Courtesy of The Florida Times Union
J. TAYLOR RUSHING
Capital Bureau Chief
April 23, 2005
-- The state agency that handles condominium complaints in Florida
is answering them belatedly and weakly, says the final version of a
legislative audit initiated by a seasonal Amelia Island couple and
requested by Sen. Jim King of Jacksonville.
The secretary of the department that oversees the agency says most
condo complaints are being handled adequately by the state Division
of Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes.
Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government
Accountability issued a final report Tuesday about the division,
following a draft audit last month. It was requested in July by
King, who was Senate president then, to answer concerns raised by
Steve and Judy Comley, who live seasonally on Amelia Island and had
repeatedly sought state help during a longrunning dispute with their
audit says the division resolves complaints beyond statutory
deadlines and shies away from strong enforcement reactions. Steve
Comley, founder of a Washington-based whistle-blower agency called
We The People, said the audit vindicates some of his complaints but
is just a small underbelly of what's been going on there for
years," Comley said. "But someone's got to be held
accountable, and it can't be from a generic investigation like
Reeves, a Tallahassee-based attorney for We The People, said the
Comleys' complaint was one of many that have been ignored. Reeves is
a former regulation director within the state Department of Business
and Professional Regulation, which oversees the condo division.
real problems there that the Legislature hasn't heard about,"
a written response to the audit, Diane Carr, secretary of the
Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said its
findings are "reasonably accurate" but not entirely fair.
For example, Carr said the audit unfairly criticized the condo
division for exceeding the 90-day deadline for acting on complaints.
are closing 64 percent of our complaints within 90 days -- a
statistic we do not consider to be insignificant, contrary to the
report's assertion that it is," Carr wrote.
spokeswoman Meg Shannon also said state law provides only a
framework for relations between condo owners and their associations,
which is intended to foster an atmosphere of self-governance.
the division has the statutory authority to handle complaints, their
primary goal is to educate," Shannon wrote in an e-mail.
condo division has also been hobbled by significant manpower cuts in
recent years, dropping to 111 full-time employees, from 172 in 1999.
With legislators about two weeks away from finishing a state budget,
King said the audit may reveal a need for more manpower.
complaints are being answered too slow and an honest, introspective
look shows that, maybe it's time for us to give them the technology
or manpower to close that gap," King said.