Ousted board president writes nasty letter to editor:

Rizzo was poor choice for the job

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

June 18, 2006


This letter writer just "forgot" to mention who he actually is: The former president of the HERON AT THE HAMMOCKS CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. in Miami.  Martin was ousted in an election that needed three attempts in order to be finally conducted -- at great expense to the unit owners whose dues were used to pay for the incompetence of the board to hold an election according to the Florida Statutes. Then he tried to postpone the election again, using Katrina as an excuse.  Finally, the election was held -- and Martin lost fair and square.  This election result spoke loudly and clearly for itself.

And yes, it is the job of the condo ombudsman to conduct the election, according to the Florida Statutes, especially if the sitting board is too incompetent to follow the simple election rules and is squandering the condo owners' money in order to stay in power and avoid a fair election!

Considering that Martin complained that reporter Joe Kollin missed the real story, it should be noted that Martin totally "forgot" to mention the real reason why he is mad at Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo. 

Doing his job according to Florida Statutes, Rizzo ousted Martin from a position that he had held for quite a while.  Martin’s long tenure had been much to the dismay of some of his neighbors.

His "proud" announcement on the ballot: "Board member for over ten years, and President for the past five!" Actually, this announcement was another violation of Florida Statutes. 

We saw many "mad ousted presidents," because for the first time in many years a lot of condo associations held fair and honest elections.  As you can see from this letter to editor, fair and honest elections didn't go over too well with many long-term "former" presidents. They rather preferred the old-fashioned way: Running the election like in a Banana Republic with a favorable outcome for the sitting board members!

Actually, Dr. Rizzo should be proud to see this kind of letter:  It shows that he did his job as envisioned by the Florida legislature when they created the Office of the Condo Ombudsman!


And in case you have any doubt, just read the Thank-You letter sent by the new board of the Heron to Governor Jeb Bush on September 24, 2005. That letter tells the real story -- no further discussion necessary! 


Maybe Martin was a really poor choice as a condo president -- but it took a fair election to finally oust him!

Wayne A. Martin
Posted June 17 2006

It takes a strong character to recognize a mistake, and correct it. This is what Gov. Jeb Bush has done by removing Virgil Rizzo from his post. An ombudsman is by definition supposed to be impartial and unbiased, someone who supports and defends the statutes, and operates without agendas. Instead the condo communities were dealt the antithesis: someone who was biased, unprofessional, downright neglectful of the statutes he was appointed to defend, abused his discretionary powers, and fraught with agendas.

Rizzo and others point to his not being able to monitor elections as a stumbling block. Rizzo and his team wanted to control every aspect of the election process, from the mailings to the counting of the ballots. This should not be the job of any governmental agency.

But this exposed him for what he really is: an autocrat and a loose cannon. He made no attempt to assist, support or work with the department of which he was a part. Instead he and his "mouthpieces" constantly barraged and tried to intimidate the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

He insisted that elections for my community proceed as planned, shortly after Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 27, when Gov. Bush had declared a state of emergency. Rizzo, with no electrical power for lights or air conditioning, downed trees and debris blocking roads, gas stations closed, leaking roofs, demanded that our annual general meeting convene. One homeowner was deprived of his candidate rights by not having his bio included in the voting package prepared by Rizzo's office.

The condo ombudsman has the potential to be all that the Legislature intended, and I have high expectations for appointee Danille Carroll.

It's a shame staff writer Joe Kollin missed "the real story" because he didn't see the direction Rizzo was taking when I first contacted him in September 2005. I am sure there's a bigger story of Rizzo and all the injustice he perpetrated just waiting to be told.


                 at the Hammocks Condominium Association, Inc.


August 27, 2005



Gail Sharpe              - President

Miren Arbide           - Vice President

Expedito Santiago    - Treasurer

Lilian Bernal            -  Secretary

Pedro Figueroa        -  Director

Septernber 24, 2005


Govemor Jeb Bush

PL 05 The Capitol

400 South Monroe S

Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Govemor Bush,

RE:   A fair election was conducted by the Condominium Ombudsman on 8-27-05 for

         Heron at the Hammocks Condominium Association, Inc., Miami, Florida

Unit owners at Heron at the Hammocks Condominium Association, Inc. and the five newly elected Board members thank you for supporting the legislation in 2004 that allowed Florida

to have its very first Condominium Ombudsman.

We are also grateful to Representative Julio Robaina for submitting the legislation and for fighting so valiantly for its acceptance, last year.

As a direct result of your appointment of Dr. Virgil Rizzo, M.D., J.D. as Ombudsman, we were given the opportunity to have a fair election for our Board of Directors on August 27, 2005.  We do not believe this would have been possible, without this new 2004 legislation.

There were more than three votes cast for each new board member compared to one vote cast for each of the old board members.  No incumbents were re-elected.

We needed a fair election that would reflect the  will of the unit owners at the Heron, and we believe we got it on August 27.


Upon being petitioned by 15% of our membership to intervene, Dr. Rizzo and his dedicated staff set about overcoming all of the obstacles that were delaying and preventing our election.  They did so with great determination and persistence in the face of much resistance and non-compliance by the old Board.

The Ombudsman very quickly established an updated Heron voter's list, as the old Board's Roster was disenfranchising many of our 264 voters and had proven to be outdated and inadequate regarding the address and contact information.

The association's Attorneys, Hyman, Kaplan, Ganguzza, Spector & Mars, were engaged by the old Board to attend the first two election attempts in March and April 2005 and the election held on August, 27, 2005.  To many of the unit owners present on those occasions, it appeared as if the Attorneys were focused on keeping the old board in power, at any cost to the rest of the unit owners.

Many of us also felt that the Attorneys gave no indication they were interested in preserving the rights of all the Heron unit owners.  We did not see or hear the Attorneys attempt to persuade the old Board to cooperate fully with the Ombudsman's Office.  Many of us felt that the Attorneys should have focused on having the old Board cooperate with the state agency, as required by the Florida Statutes.

The Ombudsman and his team even braved the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which had passed over Miami-Dade area less than two days earlier.  The Ombudsman's party traveled long distances, at great personal inconvenience to themselves, to conduct our election on August 27, 2005, as planned.  We applaud their gallantry in the face of such daunting odds.

Governor Bush, we want you to know that we believe you have an exemplary group of dedicated and committed people working as a team in the Ombudsman's Office.  We believe they have proven to be unrelenting in their commitment to fulfill their mandate to all of the condominium unit owners of Florida.

To you, Governor Bush, we say a big “Thank You.”

To the Ombudsman and his staff and volunteers, we say, “Lead on, Macduff   .. ..... !”



(Gail Sharpe)

( + signatures of the complete board and more unit owners)

Board of Directors and unit owners

Heron at the Hammocks Condominium Association, Inc.

Miami, Florida