Gov. Crist names interim ombudsman

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Fallan Patterson

Published December 11, 2008 


Months after former Florida condo ombudsman Danille Carroll left her position, Gov. Charlie Crist has yet to announce a permanent successor and the only candidate has withdrawn his application.

Nathan Bond, who declined comment, was the only applicant for the office, whose occupant serves as an unbiased liaison and education provider for condo boards, unit owners and condo associations. 

Bond, a real estate attorney from Tallahassee, is currently the director of the State House Committee on Courts. Bond also served as staff director for Rep. Julio Robaina's Select Committee for Condominium and Homeowner's Governance earlier this year.

Crist created a temporary solution by naming Colleen Donahue as the interim ombudsman on Oct. 28. 

"She has all the powers of a regular ombudsman," said Bill Raphan, the assistant ombudsman. "Everything is running as usual and functioning fine."

Donahue, an attorney for the ombudsman office since February 2005 and a Miami native, said it has not been decided whether she will continue on as the permanent ombudsman, however she has not applied for the position officially. "I'm doing it until [Crist] finds someone else," she said. 

The condo ombudsman position must be filled by a Florida attorney, a qualification that seems to have become a problem.

"I think salary was an issue," Robiana said regarding the lack of applicants for the position. "It's a lot to request of someone with a law degree."

Robaina's solution is to raise the salary from $83,232 to close to $100,000, all from the condo trust fund to which unit owners contribute $4 annually and which helps support the ombudsman's office. That figure is closer to what a starting attorney would make, Robaina said.

"I think it will attract a lot more candidates," he said. "It's what the trust fund is for."

Robaina said he championed creation of the position in 2005 as an unbiased resource for unit owners. 

"They never had anyone to turn to [before] for opinions or to discuss problems," Robaina said. "It's become the go-to place [and] it's been a great resource."

The office has had an increase in calls recently, but Donahue attributes the rise to the changes in condo law that became effective Oct. 1 and not the fact that a temporary replacement was named.