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

January 23, 2006


We discussed election and recall arbitration before, wondering why a seemingly easy task can take the DBPR an average of 61 days to make a final ruling.

I guess the recall attempt of the owners of Lakebridge HOA give us a better picture and confirms my statements in an earlier article headlined: DBPR RECALL ARBITRATION -- BUY TIME TO FINISH PET PROJECT!  


Just look at the announcement on the official DBPR website:

What does it cost?

  • There is a $200 filing fee.

  • If you lose you may have to pay all attorneys fees and administrative costs.

  • Typically costs range from $2,000 to $10,000

This is definitely not what the legislature intended when creating these recall provisions.  It was supposed to be an easy, uncomplicated and inexpensive way for the owners to remove unwanted board members.

The idea was great -- until some attorneys realized it's a great scheme to make some money -- often for the last time from this association.


We are seeing more and more that owners recall association boards -- because these boards are unwilling to dismiss attorneys and managers not favored by the owners. Since owners can't fire service providers directly, they have to recall the board first. Once on the board, then they can make the decisions to fire these service providers. 


Just two weeks ago I received an e-mail from a "new" president who was happy to tell me that he gave the association attorney the "walking papers"!


And we get more and more requests from boards asking for recommendations of law firms and managers, who are not part of the "clique," meaning being members of the Community Associations Institute!


The case of the Lakebridge recall arbitration was predictable -- from the moment it started. 

Just read the association attorney's filing with the DBPR -- and you can see where this is going. The first filing makes assumptions, claiming to have made findings, but no proof offered. That will buy them minimum 40 days of time -- and guarantees the attorney lots of money for writing a few pages of "findings."


Next we'll see an exchange of documents, claims and counterclaims and more time and money wasted.


The DBPR -- seemingly great in rulemaking -- should come up with a very simple rule:
If the board does not certify the recall, the board has to give in the filing the exact reasons for challenging the recall. These reasons have to be accompanied by proof -- not something like “we feel” or “we made findings”!


In my opinion some of these filings are just an insult to the intelligence of people using common sense! But, so far, the DBPR arbitrators let the attorneys get away with it!
Just check
EXHIBIT B , the minutes of the meeting where the board made the decision to challenge the recall. According to the minutes, the meeting was called to order at 11:02 a.m. and adjourned at 11:06 a.m. -- making it four minutes of official public meeting. Please read the minutes -- and you'll wonder how many things can be said, discussed and done in only four minutes.


I think the documents speak for themselves!


Please remember that in this case the owners are trying to recall three board members, who are actually only renters, their names nowhere to be found on any property deed in this association. 


Even if Deborah Sugarman, the attorney who filed the official PETITION FOR RECALL ARBITRATION states: "7.  The Condominium is composed of 120 homes." we are talking no doubt here about a homeowners' association, since she later quotes FS 720 as the statutes governing this association.

But FS 720.301(10) states:  "Member" means a member of an association, and may include, but is not limited to, a parcel owner or an association representing parcel owners or a combination thereof, and includes any person or entity obligated by the governing documents to pay an assessment or amenity fee.

Add FS FS 720.306(9): "All members of the association shall be eligible to serve on the board of directors, ....". 

There is no opt-out clause provided, nothing to the effect: "if not otherwise provided in the governing documents"!


That brings up the obvious question: How come renters are serving on the board of the homeowners' association -- since they are clearly not members?


And the board and their attorney as well discovered "fraudulent activities" and cancelled the annual membership with election on a 1-day notice. In a letter to a homeowner , who was demanding the annual meeting to be called as soon as possible, the attorney claims to be unable to meet this demand and states (quote): "To best protect the interests of all of the homeowners, the Board will take the necessary time to develop the most effective method possible and will not compromise from such a standard just to save a few days or weeks." I guess, considering the time elapsed in the meanwhile, the emphasis lies on weeks?


In my opinion, the meeting was clearly cancelled to avoid the defeat of the three "renter" board members at the official election -- and to drag out the decision with the recall arbitration. 


It sure doesn't protect the interests of the homeowners if the whole process is dragged out with letter-writing and motions filed by the attorney. I clearly fail to see a "protection of interest of the owners" when all they get are bills to pay from a law firm. 


It is time that the DBPR arbitrators realize what this is all about: "Making money for the attorneys!" 

These arbitrators should be required to make fast decisions -- in the best interests of Florida's homeowners and condo-owners. 


Should these DBPR arbitrators be getting paid to increase the income of the specialized attorneys?  I don’t think so!

HOA Owners Recall Board Members Who Are Renters


WANT TO RECALL YOUR BOARD? Easy 1-2-3 Instructions