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

Published April 12, 2011


I'm always amazed, when I read about the upcoming COMMUNITY OF EXCELLENCE awards -- and the buzz it sometimes creates. What kinds of communities are considered for the Community of Excellence awards? Can communities like THE GREAT OUTDOORS PREMIER R.V./GOLF RESORT COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, INC. seriously be considered to receive such a reward?


I remember the last time I wrote an opinion article about this community: IS "THE GREAT OUTDOORS" LIVING IN A HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION AN OXYMORON? I was bombarded with e-mails from owners asking more or less: "Who spilled the beans?" They were not interested in the violations of Florida statutes or the Letter of Guidance issued by the DBPR to their General Manager Hiram Keith Lamb. They obviously were under the impression they lived in "The Green Mile," totally ignoring the fact that the community they live in is an entity with lots of public records. Hiram Lamb even had a telephone conference with association attorney Paul Wean about that article, since the bill from the law firm contained this paragraph: "Receive and review correspondence from Client's manager with attached "opinion" article by CCFJ and Jan Bergemann. Telephone conference with client's manager concerning his ability to demand a retraction using other counsel and his need to establish damages. Also discuss Association's ability to also demand a retraction based on statements made about the community and its governance." 

I guess nothing came out of it, since the article contained only documented facts and Paul Wean possibly still remembered the response he received the last time he asked me to apologize for a statement I made: "OPEN LETTER TO PAUL WEAN, ESQ."


But instead of trying to work on improving the situation, the association board and the general manager Hiram Keith Lamb are at it again. They obviously don't like Freedom of Speech and are creating rules for videotaping meetings that clearly intend to circumvent the rules created by the Florida legislature. Florida statutes FS 720.306(10) states "The board of directors of the association may adopt reasonable rules....." The magic word is "reasonable."


At the board meeting on March 16, 2011  board member William Madan read the proposed resolution. The wording contains  restrictions that will make it extremely difficult to videotape the meetings. How about a 5-day advance written notice when Florida statutes only require a 48-hour notice for board meetings?

If you consider the rules contained in this "PROPOSED RESOLUTION TAPE RECORDING OR VIDEOTAPING OF MEETINGS" reasonable, I can't imagine what could be considered "UNREASONABLE"?

And guess what? Even if you win final approval to do a fairly restricted taping, you may end up having to "make a copy of your audio or video tape available to the Association within 30 days

Board member Bill Madan


after the meeting, at the Association's expense, if the Association is not also recording or taping the meeting."


All in all -- a resolution very much intended to restrict taping or to make it extremely difficult to tape the meetings -- making it clear that the association board doesn't favor transparency. With modern technology used by more and more associations to add videotapes of board meeting to their websites in order to inform owners who couldn't be at the meeting, this is clearly a move in the opposite direction -- opening up the question: What does the board want (or need) to hide that they make videotaping so difficult?


Homeowner Tom Baugher agrees with the adoption of "REASONABLE" rules, but considers portions of this proposal UNREASONABLE. One example is the restriction against "panning" of the camera to capture the entire meeting and participants.

Baugher raises a question as to the timing of these rules and regulations, finding it curious that they follow on the heels of the release of a videotape showing outrageous behavior by a member of the audience.

Baugher had asked several board members about the necessity to restrict the videotaping of these meetings and received inconsistent responses. He asked how the board could consider the behavior shown in the video clip to be "out of context," when it was recorded at a

Homeowner Tom Baugher


membership meeting. Baugher finished his remarks with the statement that he welcomes being recorded at the microphone, but doesn't really appreciate being yelled at from the audience -- something the resolution doesn't address.  In other words, the audience shouldn't be videotaped, especially not if a member of the audience behaves unreasonably. Doesn't that give the audience "carte blanche" to behave badly?


Homeowner Terry Carlson agreed that FS 720 allows boards to pass "reasonable" rules regarding recording of membership meetings, but then asks board member William Madan for his definition of the word "REASONABLE." 

I guess Madan didn't have an explanation, because he refused to answer. But upon further questioning he admitted that the proposal was written by the association attorney. Carlson inquired further if Madan is familiar with the "REASONABLE RULES" published by the DBPR in regard to recording of meetings? 

But before Madan could respond, board director Bob (I apologize for mix-up of first names) Brown interrupted by shouting that Carlson was out of order. According to Brown, owners are not

Homeowner Terry Carlson


allowed to direct questions to a board member directly, but have to address the chairperson. Would he have answered?


Carlson's reading of the REASONABLENESS RULES created by the Division clearly fell on deaf ears.
The reactions and the faces of the board members showed clearly that they were not really interested in what the owners had to say about these UNREASONABLE RULES.


Board member Dan Zahn tried a rather lame explanation for creating these rules to restrict videotaping: "Unfortunately these videotapes that were produced by you [Mike Fontana] were mishandled, misused, without permission of the people that were in the videotape. That's what created an issue here."

Nice sounding explanation, wouldn't you agree? But these rules aren’t stopping the so-called "misuse" of the videotapes, AND there is absolutely no misuse because these are tapes from a public meeting. 

As an attorney put it during one of the many legislative committee meetings in Tallahassee that have dealt with this issue: "In a public meeting -- and an HOA meeting is a public meeting -- there is no ‘reasonable’ expectancy of privacy."


Board member Dan Zahn


A State Representative said it in even stronger words: "If you don't want to be on a videotape -- don't go to a public meeting!"

As expected, the board members voted unanimously in favor of the Resolution.


Just another reason why a community like THE GREAT OUTDOORS PREMIER R.V./GOLF RESORT COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, INC. should not even be considered for a Community of Excellence award. And despite all the hoopla in the community regarding the award  --  and despite the fact that General Manager Hiram Keith Lamb was invited as speaker -- no award was given to this community. Hiram Lamb returned empty-handed from the award ceremony.


I guess the judges finally did their homework and decided not to give an award to a community where the general manager had received two unwanted "awards." (See below the “Letters of Guidance” issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.)  And no matter what board member Dan Zahn said about wishes of the residents, the complaints filed against the general manager clearly show that not all residents are happy -- and they surely have a reason to be unhappy with the way this community is managed.

Number Class Incident Date Status Disposition Disposition Date Discipline Discipline Date
2010015704 Licensed Activity 04/13/2009 Closed Letter of Guidance Issued 10/25/2010    
2009036181 Licensed Activity 04/24/2009 Closed Letter of Guidance Issued 02/04/2010    
2009053261 Licensed Activity 07/31/2009 Closed No violation found 03/25/2010    
2009056230 Licensed Activity 10/21/2009 Closed No violation found 10/30/2009