Article Courtesy of
The Sun Sentinel
By Joe Kollin
June 7, 2006
state's new condominium ombudsman says she hopes to remain neutral in
Florida's condo wars while her predecessor says he plans to devote his time to
his serious health problems.
Danille Carroll, appointed last week after Gov. Jeb Bush fired Dr. Virgil
Rizzo, said she will keep the Fort Lauderdale branch office and its staff,
maintain the educational programs and official Web site, and monitor elections
really excited about starting," said Carroll, 39, a "homegrown Miami
girl" who has never lived in a condo. She had been an assistant general
counsel for the Department of Health.
Her new job includes mediating disputes between owners and boards, educating
owners and directors, monitoring elections and reviewing and recommending
changes to condo law.
"We'll keep the South Florida office because there are so many condos
down in that area and I'll travel back and forth," she said.
Carroll lives in a Tallahassee rental apartment and says her lack of firsthand
condo experience "in some ways [is] a good thing. It allows me to be very
neutral in my thinking.''
Carroll, a graduate of Killian High in Miami, Florida International University
and the University of Texas School of Law, said she is aware she will be
dealing with two opposing forces in Florida condos.
On one side are attorneys, management companies and others in the industry who
oppose change that would rein in the power of boards. Leading the charge has
been the Community Association Leadership Lobby, part of the Becker &
Poliakoff law firm that represents about 4,000 associations in Florida. CALL
has been a constant critic of the ombudsman.
On the other side are grass-roots movements that want to weaken the power of
boards. Chief among them is Cyber Citizens for Justice in DeLand, which has
supported the ombudsman.
Last week Carroll telephoned Jan Bergemann, president of CCFJ, and plans to
meet him in person today. Donna Berger, executive director of CALL, is on
Carroll said she wants both to work together.
"That's what the Legislature intended, to bring everyone together,"
she said. "I believe they can and I'm the one to do it. The Legislature
intended for me to be a neutral person, someone in the middle, someone without
a horse in the race."
Rizzo, 69, a Fort Lauderdale condo resident, was the nation's first condo
ombudsman when appointed by Bush in December 2004.
He spent much of his time fighting what he called interference by the
Department of Business & Professional Regulation, including attempts to
prevent him from monitoring elections.
State legislators who created the ombudsman's job, including Rep. Julio
Robaina, R-Miami, said the office was designed to be independent.
"My firing was a culmination of the dispute over whether the Legislature
controls the ombudsman or the department controls the ombudsman and according
to my staff's research, the Legislature controls the office," Rizzo said.
Since February he has been involved in another fight. He has had two
operations for a recurrent spinal cord injury with a third surgery imminent
and a fourth likely.
"I have my own battle right now for my health and that has become more
important than fighting for the independence of the ombudsman's office,"
he said. "I'm elated I don't have to continue. I wish the new ombudsman
the best of luck."