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

Published September 27, 2011


As long as I can remember, board members and owners had an easy way to find out about the complaint history of a CAM (community association manager) they wanted to hire -- or had on their short list of contacting for a bid.  All they had to do was go to the DBPR website -- Search License by Name -- and check the license history of each CAM. 


After clicking View License Complaint all complaints ever filed against a licensed CAM were displayed -- creating a complete complaint history -- not only the cases where the DBPR found a cause for punishment. And as we all know: "Where there's smoke, there's fire!"


The DBPR -- in its infinite wisdom -- removed all complaints from public view, leaving only the ones where probable cause was found. That change of policy removed in some cases more than half of all the complaints listed before. Add to it the fact that the DBPR Division of Professions has a reputation of trying to protect the professionals -- many valid complaints were closed with a note of "Insufficient evidence" -- it is pretty obvious that as well many valid complaints were removed from public view! 


I'm not quite sure if removing complaints against licensed professionals from public view goes along with Governor Rick Scott's policy: "FLORIDA HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW -- HOLDING GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE." But it wouldn't be the first time our esteemed leaders in Tallahassee say one thing but do the opposite!


Here is the excuse sent to me by Tim Vaccaro , Deputy Secretary of Professional Regulation, trying to explain their interpretation of following the law that all complaints are supposed to be public, despite the fact that citizens have now no easy way of knowing if such complaints even exist.


I'm still wondering: How can someone make a public record request if he/she doesn't know if such a record exists in the first place?


This is the language the DBPR posted on its website:

Below is a listing of public complaints regarding the person or entity selected. This may not reflect all public complaints filed with the Department; for example, all complaints against Community Association Managers (CAMs) are available to the public, regardless of whether any appear below, and may be requested directly from the Department. The Department is also precluded from disclosing any complaints which are confidential pursuant to Florida Statutes.


If you would like a full list of public complaints against an individual or entity or to make a public records request for complaints listed please visit our Public Records page.


You can search for public records pertaining to unlicensed activity complaints through an additional database by visiting our Search Unlicensed Activity Complaints page. For more information about CAM complaints, please visit the CAMs page.


When asking more questions -- I found that new policy very confusing, to say the least -- I received more answers and explanations from Tim Vaccaro. See below:


The Department’s website will display any CAM complaint in which probable cause has been found.  The website also directs users to a public records page, if they wish to determine if other complaints exist.  The website states:

If you would like a full list of public complaints against an individual or entity or to make a public records request for complaints listed please visit our Public Records page.

The link for the public records page is http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/os/PublicRecords.htmlThe user would click on [email protected] under “Division of Professions,” which pulls up an email to the division.  The user can request a full list of complaints against the licensee, and there should be no charge for that information.


Please note that under Section 468.4365, Florida Statutes, only complaints against individual CAM licensees are public record prior to a finding of probable cause.  Complaints against CAM firms do not become public record until 10 days after a finding of probable cause.  Therefore, the only CAM firm complaints that are accessible are the ones that appear on the web. 


The only way to find the complete list of all complaints filed against any individual CAM is by making a PUBLIC RECORD REQUEST [Pursuant to Chapter 119.07(4), Florida Statutes] requesting any and all documents regarding complaints against the specific licensee.


Option 1: If there are no complaints on record the DBPR will definitely tell you so.


Option 2: If there are any complaints filed -- hidden from public view or not -- the DBPR has to provide the complete complaint files of ALL complaints -- not only the ones displayed on their website.


According to the responses I received from the DBPR, this is what you have to do to get a complete complaint history of any individual CAM:


Send an e-mail to the DBPR -- Division of Professions:

[email protected]


Write in the SUBJECT LINE: Public Records Request Pursuant to Chapter 119.07(4), Florida Statutes

State the Name and the License Number of the CAM you are inquiring about and state that you want all records available in regard to all complaints ever filed against this individual.


This will definitely give you the intended result -- or a response from the DBPR claiming that no complaints were filed against this CAM. 


We'll see where this is going!


Where this is going? This is going to cost you money. The first board members and owners making public record requests received invoices, instead of the requested records. The invoices I saw so far range in price from a nice dinner for two at a Carrabba's Italian Restaurant up to a dinner at one of the fancy restaurants at Miami's South Beach.


The explanation from Tim Vaccaro, DBPR Deputy Secretary of Professional Regulation, sounds simple: "There is no charge, and the information provided is essentially what the person making the request would have found on our website prior to our recent changes.  If the person making the request requires more in-depth research, there may be a research fee; however, the fee should be nominal in most cases. We are required to charge a fee when someone requests file copies.  Under our old process, we were also required to charge for file copies.  Likewise, we were required to charge staff time for any in-depth research (i.e., more information than what was already available on the web)."


Here is the solution if you don't want to spend money, but want to know what the CAM you want to hire is all about: 

  • Make the record requests as described above to the DBPR.

  • Wait for the response from the DBPR.

  • If you receive invoices instead of records, you know that the CAM you are inquiring about has an extensive complaint history that requires an in-depth research.

  • Eliminate every CAM from further consideration where an invoice is received in response to a public record request, since it clearly proves that in-depth research is required to fulfill your record request.

Following this How-To suggestion means: You'll get the info you wanted -- without spending a dime.


Don't forget: Florida Statutes (FS 720.3055(2)(a)1.  + FS 718.3026(2)(a)) don't require a competitive bidding process for management services.