Courtesy of The Tallahassee Democrat
By Jeffrey Schweers
Published October 15, 2016
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation
has rankled several lawyers by holding a hearing Wednesday on whether to
seek and certify outside lawyers to handle condominium association disputes.
The hearing comes two months after a
lawsuit filed by several female attorneys who handle
condominium cases claimed they are paid 50 percent less than
their male counterparts. They called the hearing unlawful
retaliation for the lawsuit on the part of the DBPR and its
Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes.
"Neither the Chief Arbitrator nor any of the arbitrators
were given notice of the public meeting," Leah Simms, one of
the plaintiffs, wrote. "Interestingly, the meeting is not
scheduled to be held at DBPR as most public hearings in
Tallahassee are held. The meeting is scheduled for the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Bryant
Building at 620 S. Meridian St.
It is also scheduled on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday. The
hearing begins at 1 p.m.
Eric Glazer, a condominium attorney from Fort Lauderdale,
asked that the hearing be rescheduled. He noted his
objection “to having this very important public hearing on
the most holy holiday of the year for people of the Jewish
In a letter to Kevin Stanfield, director of the DBPR’s
Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile
Homes, Glazer said the Florida Statute regulating mandatory
nonbinding arbitration requires full-time, salaried
That statute says the division “shall employ full-time
attorneys to act as arbitrators to conduct the arbitration
hearings provided by this chapter. The division may also
certify attorneys who are not employed by the division to
act as arbitrators to conduct the arbitration hearings
provided by this section.”
Glazer interpreted that to mean the division is required to
employ staff attorneys. “Unless the statute is amended, the
Division must have arbitrators on its payroll,” he said.
Eric Glazer, a condominium
attorney from Fort Lauderdale, asked that the hearing be
Changing the system could lead to forum shopping, feeding
cases and paying fees to the same private arbitrator over and over, tainting
the arbitration process and creating the appearance of impropriety, Glazer
“An arbitrator may fear ruling against the hand that feeds him or her,” he
As it stands, the arbitration keeps legal costs down, too, he said.
State-paid arbitrators make about $26 an hour. “I cannot imagine private
attorneys being able to arbitrate cases for anywhere close to that amount,”
Using private attorneys as arbitrators will only drive up the costs, he
The Legislature passed a law in 1994 requiring the division to hire
full-time attorneys to act as arbitrators as an alternative to lengthy and
costly court cases.
The division is self-funded. It receives $4 a year from every condo unit in
Florida, as well as fees from timeshares and mobile home homeowners
In August, four women whose job is to arbitrate such cases sued the state,
and demanded they be reclassified and given commensurate raises.
"The female arbitrators can only deduct from this secretive behavior, the
timing, and the past threats from Mr. Stanfield that this action is
retaliation for our assertions that the Division is not complying with the
Equal Pay Act of 2009," Simms said.
The DBPR and the Department of Management Services have denied any violation
and said the court doesn’t have jurisdiction.
"There are no statutory provisions that require DBPR to match the salaries
of other agencies,” said Alison Parker, office of the general counsel for