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

Published December 30, 2009


Actually, the meeting of the Regulatory Council of Community Association Managers (RCCAM) that took place on February 6, 2009 would have been the only RCCAM meeting in 2009 in which seven (7) members, as required by statutes (FS 468.4315), could have participated. One of the planned agenda items would have been the Election of New Council Chair. [Governor Charlie Crist has failed to appoint a new member to fill the empty seat for now more than six months. No new Chair was elected since the council is split 3:3 on this issue.]


But Council Member Margaret A. Rogers suffered from health problems and couldn't make the trip to Tallahassee. Her request to participate by speakerphone was denied. The reasons for the denial are definitely up in the air, because we have heard all kinds of different arguments. 

Anthony Spivey, Executive Director for the RCCAM, ignored the actual request and opened the official meeting with the statement that he "talked to Maggie Rogers yesterday and she is officially excused for health reasons for this meeting."  He did not even mention that participation by speakerphone was discussed -- and denied.  But that acknowledgement would have put the denial on the official meeting record -- something Spivey clearly tried to avoid!

Tim Vaccaro, Director of the Division of Professions, blames the bad audio quality of the phone that was used to talk to her before the meeting started. Funny, a tape recording of the events that took place before the meeting was actually opened, allows her voice to be heard loud and clear -- and paints a totally different picture for not allowing her to participate -- including some grumpy remarks by Barbara Edwards, the former General Counsel for the RCCAM. And since the meeting took place in the DBPR building in Tallahassee , it would have been really easy to connect one of the DBPR speakerphones. Most likely connecting a speakerphone would have been a faster solution than the time it took for the discussion of the pros and cons that ensued over this issue and ended with council member Margaret Rogers not being able to participate.

Tim Vaccaro offered this explanation in an e-mail dated December 4, 2009:

With regard to the February 6, 2009 meeting, Ms. Rogers contacted Mr. Spivey the day before the meeting and indicated she would not be attending for health reasons.  Because of her health, they did not discuss the possibility of her participation by telephone at that time.  On the morning of the meeting, Mr. Brennan contacted Ms. Rogers by way of his personal cell phone and suggested at that time that she be allowed to participate using the speaker option.  Given technical limitations of the audio quality of the cell phone's speaker, it would have been difficult for the department’s audio equipment to record Ms. Rogers’ comments.  In hindsight we might have been able to obtain a conference phone; however, on the morning of the meeting, any attempt to do so would have delayed an already lengthy agenda.  Given the presence of a quorum, the Chair and Mr. Spivey determined that the meeting should proceed with the members in attendance.

This e-mail exchange was triggered by my inquiry why Chair Chris Brown was allowed to participate by speakerphone in the November 20, 2009 meeting of the RCCAM, which actually took place in a hotel in Jacksonville , while Margaret Rogers saw her request denied.

Tim Vaccaro explained this as follows:

Weeks before the November 20, 2009 meeting, Chair Brown indicated that he would not be able to attend the November 20 meeting in person.  Chair Brown and Mr. Spivey originally considered rescheduling the meeting; however, Mr. Spivey learned that it would have created attendance conflicts for other members.  Therefore, the department decided to conduct the meeting as originally scheduled, with Chair Brown participating by phone.  We made telephone arrangements well before the day of the meeting.

Funny, council member Margaret Rogers didn't receive the offer to participate by speakerphone when she talked to Spivey the day before the February meeting.

Does that mean that it is important for the Chair to participate -- no matter what -- while the DBPR staff doesn't need a lowly council member -- especially a consumer advocate -- to participate if there is a quorum anyway? Oh, by the way, if everything had gone as planned during the February meeting, the DBPR RCCAM staff would have had to face a different council Chair for the remainder of the year, not one who always agrees with the DBPR staff and writes so-called expert letters that will never find fault with any CAM  -- no matter how bad the violation. Another reason to deny council member Rogers to participate by speakerphone?

Don't forget, one of the common complaints is directed against the RCCAM Chair M. H. “Chris” Brown, who writes so-called expert letters (nice extra income) for the Department. And no matter what, he can't find any violations committed by the CAMs. Brown is a typical example why professionals regulating their own colleagues will never do the job as intended! Reading his expert letters is actually very interesting, since he seems to be able to figure out what other people think. Here is a typical example of one of his so-called "expert letters": Case Number 2006-046031 Barbara M. Blanco. Make up your own mind how "valuable" this expert letter is: INVESTIGATION? NO -- JUST A JOKE!

It shouldn't be up in the air for some DBPR employees to make decisions who can and who can not participate in the meetings by speakerphone. There should be a general rule that regulates participation by speaker phone. And since these are public meetings that take place in different locations, a speaker phone set-up should always be available to allow interested parties to participate and/or listen by phone. 

One of the reasons why CAM regulation is such a disaster in Florida can be found in the unwillingness of the DBPR staff to weed out the bad apples among the CAMs. The DBPR's excuse that the laws are too weak has absolutely no foundation. And they are obviously horrified by the idea of a council Chair who might push for some enforcement action. That might mean they have to actually work instead of closing the complaints with the remark of "Insufficient Evidence."

Let's face it: The regulation of the licensed community association managers in Florida is a total failure. Trying to privatize CAM licensing and regulation would make the situation even worse. There are many examples that show that when professionals regulate their own colleagues, it never works! Or should we rely on the saying: "There is honor among thieves?"

We need DBPR staff that is willing to go after the "bad guys" and revoke licenses if needed. Too many people rely on CAMs -- their professionalism, knowledge and honesty! When hiring managers, board members should be able to rely on the fact that this CAM is licensed -- and not that the CAM still has a license because the staff of the Division of Professions has failed to do its job!

Before I forget, remember how fast more than $1.2 million of association funds can disappear?