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

Published January 2, 2009


When Governor Charlie Crist appointed Charles W. Drago as the new Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), many citizens had hoped for some serious improvements to the services of this government agency that has been considered dysfunctional for many years. A long row of secretaries -- in office never more than 15 months (mostly less) -- did nothing to improve the situation. The DBPR is one of the main reasons why Florida is considered "FRAUD FRIENDLY FLORIDA." Nothing to be proud of, but we are leading the nation's charts in all kinds of fraud! Shouldn't that be some serious incentive to create much needed changes?


But the joy of many citizens about this appointment turned quickly into serious disappointment, because the new Secretary quickly turned out to be just another useless bureau(c)rat!

The reports of Drago's much advertised "On the Road to Better Business" were offered as propaganda letters for the DBPR, ignoring the many complaints of concerned citizens, who talked with him on his various stops. Lots of citizens wanted to talk to him to show their concerns, but many were turned away long before the actual meeting date (quote from e-mail): "At this time all appointment slots have been filled. However, we are still encouraging citizens to stop by in case of any cancellations." 


Many of the citizens who were able to talk to him complained about the services of his Department, especially the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes and Community Association Manager Regulation. But funny enough, all these complaints didn't find their way into Drago's enthusiastic reports about the great meetings with interested licensees and "customers."


The DBPR is referring to Florida 's citizens, who are forced to use their dismal services, as "CUSTOMER."  I consider a customer a person who voluntarily uses the services of a business or entity. In this case the condo owners are forced to pay money into the Condo Trust Fund, initially created to fund the DIVISION, only to find out that the Governor raided it for other purposes -- ignoring the need of Florida 's condo owners for consumer protection.

If condo owners had a choice, the DIVISION would most likely not have one customer. This government agency is dysfunctional and totally useless and creates more frustration than solutions.


According to his reports, Drago spent countless hours updating and improving DBPR business practices as a result of the meetings. I'm not sure where he spent these hours, but definitely not on improving DBPR business practices and services. After all these meetings with lots of very unhappy citizens, Drago concluded (quote): ".... they had great things to say about the people who work here. I know that we will continue to improve the way we serve our licensees and the people of Florida . It takes great people to affect change, and were fortunate to have a wonderful team."


Wonderful team? Division investigators are allowed to keep their promises to condo owners on their way to talk to the Secretary: "If you complain about me to the Secretary, I will ignore working on the investigation of your case." So far, investigator Steven Antonoff of the Fort Lauderdale office of the Bureau of Compliance kept his promise -- and Secretary Drago, despite promises to follow up on the case of "financial shenanigans" of board members, has not done anything to move the investigation forward.


In my opinion, and that of many others, Drago is just another one in the long row of dismal DBPR secretaries, who is wearing blinders and will do nothing to even try to improve the useless services of his Department. Another serious disappointment!


We always hear the excuse that cost has to be kept low in the interest of Florida s taxpayers. The DBPR is not financed by general tax funds -- actually general tax funds profit from the money licensees and consumers are paying in special funds -- and especially so-called trust funds. Let's make it very clear -- the trust is long gone, together with the money that has been misappropriated for purposes other than protecting consumers and regulating professions!


So, in case you're looking for a not too well paid job that doesn't really require that you do any real work, apply for a job on SECRETARY DRAGO'S WONDERFUL TEAM: DBPR JOB OPENINGS!