Ethics Complaint Against Condo Advisory Council Member Joseph Adams!

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

Published February 13, 2006


Statistics show that  the Florida Commission On Ethics has a pretty bad track record in finding anything wrong with the ethics of some of our citizens. 


But we were not aware that the people doing the investigating would ignore the actual allegations brought in the complaint -- but would instead "investigate" things that were never under scrutiny!

The actual complaint alleged that:

  • Joseph Adams is using his influence as the chairman of the Advisory Council on Condominiums to suppress public testimony directed against Community Associations Institute interests -- for example, the education courses paid for by Florida condo-owners.
  • It was alleged that Adams was trying to see to it that the official minutes didn't reflect badly on the CAI, a trade organization of which he is a member!
  • It was alleged that Mr. Adams is using his influence as chairman of the Council to promote the agenda of his law firm and the Community Associations Institute!

The filed complaint never alleged that:

  • Mr. Adams was part of the original group of people responsible for signing the contract. Everybody knows that the initial contract was signed long before the Condo Council was created!
  • Mr. Adams is a paid executive of the CAI.
  • Somebody forced Mr. Adams to become a CAI member.
  • Mr. Adams or the Council has control over the Division's budget.
  • Mr. Peet was unhappy with the educational services of the CAI.

However, three pages of the investigative report are rebuttals to these false claims that had never been made!

It was interesting to read Mr. Peet's opinion. (Quote): "The Division staff was pleased with the performance of CAI." (end quote).  Actually it doesn't really matter that the Division staff is pleased. In my opinion, it's really important TO PLEASE FLORIDA CONDO OWNERS, since they are the ones who pay for the services!

How can the owners be happy when $500,00 of their money is being used to educate no more than 5000 owners a year -- considering there are an estimated 1.2 million condos in Florida?  Many condo owners feel that this contract is not serving the best interests of the owners -- much better distribution and accessibility are necessary. Many owners feel that the members of this trade-organization that is paid to educate owners are not a very good source for teaching -- considering the fact that they are known to fight owner-friendly legislation for their personal gain.


Please consider that CAI is the same organization that speaks out against owners having constitutional rights -- see Battle at Twin Rivers! This is a statement from the website of the CAI (quote): "The Twin Rivers Homeowners' Association argued to no avail that subjecting the association to constitutional standards would "alter the very nature of planned developments, create chaos, erode private property rights, limit the freedom to contract, discourage new development, cause associations to lose their flexibility, and infringe the rights of the majority." (end quote)

Or read the Amicus Curiae Brief Of The CAI . The same Chicken Little theory we have heard for many years.


Are these the kind of people we want to pay to teach our condo board members how to run our communities?


Who do you call executives? Only paid staff members, as Ms. Foley-Healy wants us to believe -- or the people who are really making the decisions? If you ask owners who they consider the most prominent CAI members in Florida you most likely get some answer like this:
Attorneys Gary Poliakoff, Joseph Adams and Ellen Hirsch de Haan -- all from the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff P.A. And may be you hear mentioned the name Paul Wean from the law firm of Wean & Malchow P.A. . 


So, who really are the executives? Who is making the decisions here in Florida? Ms. Foley-Healy?


This investigation didn't even touch the contents of the actual complaint. It wasn't investigated why the minutes of the March 31, 2005 meeting didn't reflect the actual public testimony given. This was a meeting that Jon Peet attended, according to the minutes. And it seems he is not very inclined to listen to the opinion of the citizens?


According to the legislators who sponsored the bills in 2004 that created the Advisory Council on Condominiums, the panel was established as a sounding board for owners, not as another tool to promote the agenda of a trade-organization that promotes the interests of the association service providers, paid for by the condo-owners! At this time "voluntary" CAI members on the Council can carry any motion with a majority vote!


The complaint alleged ethical violations and abuse of office by Mr. Joseph Adams. See: Florida Condo Owner Files Amended Ethics Complaint . The actual investigation report on this complaint talks about everything but the real contents of this complaint! No wonder the Commission couldn't find any "probable cause"!



"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." (Abraham Lincoln)


DATE FILED February 1, 2006





        COMMISSION ON ETHICS         


   In re JOSEPH ADAMS,                                                             Complaint No. 05-086



                                                         PUBLIC REPORT


Based on the preliminary investigation of this complaint and on the recommendation of the Commission's Advocate, the Commission on Ethics finds that there is no probable cause to believe the Respondent as a member of the Advisory Council on Condominiums for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulationís Division of Land Sales, Mobile Homes and Condominiums, violated Section 112.313(7)(a), Florida Statutes, by having a conflicting relationship with Community Associations Institute (CAI) and/or related organization(s), as alleged in this complaint.

Accordingly, this complaint is dismissed with the issuance of this public report.

ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in executive session on January 27,2006.

FEBRUARY 1, 2006


                       SIGNATURE                      .

Thomas P. Scarrit, Jr.



Cc:      Mr. Mark Herron, Attorney for Respondent

Mr. Ken Hinkle, Complainant

Mr. James H. Peterson, III, Commission Advocate




Post Office Drawer 15709

Tallahassee, Florida 32317-5709



TITLE:                                      Mr. Joseph E Adams

Chairman, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation

Condominium Advisory Council

Ft. Myers, Florida


COMPLAINT NO.:             05-086


INVESTIGATED BY:               SIGNATURE          .

     H.B. Jackson


Distribution:              Commission on Ethics





Releasing Authority:       SIGNATURE         .

                                     Executive Director


                                     NOVEMBER 9, 2005





(1)     Mr. Ken Hinkle of Ormond Beach alleges that a conflicting contractual relationship exists between the Respondentís public position as a member of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), Advisory Council on Condominiums, and his membership in the Community Associations Institute (CAI), which the Complainant describes as a "nationwide trade organization."

(2)     The Executive Director of the Commission on Ethics noted that, based upon the information provided in the complaint, the above-referenced allegation is sufficient to warrant a preliminary investigation to determine if the Respondentís actions violated Section 112.313(7)(a) [1] Florida Statutes.

(3)     Mr. Michael Cochran, Director of DBPR, Division of Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes, confirmed that Mr. Adams currently serves as a member of the Division's Advisory Council on Condominiums, having been appointed by Florida's Speaker of the House of Representatives in October 2004 and elected as Chairman of the Council in 2005. Mr. Cochran noted that the Advisory Council was created in October 2004 and that the Councilís authority is established in Chapter 718.50151, Florida  Statutes (appended as Exhibit A). Mr. Cochran explained that although the Council can review, evaluate, and advise the Division on rules affecting condominiums, the Council does not have the authority to set policy, make purchases, or enter into contracts on behalf of the Division.  He further related that the Council has no control over the Division's budget and has no budget of its own. Therefore, he said, the members of the Council are not required to file financial disclosure forms.

(4)        Mr. Jonathon Peet, a Contract Manager for the Division of Land Sales, was questioned about information included on page A-3 of the complaint which indicates that DBPR contracts with CAI.  Mr. Peet confirmed that DBPR contracts with CAI for educational services. He recalled that in March 2004 the Division issued a Request For Proposal for educational services designed to promote professional condominium management development within the State.  Following a review by committee composed of DBPR employees, Mr. Peet said, CAI was awarded a one year contract in August 2004.  In June 2005, Mr. Peet recalled, DBPR renewed the contract (maintained in the investigative file) with CAI for a second year.


(a)     No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or any agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is business with, an agency of which he or she is an officer or employee, excluding those organizations and their officers who, when acting in their official capacity, enter into or negotiate a collective bargaining contract with the state or any municipality, county, or other political subdivision of the state, nor shall an officer or an employee of an agency have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his or her private interests and the performance of his or her public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of  his or her public duties.

(5)        When Mr. Peet was questioned about the role of the Advisory Council and/or Chairman Adams in the selection of CAI for the above-referenced contract, he noted that the initial contract was finalized six month prior to the Advisory Councilís first meeting, which occurred in January 2005. With respect to the June 2005 contract renewal, Mr. Peet said, Chairman Adams had no involvement in the decision to renew the contract.  He explained that the Division staff was pleased with the performance of CAI during the initial contract period, and, therefore, he began working to renew the contract with CAI in March 2005. Mr. Peet recalled that during this period of time the Advisory Council was still new and not yet well organized. Because of that, Mr. Peet said, he purposely did not solicit input from the Council regarding the renewal of the CAI contract. Explaining that the DBPR process to renew the contract was lengthy, Mr. Peet asserted that a review of the contract by the Advisory Council would have made it more difficult to have a new contract in place by the beginning of the 2006 fiscal year.  However, Mr. Peet opined that in the future the Advisory Council will likely be involved in the contract's review and/or renewal.

(6)       Ms. Molly Foley-Healy, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of CAI in Arlington, Virginia, advised that CAI is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide its members with services that include professional community manager development, community association board member education, networking opportunities for professional service providers, and newsletters or magazines providing the latest information and resources for community operations and community management.  She said that CAI has 55 Chapters throughout the United States and serves more than 16,000 members.

(7)       Ms. Foley-Healy confirmed that Mr. Adams is a CAI member.  However, contrary to information provided on page A-3 of the complaint, Ms. Foley-Healy asserted that Mr. Adams is not an executive of CAI.  She advised that he is a voluntary member of CAI and that he is not employed by CAI and does not participate in the management of the organization.

(8)       Ms. Foley-Healy related that in addition to his membership in CAI, Mr. Adams also is a voluntary member of the Florida Legislative Alliance (FLA), which she described as a legislative action committee of CAI.  Ms. Foley-Healy explained that FLA advises the CAI Board of Trustees on policies relating to Florida legislation and CAI's lobbying activities in the State.  Nevertheless, Ms. Foley-Healy said that CAI's policy positions are based upon deliberations by the CAI Board of Trustees and that Mr. Adams has never served as a member of the Board of Trustees.

(9)        Regarding CAI's education contract with DBPR, Ms. Foley-Healy advised that Mr. Adams has never lobbied for the contract and that he did not participate in negotiations relative to the formation of the contract.  She explained that the CAI full-time staff worked with DBPR staff to effectuate the contract.  CAI members and the members of FLA were not involved in the establishment of the contract, Ms. Foley-Healy asserted.  She further stated, "I can say unequivocally that Mr. Adams has never had an interest in, or attempted in any way, to influence CAI's education contract with the DPBR."

(10)      Ms. Foley-Healy provided CAI records which reflect that since 2002, Mr. Adams taught six classes to members of the Seven Lakes Condo Association in Ft.  Myers.  She explained that CAI provided speaking "HonorariumsĒ to Mr. Adam for each of the six classes that he taught.  However, she asserted and that neither Mr. Adams, nor his law firm, received any other compensation from CAI for the instruction he provided.

(11)      It was noted that two of the classes (March 23, 2005 and May 4, 2005) were taught by the Respondent subsequent to his becoming a member of the Condominium Advisory Council.  Ms. Foley-Healy opined that Mr. Adam's participation in the classes was "largely a voluntary action." She explained that each class was four hours in length and she asserted that his law firm's hourly rate is much higher than the $400 he received for the two classes.  Also, Ms. Foley-Healy noted that Mr. Adams has never requested to be reimbursed for travel expenses, which CAI typically provides to its instructors.

(12)     The Respondent acknowledged that he serves as Chairman of the Advisory Council on Condominiums and that he also is a member of CAI. Chairman Adams also acknowledged that he serves as a member of the CAI political action committee  known as FLA. However, he opined that his Advisory Council service and his membership in CAI do not create a conflicting contractual situation for him.  Chairman Adams said that although the DBPR contracts with CAI to provide educational services, he and the Advisory Council have had no involvement in the promotion, formation, or execution of that contract.

(13)     Regarding his involvement with the contract on behalf of CAI, Chairman Adams said, he had no decision making role with the organization relative to the contract and that he did not lobby or seek to influence DBPR in any way concerning the contract.

(14)     Chairman Adams acknowledged that he received $200 honoraria from CAI for each of the classes he taught on behalf of that organization.  However, the Respondent estimated that each class required approximately six hours of his time including preparation, travel, and presentation of the instruction. Therefore, he opined that the honoraria were CAI's expression of appreciation for his service and were not compensatory.