ANOTHER RECALL ARBITRATION JOKE --
AT THE EXPENSE OF THE HOMEOWNERS!
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published January 11, 2010
I have said it over and over again: Many of the rulings made by the Arbitration Section of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes are plainly a joke. The arbitrators take forever to make a ruling -- in this case the ruling arrived 4 (four) days before the scheduled annual election, and then the rulings are not based on the statutes but on the private interpretations -- covered by dubious rulemaking -- of these same arbitrators.
Since James Earl took over as the Chief Arbitrator, that Section of the DIVISION has quickly gone down the drain and can't really be taken seriously any more. The sad truth: The Arbitration Section costs Florida's citizens lots of money -- unavoidable because arbitration is for many issues mandatory -- required by statutes in case you bother to follow them.
I'm more and more convinced that the DBPR employment requirement for arbitrators is an IQ below 50. Michael Cochran and James Earl seem to consider every attorney with a higher IQ as a danger to their department! And they seem to recruit attorneys who are otherwise unemployable because law firms would be afraid of being bombarded with malpractice lawsuits if they let these attorneys loose. But working for the state is a solution where even the butt of the worst attorney is covered!
So much said, here is another example of a recall arbitration ruling that makes many people shake their heads in disbelief.
Case No. 2009-04-1204
The main issue of the recall hinges more or less on the issue: Is Mark Taliento, owner of 101 vacant undeveloped lots, justified to cast 101 votes in an election and do these lots count as part of the "voting membership" creating a total of 379 lots?
Mark Taliento, owner of SHOWCASE MODULAR HOMES, INC. bought these lots from developer Broadmoor Partners II in 2005 without any written succession rights. The board, elected with his 101 votes, allowed him a sweetheart deal, paying just $3,484.63 annually for his 101 lots, which equals $33.83 per lot annually, contradicting the governing documents. Just note: A regular homeowner pays $492 a year. Mark Taliento gets to cast 101 votes, but only pays the equivalent of about 7 homeowners with 7 votes -- and runs the board using these votes. This is clearly not justified by any governing documents -- association attorney Paul DeHart clearly failed to show any proof -- it's just because the sitting board members and some people with a personal financial interest say so.
Here is the interesting timetable of this recall arbitration:
The question that was never answered: Why can somebody have 101 valid votes if he is only paying for the equivalent of about 7 votes?
At first the association attorney had pleaded specific rights for Mark Taliento as some sort of developer successor (Response to arbitrator by Paul DeHart December 11, 2009). When that argument didn't fly with the arbitrator, the pleading was suddenly switched on December 29, 2009 and now, according to association attorney Paul DeHart, Mark Taliento was just a simple property owner exercising his voting rights. That made the arbitrator happy and the final ruling went in favor of the association, allowing Mark Taliento's 101 votes to be counted.
And the fact that the association board violated the Florida statutes FS 720.303(10):
was ignored by the arbitrator's statement (quote): "the procedural irregularities of the recall meeting are irrelevant." In clear language: Who cares about what the statutes say?
The arbitrator used arbitration rulings -- not the Florida statutes -- to explain her ruling of "void ab initio" -- ab initio meaning from the beginning. If the recall attempt was defective from the beginning, why did it take the arbitrator 156 days and three case conferences to figure that out -- wasting everybody's time and money?
Even today there is still no proof shown to the homeowners that Mark Taliento ever paid even the bulk payments of the sweetheart deal. Requests to Leland Management to provide proof of payments were ignored and a reminder asking for this proof
sent to Richard Murphy, CAM and son-in-law of Rebecca and David Furlow -- owners of LELAND MANAGEMENT, INC. -- was answered with this short e-mail:
Excellent service! I love it when homeowners are treated like this by people who take their money to provide CAM services.
In short, another good recall effort wasted by an arbitrator who wasted everybody's time and money! But this ruling may have a positive aspect for the homeowners: Mark Taliento has now officially been established as a regular homeowner who pays only a bulk fee. Now he will have serious problems to explain why he wants his employees -- who are not owners and/or residents of Poincana Nine -- to be elected to the board at tomorrow's annual election. And it opens the door for the other owners to finally sue him for all the unpaid dues since 2005.
It may turn out to be a PYRUS VICTORY for Mark Taliento, who so far ruled the community by paying only the equivalent of the assessment for seven lots!
And it shows that these DBPR arbitrators have their own way of interpreting the statutes, wasting everybody's time and money.
ONLY IN FLORI-DUH!