|By Christy McKerney
Posted October 26, 2002
SUNRISE -- In Florida, even a simple
condo board election can't be taken for granted these days.
Take Sunrise Lakes Phase IV, Inc. II, a
peaceful enclave of 876 units where retirees are supposed to spend their
golden years perfecting their golf and mah-jongg.
Instead, some seniors here are hurling
allegations of vote tampering in an election that's pitted neighbor against
neighbor, grandpa against grandma.
The problem, as always in Florida, is the
The condo board is using ballots on simple
sheets of paper containing the names of 24 candidates, vying for 15 seats
to be decided Monday.
But some board members have been going
door to door, passing out actual ballots that are already filled in, prompting
other residents to file a complaint with the state Department of Business
and Professional Regulation's condominium division.
"What they're doing is illegal," said Seymour
Golub, 82, one of five people who signed the Oct. 18 complaint and hoped
state regulators would step in on Monday, when the votes are counted.
Condo association president David Deutsch
says the fuss is sour grapes from candidates whose names were not marked
"There's nothing wrong with what we're
doing. It's perfectly legal," said Deutsch, who said he checked with lawyers
beforehand to make sure everything was legal.
Deutsch said the marked ballots were only
suggestions and that people could and did cross out names they didn't want
to vote for.
"I handed some of them [out] and said these
are the people I recommend you vote for," Deutsch said.
But real estate broker and Sunrise Lakes
resident Stuart Miller, who drafted the formal complaint, disagrees.
Miller contends the practice violates state
condo law that requires "all ballot forms must be uniform in color and
appearance" and stating secrecy in voting must be assured.
"He's considering it campaigning, but I
don't think campaigning you actually do with the real ballots. That's the
real issue," said Miller, responding to Deutsch's explanation.
"We sent around suggestions in the form
of literature. They went around, telling people sign the ballots now. Here's
who you're voting for," Miller said.
Regulation department spokeswoman Meg Shannon
said she could not comment on whether the department is conducting an investigation
until after one is completed.
"I guess I have no choice but to have confidence
that the state is going to do the right thing, whether it's at the election
or three months later," Miller said.