could compare it to write-in candidate at official elections. Ever seen one win?
In East Germany you could only be listed on the official election ballot if you were a member of the Communist Party. It seems in Florida's homeowners' associations you can only get on the ballot if you follow the "party-line" of the sitting board!
Actually, this homeowners’ association is using the election method that is used in Florida's condominiums. But there is one huge difference: The Condo Act doesn't allow associations to eliminate candidates from the ballot process -- the only eliminations are for legal reasons.
But since the statute regulating homeowners' associations -- FS 720 -- doesn't create these protective provisions and doesn't require accountability by the powers-that-be, we are seeing these kinds of election shenanigans all the time. It's a simple, but effective way to eliminate candidates the sitting board doesn't feel comfortable with -- a way to make sure that the only candidates who have a chance to get elected will follow the party line! You could call it an extremely effective elimination process!
ELECTION PROCEDURES LIKE IN A BANANA REPUBLIC!
Fairness In Homeowners’ Associations Is The Goal
for upcoming legislative reforms for homeowners' associations!