Opinion By Jan Bergemann
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.
story has a long history -- so it seems? It first started when a naïve board hired a contractor who didn't have the correct license (CONTRACTOR'S
LICENSE 1998). And from then
on it all went downhill.
read the article "Shoddy
Siding Proves Expensive" published in the Tampa Tribune on April
27, 2006. It gives you an insight into the many problems.
The problems about the not-repaired repairs came to a boil when the board
decided to levy a special
assessment, without having all their ducks in a
row. And some of the owners obviously took offense when Steven H. Mezer,
well-known attorney from the law firm of BUSH
ROSS, P.A. in Tampa, made a speech at a special meeting that some owners
considered offensive and outright threatening. If you listen
to the tape you might easily understand why!
since a majority of the owners in Lake Place I Condos weren't happy with
the decision made by the board, the board was served shortly thereafter
with a recall petition, according to Florida Statutes 718. According to
documents, the management company was served with 27
recall petitions on April 21, 2006, petitions filed according to DBPR
expected the board to hold a meeting within 5 business days in order to
decide if they wanted to certify the recall or to challenge it, as
provided in the Florida Statutes 718.112(2)(j). When the Board didn't post
that meeting notice 48 hours ahead of the 5 business day deadline, the new
Board-elect majority posted a notice of their organizational meeting. That
notice was ripped down and replaced with the following note:
APRIL 26, 2006
MEMBERSHIP MEETING POSTED FOR 4/28/06 FRIDAY AT 7:00 P.M. AT THE
POOL, IS A NON-SANCTIONED MEETING WITH NO AUTHORITY AND WITHOUT
request , I have reviewed the petitions for recall that were
given to Wise Property Management. The petition were so defective
and deficient that you did not have to hold a board meeting or an
arbitration. They were not even close to being in compliance. The
Board has not been recalled.
You may share
this e-mail with Mr. Colodny or any other unit-owner IF approved
by a majority of the board members.
Bush Ross, P.A.
220 South Franklin Street
by attorney Steven Mezer, the posted notice told the board that the recall petition
was (quote) "defective and deficient,” so no meeting was
necessary -- all according to the attorney. No board meeting took place
that saw a vote of the board considering this "ruling" from the
attorney -- who is not a judge -- the board took no action other than just
posting the notice.
Mezer clearly created his own judgment -- totally incorrect as we saw
later -- that led to more than 5 (five) months of very expensive legal
wrangling. Mezer as well decided that mandatory arbitration wasn't
necessary, but filed instead a TEMPORARY
INJUNCTION, accusing the petitioners to have done everything wrong
by not following Florida Statutes. As it turned out -- Mezer was
absolutely wrong again! From the Temporary Injunction Mezer went to
file a LAWSUIT demanding
legal fees, which, because his obviously wrong judgment call, had taken on
Petitioners for Recall, surprised by Mezer's actions that were, according
to the DBPR arbitration section, not based on Florida Statutes, filed
their own recall petition -- on advice of the DBPR. Maybe because I'm not
an attorney and just use my common sense, in my book you lose by default
if you don't follow the guidelines and don't do what statutes and ABR are
demanding you to do! In my opinion the DBPR arbitration section failed the
owners at this time by not entering a default judgment. It all went its
merry way -- for more than 5 (five) MONTHS -- to the tune of
outrageous legal fees -- and lots of frustration by the owners who had
relied on the Florida Statutes, trying to follow the rules. It actually
took the arbitrator more than 5(five) months to make a decision.
October 9, 2006 arbitrator James Earl finally issued the FINAL
SUMMARY ORDER, in favor of the
condo owners, represented by Jon
Zuch, the petitioner. This final summary order plainly said what the
petitioners said all along: Their recall petition was flawless and created
according to the Florida statutes and the DBPR guidelines.
in order to add insult to injury, it is pretty obvious that the looming
adverse decision against the sitting board was leaked -- and caused the
association members even further financial harm -- harm they tried to
avoid by serving the board with the recall petition on April 21, 2006.
of nowhere the sitting board called a special meeting on Sunday, October
8 at 10 a.m. and voted to sign a three-year contract with
Vanguard Management Group, Inc -- with a very expensive escape clause.
The sitting board members (their last official day in office) knew
that this contract would have never been signed by the new board, that
was finally installed on Monday, October 9 -- 171 days after the recall
petition had been served.
make it very clear: This is
absolutely outrageous! The wrong judgment of the attorney not only created
legal fees that went through the roof! This recall petition would have
been decided in no time, if the attorney on record for the board, Steven
Mezer, wouldn't have attempted everything to derail the recall petition.
He should have just let the recall work through the system as described in
FS 718.112(2)(j) and Rule 61B-23.0028, Florida Administrative Code.
But this way it bought the sitting board more than 5 months of time to do
things against the will of the majority of the owners -- and filled the
coffers of the attorney!
my opinion the person who created the cost should actually pay for it! If
you hire a so-called professional, you should be able to rely on his/her
advice, especially when making such strong statements as can be seen
some more boards should consider suing these "professionals" for
malpractice! That might finally get the attention of some of these
"professionals" who love squandering the association dues by
filing frivolous lawsuits!
finally need a legislative statement that
not following the rules will cause a quick default ruling. Why should
people be rewarded for not following the rules by being allowed to stay in
power for another 5 months, against the will of the majority of the
owners? According to DBPR statements, it takes no longer than 60 days on
average for a regular recall ruling. This example shows that you can buy
nearly 6 months’ time if you don't follow the rules -- and then just
wait for the soon upcoming elections to create more havoc!
months is a long time to squander legal fees and create financial
shenanigans to the detriment of the owners! Florida's condo owners deserve