By Jan Bergemann ( 12-7-2001 )
I guess there is nothing to add to the issues of the Annual Meeting of the Chimney Lakes Owners Association on December 4. The documents just speak for themselves! Isn't it interesting to know that an official TEMPORARY INJUNCTION, signed by  County Court Judge Brant Shore, was served to the board before the meeting. But obviously nobody really cared? In my opinion the HOA attorney Jeffrey Tomassetti knew, why he wasn't present.  He made his appearance at the last boardmeeting, when the problems were a lot smaller. 
In my personal opinion the COMPLAINT FOR VERIFIED EMERGENCV MOTION FOR TEMPORARY INJUNCTION says it all. No more comments necessary! If this doesn't wake up the homeowners in Chimney Lake, what will? Ignoring a Temporary Injunction from a Court of Law? Gee, I guess somebody will have to deal with some serious contempt of court charges? 
I definitely wouldn't like to be one of them!

A very similar case just ended in Orlando, where concerned homeowners ousted the board in a special meeting. Main reason was as well concern about finances and too much involvement of HOA attorney and management company. The "former" board with the help of the "former" HOA attorney tried with little legal tricks to get back in power! No such luck! The presiding judge denied their request and awarded the new board all legal expenses etc., to be paid by the former boardmembers! Please read this very interesting story :

                          Click on Blue Wording to read the documents!

Get in your Proxies
or your Vote will be lost!
By Jan Bergemann ( 11 - 10 - 2001 )

It seems as if the current Board of Directors at Chimney Lake has to use pretty unusual manners in order to try to assure the reelection at the Annual Meeting on December 4, 2001. In their latest message "From the President", which arrived at the households on 11-6-2001, the board set a new deadline for proxy filing. According to the newsletter any proxy which will be returned later than 11-16-2001 will not be validated. The newsletter states further :"In accordance with CLOA by-laws the proxy must be filed with the secretary of the Association."
This is definitely correct, but there is nowhere a reference that proxies have to be filed 19 days in advance. Neither the Chimney Lake bylaws nor the Florida Statutes make any statement to that effect. Personally I don't think there is any legal documentation which allows this kind of procedure. It seems to me that this is a newly invented way to try to avoid too many dissident votes. This could easily be construed as an illegitimate way to "stack the deck" at the upcoming election.

Certain board decisions have already created a lot of unrest among the homeowners in this community. Please see article below! Unhappy homeowners have already alleged that the current board has too many personal gains at stake, much to the disadvantage of the homeowners.

These are the main conflicts of interest alleged by homeowners:

1.) The management company will lose the contract, $80,000 plus. (homeowners are unhappy and official complaints are already filed with DBPR)

2.) Board president's wife will lose her job; she works for the management company. After she was hired, the contract with the management company was renewed for a longer term. 

3.) A board member will loose the landscape contract $ 150,000 plus. 

4.) His two brothers and his father in law will lose their jobs, they work for the landscape company, especially created for this contract (the bidding was very dubious). 

5.) Board vice-president will loose her opportunity to get recreation proposals accepted for her husband. He sells recreation equipment and submitted a bid of $65,000 to replace playground equipment last year. 

6.) Board Secretary will lose his opportunity to get inside information on foreclosed houses. He and is wife buy the houses, repair them and resell them at a profit. His wife wants to give up her job and do this full time. 

7.) Treasurer will lose his opportunity to bid on replacing roof on recreation center. He owns a roofing company and has asked to put in a bid right after the first of the year. 

Any more explanations necessary about personal gains? 

It is my personal opinion that the homeowners of Chimney Lake should be very careful who they wish to serve on the Board of Directors for the next term. Recent actions of the board made it very clear to any observer that the current board seems unwilling to have homeowners speak their mind and that board decisions are final decisions - period! Even if they don't seem to follow the Florida Statutes. The recent decision on video-taping even could be construed as an attempt to extinguish any proof in case of possible litigation.

I think that the homeowners at Chimney Lakes should be very careful what they wish for! Florida Statutes require that all homeowners are responsible for any debts or financial problems of the association. So, if the board makes wrong financial or legal decisions everybody owning a home in Chimney Lakes could suddenly face a Special Assessment in order to cover financial losses.

Some Food for Thought ?

Working on a Homeowners' Bill of Rights ! 
Is that a joke ?
By Jan Bergemann ( 11 - 02 - 2001 )

It is really amazing what certain people come up with. There is lots of trouble brewing in Chimney Lake Owners Association in Jacksonville. It seems that a board with special interests and a power hungry management company are trying to take over a homeowners' association for personal gains. And they are getting the help of an HOA attorney, who seems to be willing to add his private interpretations of the Florida Statutes into the power game.

The latest newsletter, named the Chimney Sweep, is definitely a great example, how propaganda can twist the facts. After reading quite a few documents, I especially had to wonder about one outstanding statement in this Newsletter :
We are currently working on a homeowners Bill of Rights.
After reading the recently released "Conduct of residents", which obviously tries to eliminate the homeowners' input in public meetings and the recently established new rules regarding video-taping of public meetings, backed by a letter of HOA attorney A. Jeffrey Tomassetti , this statement seems more like a rude joke than an honest commitment. 

Considering that the Florida Statutes "F.S.720.306 (8)  RECORDING.--Any parcel owner may tape record or videotape meetings of the board of directors and meetings of the members. The board of directors of the association may adopt reasonable rules governing the taping of meetings of the board and the membership" seem to be written in a very clear language, the interpretation of the HOA attorney seems like a very far fetched interpretation of these statutes. I was especially touched by his statement : "This certainly fits the spirit of the rule permitting the parcel owner to video tape meetings of the Association membership." I have sent copies of this attorney's letter to our Florida legislators, who were part of writing and enacting these Statutes. Let's see if our legislators feel that his interpretation is in the spirit intended by them. This "solution" did cost the community money, from getting an attorney's opinion to wiring the necessary feeds. I don't think that any homeowner feels that spending money on such trivial issues complies with the fiduciary duty of the board. During the last board meeting attorney Tomassetti challenged the homeowners to get an attorney and take it to court or take it up the DBPR if they don't like the board policy. Did anybody ever ask him if he is willing to stand to his interpretation of Florida Statutes even if it comes to a lengthy court battle over these decisions and the associations looses? Or is he just interested in some more billable hours, because he knows the homeowners will pay, one way or another? He definitely didn't return my telephone call asking for his comments.

Reading the frequently asked questions and answers on the sunshine law web page it states:
"Q. As a private citizen, can I videotape a public meeting?
  A. A public board may not prohibit a citizen from videotaping a public meeting through the
  use of nondisruptive video recording devices."

How is the newly introduced "Conduct of residents" supposed to help the communication between homeowners and board members? How can a homeowner, who rarely knows the agenda of the board meeting 48 hours in advance, and much less knows what will be discussed in detail at that meeting, make a reasonable request to speak on an adopted form 48 hours in advance? In my honest opinion these are regulations you'll find in dictatorships or organizations, where public input is not welcome and/or unwanted. Is that the idea of a homeowners' association? It sounds a lot more like :"Pay your dues and shut up!" 

And, according to further information I received, not even board members know the agenda 48 hours in advance. Adding the fact that the Board often calls "Special Meetings", not necessarily made public according to Florida Statutes ( just a sign in front of rec center, no agenda! ), or makes decisions by telephone poll, something you wouldn't even find mentioned in the Florida Statutes, what else can this "Conduct of residents"  be considered than an attempt to keep the homeowners in the dark and avoid any kind of criticism?

To insure that all these rules are followed by the book, the board hired a sergeant-at-arms and threatens with arrest! 

What the board is not telling the homeowners in their newsletter is the fact, that members of the board have a personal financial interest in some of these decisions. While the newsletter states that  the current contractor is a part of our community it definitely doesn't say that he is one of the board members who started the landscaping company in order to get the Chimney Lake contract. Or did they tell the homeowners that the board president's wife is working for the management company Rimsco, Inc.? 

It seems very obvious that personal gain of board members is involved in many recent board decisions. When will the homeowners of Chimney Lake finally wake up and let this board know in no uncertain terms that enough is enough?
A homeowners' association doesn't need a specific "Bill of Rights" if the board is willing to obey by the words of the Florida Statutes. But homeowners definitely need protection from boards who feel that an association is their personal playground and use it for financial gains. Apathy among homeowners in associations is making this possible. If homeowners don't wake up before it's too late, the bill will be presented to them at their doorstep with no way out. Please don't forget that all homeowners will be financially responsible if the board, management company and attorney make the wrong decisions. Many homeowners all over Florida can attest to that fact. A "Special Assessment" is often not too far away when wrong decisions are being made!