was about a year ago that I received a letter
from the law firm of BARTHE & LEIGH LLP
asking me to remove the reprint of a newsletter that was considered by
some River Reach board members -- and obviously this law firm -- as
"libel per se."
article accused board members of the River Reach Condominium of causing
the loss of reserve funds that were obviously invested in just one
single account with a bank that went belly-up. As every kid in this
country should know, the FDIC insures investments of up to only $100,000
for each account. It was my understanding that some of the money was
lost due to this kind of investment in a single account. I'm not arguing
true or false or the facts being disputed.
requested, I pulled the reprint from our website.
Even if I didn't see the point of anyone accusing a condo unit
owner of libel when he was just trying to protect his money, I pulled
the reprint because we have better things to do than fight with law
firms that take these kinds of cases.
I even considered that the board members who might have caused the loss
might be embarrassed that making a stupid decision lost association
money. Who likes to see his
nose rubbed into mistakes?
obviously I was wrong in that assumption!
Since December 2004 when Governor Jeb Bush appointed Dr. Virgil
Rizzo as Condominium Ombudsman, these same board members have started a
smear campaign against their neighbor, Dr. Rizzo.
These same board members, who allegedly lost part of the reserve
funds, have now leveled numerous accusations in newspaper articles
against Dr. Rizzo. He is
being labeled as a “disruptive” neighbor and a “litigious
troublemaker filing baseless claims to harass them.” They even went so
far as to write unsigned letters to Governor Bush asking him to
reevaluate his appointment of Dr. Rizzo.
all the information received from various sources one thing seems
undeniably clear. Dr Rizzo and some of his neighbors "sued
the board alleging it caused condo owners to lose $220,000 in
association fees that were deposited in the Hamilton Bank, which
collapsed in 2002." The Miami Herald stated the information
was part of public court documents. Even if some of these funds may have
been recovered, the actual facts never changed!
everybody is obviously allowed to have an opinion -- here is mine:
If there is money missing from the River Reach reserve account -- and it
was caused by the investment of these board members as alleged -- then
these board members should concentrate their efforts on replacing the
money -- not on smearing the people whose money was lost -- and who dare
to complain about it.
think this is a real easy case to decide by answering one single
question: "Is all the money that is supposed to be in the reserve
fund in an account holding these reserve funds, or is there money
If actually the accusations are correct and there was money lost, then
the board members responsible for the loss should not insult the
intelligence of others -- actually condo-owners from all over Florida --
by starting this media smear campaign.
is a typical example why Florida's condo-owners need an Ombudsman's
Office. To avoid these kind of lawsuits and to bring peace and quiet
into our homes.