Condo point man embroiled in own legal feud


Article Courtesy of the Palm Beach Post

By Lona O'Connor
Posted December 13, 2004


When new state condo czar Virgil Rizzo walks into his first meetings with officials in Tallahassee today, a thick envelope full of legal documents will be landing on Gov. Jeb Bush's desk.

"The residents of River Reach are requesting that you re-evaluate your selection of Virgil Rizzo for the position of condominium ombudsman," says the letter, which is unsigned, but claims to represent residents of the River Reach condominium in Fort Lauderdale, where Rizzo lives.

Rizzo was named state condo ombudsman last week by Bush to prevent condo disputes from escalating into lawsuits. He will work with a $4 million budget fueled by a $4 per-unit fee paid by condo owners. The state legislature created the position this year.

His fans, including state legislators and advocates for condo dwellers, say he is the right man to reform a state condo complaint system that has been ineffective for years and is under state investigation.

His detractors, including the board of his own condo association, say he is a litigious troublemaker filing baseless claims to harass them. In response, Rizzo says officers of his condo board filed countersuits only to punish him for his charges of financial mismanagement.

The legal brouhaha has continued for two years, with suits, countersuits, charges, countercharges and no end in sight.

The case recently reached the point where the  

Dr. Virgil Rizzo

association's officers claim that legal costs exceed the original amount Rizzo claims was misused.

Though both sides deny they have mean-spirited motives, the conflict has the earmarks of the classic condo grudge match, the kind Rizzo is expected to resolve amicably in his new post.

Rizzo, 67, claims in his lawsuit that board President Carl Miller mishandled the association's money. Miller, president of the association for 10 years, denied Rizzo's claim. Miller and board Vice President Ralph Caruso then filed separate lawsuits against Rizzo, claiming he defamed their character by accusing them of mismanagement in anonymous articles in a condo newsletter.