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

Published June 4, 2009


Wouldn't you say that there should be updates available -- 9 months after the embezzlement of more than $1.2 million from the accounts of the Charlotte Square Condominiums was discovered?

Actually, the only update available so far: NOTHING HAPPENED!


But what is most amazing is the fact that the owners of Star Hospitality Management, Inc. have taken the stance that this really doesn't concern them. They fired Stacy Herrin -- the employee of Star Hospitality Management, Inc. who allegedly stole the money from the accounts. See Dismissal Letter dated September 4, 2008. But that's it!
Please don't forget: 

  • Star Hospitality Management, Inc. was in charge of the association funds in the bank accounts.

  • Star Hospitality Management, Inc. had the contract with the Charlotte Square Condominiums.

  • Star Hospitality Management, Inc. got paid to manage and supervise the funds.

  • Star Hospitality Management, Inc. clearly failed to supervise its own employee.

  • Star Hospitality Management, Inc. should be accountable for the missing funds!

But 9 months after the funds were discovered missing nothing really has happened. The file of the complaint against Stacy Herrin is more or less empty. An Investigative Report and a few E-Mails are all that are in the "complete" DBPR file! Nothing about an investigation of the management company or their owners, who as well hold CAM licenses. How about "Breach of Fiduciary Duty" for a start?


Don't forget: The missing amount wasn't withdrawn in one lump sum -- it took quite some time. The fact that one employee was able to embezzle that kind of money shows clearly that simple safeguards were missing that could have avoided this disaster. Clearly the fault of the management company!


And a disaster it is for the Senior Citizens living in this condominium. The association already asked the owners to pay a special assessment for (guess what?) an audit and legal representation regarding this embezzlement. The owners (victims) have to pay while the management company does business as usual. Their attitude: We fired the bad employee. Best we could do. Now you're on your own -- but please continue to pay our monthly bill!


And inquiring owners are told at board meetings to sit down and shut up -- and not to talk to the media. Making the scandal public would decrease the property values (What property values?) and endanger a settlement with the insurance company!


The actual reason: These cases are an embarrassment for the Community Associations Institute (CAI) -- the trade organization for association attorneys and community association managers. Ugly headlines about embezzlement and other financial irregularities in community associations are filling the pages of newspapers -- and the reputation of these community associations is dropping faster than property values.


On the other hand  -- isn't that what Florida is all about? Lure the retirees to this state in order to fleece them? A total lack of laws protecting citizens against scams and the lack of enforcement of the few existing ones create this headline: