Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Tony Doris
Published October 16, 2018
WEST PALM BEACH — You leave your condo behind and head north, hoping when
you return next season everything’s the way you left it.
You don’t think the property manager will be letting himself in when he
wants a place to hang out.
But that’s what happened last week at the Portofino South condo tower in
West Palm Beach, where the property manager found himself out of a job,
after a snowbird several states away spotted him on a security camera.
Notices went out Sunday to residents of the 14-story
building that Frank Lagalante, property manager since 2010, was out “as a
result of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior,” with no detail given.
“At this time we are confident that the unprofessional behavior is not
related to any financial issues. However, we are taking the precaution of
working with our bookkeeper, accounting firm and our attorney,” the notice
No charges were filed — nothing was stolen. Whether the condo association
will file a complaint against Lagalante’s Florida property manager license
The license doesn’t matter because he’s hanging it up as a property manager,
said Lagalante, 55, who admits he went into the condo and that it was wrong.
“I lost everything,” he said. His job, his health insurance. “That’s OK, I
deserve it. I did something really wrong.”
The Portofino South condominium, at 3800 Washington
Road, West Palm Beach.
Lagalante emphasized he didn’t break in — claiming the
previous owner, the current owner’s father, once gave him a key to look in
on the place from time to time. The father even gave him a $50 check two
months ago as a tip, he said. “It wasn’t really what it seemed to be to the
But he admitted he shouldn’t have been there. “I made a bad judgment call,”
The current owner, who asked not to be named, said her father, who spends
much of the year out of the country, probably did tip him, because her
father does that kind of thing.
But she didn’t believe her father gave Lagalante the key.
Regardless, the management office has master keys to all the condos, to
enter for work-related reasons, such as to fix a leak or put out a fire, she
said. Though a deadbolt keeps the residents secure when they’re in the
condo, they’re not allowed to change the main lock, she said.
“My parents never trusted him,” she added, noting that several years ago her
mother detected someone had been inside the condo when they’d been away.
“When she confronted Frank, he acted like she was crazy.”
Her parents, who were 72 and 80 years old at the time, were “really upset by
it,” she said. “My mother said she felt like she was violated.”
There was no denying who went into the condo this time, however, she said.
She called Lagalante the next day.
“I confronted him,” she said, declining to go into detail. “I just wanted
him to stop doing that in our unit.”
The owner said she didn’t want anyone to lose their job and for that reason
deliberated for a week before informing the condo association board of
directors, who acted swiftly.
Association President Pamela Kittinger-Fuller declined comment, as did
attorney Mark Friedman, a shareholder of the association’s law firm, Becker
Also not commenting, the president of the condo association at the Sun and
Surf, the Palm Beach building where Lagalante worked until 2009.
“He worked here and he left. That’s all I’ll say about it,” said Cornelius
Healy of the Sun and Surf One Hundred Thirty Association, Inc.
One Portofino South resident said, within the confines of the tower, owners
have been talking about the incident. The resident, who asked to be
identified as V. Ross, said she hoped the association board would take
action against Lagalante.
“If we do not pursue this, give it to the police or pursue it legally with
him, then he’s going to go to another building,” she lamented. “Then
somebody’s going to call our board for a recommendation and they’re going to
worry about being sued and give him a normal recommendation, so he can go to
next building and do the same thing.”
Tens of thousands of snowbirds make the annual migration to condos in
Florida. When the season ends and they fly home, their condos are vulnerable
to intrusion and owners trust the master keys are guarded.
Community association lawyer Jeffrey Rembaum said state law requires owners
to allow access to every unit for maintenance or repairs but that master
keys must be locked away. “You can’t just leave them willy-nilly in the
manager’s office,” he said.
“The bottom line is: Yes, they have a right of access with those specific
purposes, not to be abused by a maintenance man who needs a private place,
and not so a maintenance man can use a bathroom.” If an association employee
violates that law, the association could be found liable, he added.
Rembaum, of Kaye Bender Rembaum in Palm Beach Gardens and Pompano Beach,
said his firm recommends that, when an employee is going to enter a condo,
the association provide notice to the owner when possible, always go in with
more than one person and, if practicable, use a video camera.
This is the first time he heard of an association employee violating that
trust. “It’s not very common,” he said.
It’s too common for the Portofino South owner, though.
“When you’re gone a good part of the year, if someone sees your routine,
your pattern, they know when you’re coming or going,” she said.
“It’s disillusioning,” she said of the incident. “It’s creepy.”