Here you can listen or download "On The Commons", taped on Saturday, March 26, 2005. Talk show host Shu Bartholomew talks with the new Florida Condo Ombudsman Dr. Virgil Rizzo about his office, his goals and his visions. 







718.5011  Ombudsman; appointment; administration.--

(1)  There is created an Office of the Condominium Ombudsman, to be located for administrative purposes within the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes. The functions of the office shall be funded by the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes Trust Fund. The ombudsman shall be a bureau chief of the division, and the office shall be set within the division in the same manner as any other bureau is staffed and funded.

(2)  The Governor shall appoint the ombudsman. The ombudsman must be an attorney admitted to practice before the Florida Supreme Court and shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor. A vacancy in the office shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment. An officer or full-time employee of the ombudsman's office may not actively engage in any other business or profession; serve as the representative of any political party, executive committee, or other governing body of a political party; serve as an executive, officer, or employee of a political party; receive remuneration for activities on behalf of any candidate for public office; or engage in soliciting votes or other activities on behalf of a candidate for public office. The ombudsman or any employee of his or her office may not become a candidate for election to public office unless he or she first resigns from his or her office or employment.

History.--s. 6, ch. 2004-345.

718.5012  Ombudsman; powers and duties.--

The ombudsman shall have the powers that are necessary to carry out the duties of his or her office, including the following specific powers:

(1)  To have access to and use of all files and records of the division.

(2)  To employ professional and clerical staff as necessary for the efficient operation of the office.

(3)  To prepare and issue reports and recommendations to the Governor, the department, the division, the Advisory Council on Condominiums, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on any matter or subject within the jurisdiction of the division. The ombudsman shall make recommendations he or she deems appropriate for legislation relative to division procedures, rules, jurisdiction, personnel, and functions.

(4)  To act as liaison between the division, unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties. The ombudsman shall develop policies and procedures to assist unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties to understand their rights and responsibilities as set forth in this chapter and the condominium documents governing their respective association. The ombudsman shall coordinate and assist in the preparation and adoption of educational and reference material, and shall endeavor to coordinate with private or volunteer providers of these services, so that the availability of these resources is made known to the largest possible audience.

(5)  To monitor and review procedures and disputes concerning condominium elections or meetings, including, but not limited to, recommending that the division pursue enforcement action in any manner where there is reasonable cause to believe that election misconduct has occurred.

(6)  To make recommendations to the division for changes in rules and procedures for the filing, investigation, and resolution of complaints filed by unit owners, associations, and managers.

(7)  To provide resources to assist members of boards of directors and officers of associations to carry out their powers and duties consistent with this chapter, division rules, and the condominium documents governing the association.

(8)  To encourage and facilitate voluntary meetings with and between unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties when the meetings may assist in resolving a dispute within a community association before a person submits a dispute for a formal or administrative remedy. It is the intent of the Legislature that the ombudsman act as a neutral resource for both the rights and responsibilities of unit owners, associations, and board members.

(9)  Fifteen percent of the total voting interests in a condominium association, or six unit owners, whichever is greater, may petition the ombudsman to appoint an election monitor to attend the annual meeting of the unit owners and conduct the election of directors. The ombudsman shall appoint a division employee, a person or persons specializing in condominium election monitoring, or an attorney licensed to practice in this state as the election monitor. All costs associated with the election monitoring process shall be paid by the association. The division shall adopt a rule establishing procedures for the appointment of election monitors and the scope and extent of the monitor's role in the election process.

History.--ss. 7, 36, ch. 2004-345.

718.5014  Ombudsman location.--

The ombudsman shall maintain his or her principal office in Leon County on the premises of the division or, if suitable space cannot be provided there, at another place convenient to the offices of the division which will enable the ombudsman to expeditiously carry out the duties and functions of his or her office. The ombudsman may establish branch offices elsewhere in the state upon the concurrence of the Governor.

History.--s. 8, ch. 2004-345.