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

Published August 29, 2020   


For many years many of us wondered about the final rulings issued by the (now former) Chief Arbitrator of the Florida Division of Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes: James Earl, Esq.


It often seemed that he was reading more between the lines of the statutes than following the actual verbiage as written by the Florida Legislature. Owners and even attorneys were shaking their heads in disbelief reading some of these so-called final rulings and even accused him of willfully making anti-owner rulings.


But sometimes there is a simple answer to unanswered questions, even if it takes some time to find the answer.


The answer was in the end found in the lawsuit filed by James Earl against his former employer – the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation [ James Earl – Plaintiff vs. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation – Defendant (Case No. 2019 CA 001084) ]


Among many other issues brought up in the lawsuit, especially paragraph 16 on page 3 of the lawsuit was in my opinion the most interesting part of the lawsuit filed. [16. On September 21, 2017, Plaintiff was summoned into a meeting with the Defendant’s General Counsel, Jason Maine, and Deputy Secretary Andrew Frier, managers within the Defendant. Maine and Frier directed Plaintiff as to how he should rule legally on matters in arbitration cases without the parties present which would have impaired Plaintiff's judgment as an attorney and independent arbitrator. Maine and Frier had no authority to direct Plaintiff as to how to rule on cases in his position as Arbitrator for the Defendant and Plaintiff objected to this directive.]


The following paragraphs of the lawsuit make it even clearer that James Earl was pushed into making rulings that he personally didn’t agree with and when he in the end refused to do the bidding of his superiors Earl was finally terminated on October 9, 2017.


This lawsuit show the practices of Kevin Stanfield (former Director of the Florida Division of Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes) and his at that time deputy Boyd McAdams and explains some of the rulings James Earl issued.


You may say: Anybody can file a lawsuit, but the lawsuit ended in a settlement that clearly showed that James Earl’s allegations in the lawsuit had definitely merits: SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND GENERAL RELEASE.


This lawsuit and the settlement definitely clear the name and reputation of James Earl and he in the meanwhile proven that he is a very effective lawyer, especially in arbitration cases.


James Earl now successfully mans the office of the law firm of Glazer & Sachs in Tallahassee. His experience of many years as the Chief Arbitrator of the Division makes it easy for him to get favorable rulings for his clients when it comes to community association cases.


Kevin Stanfield got terminated in the meanwhile – in my opinion he got the job not because of his knowledge, but because of the influence of his wife. Obviously as a "REWARD" for pushing the issues detailed in the lawsuit Boyd McAdams was promoted to Director of the Division, a Division that has now lots of arbitrators who obviously don’t have much knowledge of community association law and case law, considering how long it often takes to get final rulings on simple arbitration cases.


In my opinion this lawsuit -- and the settlement -- clearly show what is often going on behind the scenes of our government agencies -- mostly hidden from our view.


When will property owners in community associations finally get what they pay for: An effective regulatory agency that delivers the tasks owners can expect.


Community association laws enacted by the Florida Legislature are useless if not enforced by a well-functioning regulatory agency -- with employees willing to do the job they are being paid for.