Advisory council finds its footing

I Don't Think So -- Letter To Editor


An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

Published June 15, 2005


Joe Adams, chair man of the Condo Advisory Council and  managing shareholder in a statewide law firm known as Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., wrote two weeks ago in his weekly column in The News Press about the "progress of the Condo Advisory Council". He headlined his column: "Advisory council finds its footing"

I haven't figured out yet where his opinion is based upon, but I sure have to disagree. Please read my "Letter To The Editor" below.

Condo-owners all over the state wish that this headline would be true and the Council would finally start doing what it is supposed to do, but so far the leading members of the Council seem to have different things on their mind than the legislators intended to be achieved when they created the Council. They seem to have made up their own personal agenda -- serving their own personal benefit?

Letter to Editor – NEWS PRESS

June 8, 2005

Advisory council finds its footing


It’s difficult to find good columnists, especially some with unbiased opinions, willing to write about facts! Most columnists are easily tempted to write their own opinions, trying to sound factual.


Here is my opinion – and that of many others – about one of your columnists, who many readers think is using your newspaper to spread his propaganda for his own financial gain and that of the law firm for which he works.


Joe Adams is an attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, the biggest law firm in Florida specialized in association law. Critics claim that this law firm’s aggressive style creates many of the problems owners are experiencing. The law firm of Becker & Poliakoff is as well the home of CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby), a lobbying group that so far tries to squash any attempts to reform association laws. Even people wearing blindfolds have to realize by now that reforms are desperately needed to protect Florida’s consumers. But reforms would most likely reduce the income of these specialized law firms – the main reason why reform attempts find these attorneys on the opposing side!


In my opinion, Adams is using his position as your columnist and his position as chairman of the Condo Advisory Council to push his – and his firm’s – personal agenda. Considering that CALL heavily opposed HB 1223 in 2004 – the bill that finally created the Condo Advisory Council – it seems obvious that his law firm has changed tactics by now. Wasn’t there the old saying: "If you can't beat them, join them to covertly plot for their demise”?


According to the Florida Statutes, the Condo Advisory Council was mainly created to obtain input from the public and to listen to the citizens’ suggestions regarding necessary changes. And according to the legislators who pushed for the creation of this Council, that was exactly the legislative intent. So far the Condo Advisory Council, under the leadership of chairman Joe Adams, has pushed for the passage of one bill (HB 1593) and has been asking Governor Jeb Bush to veto another bill (SB 1520).  In both cases, there was no public input, ONLY the consensus of the Council members, consisting of a majority of service providers. In both cases, the decision heavily benefited members of the Council.


Adams’ big obsession seems to be his campaign against the newly appointed Condo Ombudsman Office -- produced by the same bill that created the Condo Advisory Council.  Members of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff had declared in very early stages that the new Condo Ombudsman Office would be a “catastrophe” and “needs to go”! Now It seems that the Condo Advisory Council is being used as the tool to construct the necessary stage for a campaign against this new Condo Ombudsman Office.


(Florida’s 2004 Legislative Session had created the Condominium Ombudsman Office to investigate complaints, to report findings and to help achieve equitable settlements between boards, members and service providers. Also, the Office was charged with the responsibility to monitor association elections.  Election misconduct often leads to serious complaints and costly legal fights among unit owners. According to reliable data, this Office responds to more than 400 calls a week and has a 75% success rate. Please note that the establishment of the Condo Ombudsman Office has received very positive feedback and has been applauded by many condo owners.)


Yet it seems that its Chairman Adams forgot to read the Florida Statutes that created this Condo Advisory Council – and the duties to be performed. This Council was definitely not created to serve as the tool – paid by taxpayers’ money – for certain individuals to promote their own agendas. This Council was created to help find solutions to problems many unit owners all over the state are experiencing.

Unit owners are supposed to submit their ideas, to make their proposals and to suggest remedies in front of this condo advisory panel. The members of the Council are supposed to listen and to ask questions, then come up with feasible solutions to present to the legislature. Instead of trying to evaluate the work of other officials, the Council should concentrate on the task on hand! Plenty to do!


So far the Council has failed to do so! After four meetings public input has obviously not been used to form any conclusions. Council meeting minutes barely mention the contents of these presentations from Florida citizens.


And as long as the chairman blocks every attempt to follow the guidelines created by the legislature in form of the Florida Statutes, nobody can honestly state that the “Advisory council finds its footing.”


That leaves the question: Are you doing your readers a favor by printing this column week by week? Your area of distribution contains many condos’ and homeowners’ associations. Many of the readers are retirees who grew up in a generation that still believed that attorneys are “officers of the court” and working to “uphold the law.” Meaning a column signed by an attorney still carries a heavy weight!


You might consider employing somebody as columnist who doesn’t use the space in your newspaper to spread his own private agenda for financial gain. Your readers should get a fair and unbiased evaluation of facts when reading your columns!  I personally think that this is not the case with the column written by Joe Adams!


Just some thoughts!