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

November 6, 2006


This 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. 


Just 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!

And 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 guidelines.

Everybody 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



Per your 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.


Steven H.Mezer, Esq.

Bush Ross, P.A.

220 South Franklin Street

Tampa, Florida 33602-5330

Written 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. 


Steven 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 immense proportions. 


The 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. 


On 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. 

But, 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.

Out 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.

To 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!

In 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 above. Or maybe 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!

We 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!


Five months is a long time to squander legal fees and create financial shenanigans to the detriment of the owners! Florida's condo owners deserve much better!