Ombudsman's office remains empty

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Fallan Patterson

Published October 18, 2008 


The most difficult part of replacing Florida's condo ombudsman may be finding a new one.

Since former ombudsman Danille Carroll resigned Sept. 2, efforts to find a successor have stalled, mainly due to a lack of applicants.

"We currently have one application on file for the vacancy and we are still accepting applications for the board appointment," said Sterling Ivey, spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Governor's Office receives applications through its Web site and from individuals in the community, Ivey said.

The lone applicant is Nathan Bond, a real estate attorney from Tallahassee who is currently the director of the House Committee on Courts. Bond served as director of the state's Select Committee for Condominium and Homeowner's Governance earlier this year.

"At this point, we have not engaged in newspaper advertising, as the position just recently became vacant. We have been working with the Department of Business and Professional Regulations," Ivey said. "We will continue to work with the industry to solicit applications and will consider other options as our search continues."

Assistant Ombudsman Bill Raphan, who heads the Fort Lauderdale satellite office, said he doesn't know why the Governor's Office has not announced anyone yet. Raphan said the delay is not hindering activity at the office.

"We are functioning the same way, running as usual as far as administration goes," Raphan said. "We do need someone to head the office but we also have an attorney [Colleen Donahue] in Tallahassee that helps us out."

Despite Raphan's comments, condo advocacy groups are growing concerned about the time it's taking to fill the position, which serves as a neutral resource for the Florida condo community.

"I am surprised [the appointment] hasn't happened yet, but you must remember that it is a thankless job requiring a huge amount of time, low pay and an unrealistic expectation that one person can solve the plight of condominium owners statewide," said Donna Berger, managing partner for Katzman Garfinkel and the executive director of the Community Advocacy Network. "I'm really not surprised attorneys aren't knocking down the door to fill out applications, and I have not seen widespread publication of the fact that the position is open."

Charlotte Greenbarg, president of the Broward Coalition, a condo and homeowners' association advocacy group, is asking her organization's members to contact Crist's office about getting the position filled in a timely manner.

"I'd hate to think that our populist governor would delay an appointment of someone that just about everyone I speak to thinks is invaluable," Greenbarg said.

Ivey said the delay is not intentional and that the governor is giving other applicants the chance to apply.

"We're still in the recruiting process and we have no timeline," Ivey said. "Obviously we'd like to do it as soon as possible."

After resigning, Carroll became the new director of the Civil Rights office of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum on Sept. 12.