An Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Posted August 24
, 2005

The Sun Sentinel published today a letter to the editor under the headline "
Rizzo's report a slap at volunteers" written by Donna D. Berger, Executive Director Community Association Leadership Lobby


Her actual opinion is not really important if you know where she is coming from. Donna Berger is an attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. and a registered lobbyist for this firm. Personally she lobbied in Tallahassee against the bill creating the office of the condo ombudsman.


CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby) is a lobbying group created and financed by the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., which under the "pretense" of advocating on behalf of more than 4000 community associations pushes the agenda of this law firm, fighting owner-friendly legislation aimed at curbing the outrageous legal fees most associations and owners are facing.


According to her own writing she was present at the meeting of the Condo Advisory Council in Miami on June 25 -- a meeting that caused a newspaper reporter to write an article headlined "Condo Owners Accuse Board of Intimidation, Incompetence". So why is she so  surprised if the condo ombudsman arrives at the same findings as the public speakers?

It's really time that the old smoke screen: "Just a few disgruntled owners" is discarded and we all face the reality. The problems owners living in associations are facing daily is shameful for our society.


The law firm of Becker & Poliakoff is the biggest law firm specializing in association law in Florida -- and has most to lose if owner-friendly association reforms are enacted. They are as well the biggest supporter of the CAI (Community Associations Institute), a national trade organization of association service providers, that clearly advocates against consumer-friendly reforms. 


Becker & Poliakoff is as well the law firm in Florida that creates -- in the opinion of many written complaints I receive daily -- most of the problems for owners. 


This firm had their fair share of run-ins with Federal Consumer Protection laws. A federal court found Becker&Poliakoff P.A. guilty of violating the FDCPA (FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT), see: Fuller vs. Becker & Poliakoff (192 F. Supp. 2d 1361 M.D.Fla., 2002) 


From Day One it was obvious that these attorneys would do everything to undermine the office of the ombudsman, after they were unable to kill the bill creating this office (SB 1184 -- 2004).


Already in February of this year -- the new Ombudsman was barely appointed and had started to work -- a leading attorney of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff stated at a national law seminar of the CAI in New Orleans that the new Florida Ombudsman is a "disaster" and is "about to be kicked out"!


Joseph E. Adams, a shareholder in the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, is in the eyes of many observers abusing his position as the chairman of the Condo Advisory Council to create a witch hunt against the Condo Ombudsman. Instead of taking care of the problems many public speakers point out during the meetings, he seems to be obsessed with making the ombudsman look bad. Many condo-owners, whose money is being used to finance the meetings of the Condo Advisory Council, are offended by the tactics used by Joe Adams to undermine the authority of the condo ombudsman. Please note that the creation of the Condo Advisory Council was as well opposed by the lobbyists of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff


One Florida condo owner already filed an official complaint with the Ethics Commission, alleging that Joe Adams is using his appointment to push his and his firm's agenda.  According to the legislators who sponsored the bill creating the Condo Advisory Council they wanted this Council to listen to public input and propose suggestions for reforms. It was definitely not created as a stage for attorneys to push their anti-reform agenda or trying to destroy attempts of legislators to find feasible solutions for the many problems.


I think these facts make it easier to understand where all these "opinions" are really coming from: Attorneys who are afraid that revealing the truth will decrease their income!


It is typical for Donna Berger to push "volunteers" at the forefront of her opinion. Who would care about her opinion if she would state the fact that only about 200 specialized attorneys in Florida are afraid of seeing reports finally stating the facts about the real condo association problems? It is often more important to look at the messenger than to look at the message to find out the real truth!


We feel it's important how the condo owners feel about the Condo Ombudsman -- not these few attorneys with a financial interest in making him fail. Many compliments from owners, board members, professionals and legislators show that the Ombudsman is on the right track!

P.S.: I didn't copy Donna Berger with my opinion this time. Last time I did copy her by e-mail she accused me of cyber-stalking and threatened me with filing a police report. I guess some people just don't like to hear opposing opinions? Or the real facts?

Read Donna Berger's Letter to Editor:

Rizzo's report a slap at volunteers