Who Cares -- If It's In A Homeowners' Association!


Just An Opinion

By Jan Bergemann
Published January 26, 2005


We all read the headlines after the infamous general election of 2000. The reputation of being unable to run a fair election still haunts Florida. 


But what happened in 2000 happens nearly on a daily basis in our associations. Election fraud is very common. Disenfranchising neighbors is made so easy! Shredders are ready available to get rid off unwanted proxies and creative counting is about as common as ignoring neighbors' rights.


The new Condo Ombudsman already received many requests to monitor elections. The stories he hears range from plain not holding elections in the first place to announcing winners without an election.


In many of these cases it seems that even Banana Republics have fairer elections.


The big lawsuits regarding elections and recalls have made lots of headlines in the media. But we have heard very little about the usual election fraud that goes on in many associations -- year after year. 


But it seems that here we have a new story: "669 proxies abstained or were invalidated after review" was the official statement. Out of 998 that were originally turned in -- that's a pretty steep percentage. A reason for invalidating the proxies was not given.


That is especially disturbing when the board's candidates were declared winners with only about 600 total votes in their favor. And guess who counted the votes?


Do you want to ask something like: How is this possible? The explanation is fairly easy: It's a homeowners' association and the violators know full well that nothing will happen to them, even if they are caught red-handed. And in the meanwhile nearly everybody in Florida has realized that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is only too eager to avoid getting involved -- or speed up the issue! An issue that can be costly to the homeowners, if not taken care of fast! Remember the LAKE CHARLESTON DISASTER?

In these cases, time is of the essence. Lots of financial damage can be done in a short while!


A petition for arbitration, dated 12-30-2004, is so far left unanswered by the Division. Will we see another case like the infamous case of Piper Dunes North on Amelia Island, where the deciding documents were shredded before a final decision? After all, it's a secret election, so nobody else should be allowed to see the votes?


The big story behind this alleged election fraud?

The players: Lee Dunn, former board president and paid CAM manager.

Robert Evans, Edward Halle, and David Mooney  -- the three candidates pushed by the board!


On the other side the three candidates -- nominated by a grassroots organization called "Concerned Citizens of Section 20 Deep Creek" -- Kim Jakubaitis, Michael Della Camera and Mike Brown. 


The reward: Power over a huge budget!


In this election you could find all the necessary ingredients for a juicy battle. A smear campaign, a resignation not made public and all kinds of accusations that would be great for a soap opera. And it might even be funny, if families' welfare and financial standings were not at stake! People seem to forget that these associations are home to many families -- and there is no place for playing funny games.


But as long as our government is unwilling to enforce its own statutes and has a division, empowered to look into these problems -- but obviously unwilling to make fast decisions -- these elections shenanigans will continue.


And I have to contradict Ellen Hirsch de Haan, a Largo attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, who was quoted in another article stating that "she has seen decorum take a nose dive." 


Actually, the nosedive already happened a long time ago -- and the writing was on the wall. If you leave a system unsupervised -- and let high-priced attorneys be the expensive referees -- it just has to spell disaster!


Even the most honest citizens are tempted to violate certain provisions, if there is no punishment to be expected! And these associations, mainly unsupervised and unregulated, have potential for great temptations. Especially if kickbacks and financial rewards are tempting!

Homeowner association actions spawn rebellion