No question that the Miami-Dade Grand Jury report slammed the
Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Unquestionably, the report made the Department of Business and
Professional Regulation look bad. Have an open mind however
about the Grand Jury proceedings. It’s easy to indict the DBPR
if all you do is call witnesses to testify who had a bad
experience with the Department or didn’t get the complete
satisfaction they were looking for when previously making a
complaint. In that entire report, there’s almost no ink devoted
to all the good that the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares
and Mobile Homes has done in the past. You know the saying……… a
prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich before a grand jury.
There is no question that when it comes to prosecuting serious
crimes, quicker action needs to be taken by the DBPR when they
uncover evidence of fraud and theft. I have had my frustrations
several times, when crime was apparent by board members and/or
by managers and the wheels of justice spin ever so slowly, while
you wait for the Division to do something, anything, to stop the
criminal activity. I get it.
But maybe we’re looking at it the wrong way. The statute does
not make these DBPR investigators, police officers. Perhaps
another part of the problem is the fact that unless the crime is
so obvious that a child can figure it out, prosecutors won’t
prosecute claims of theft or embezzlement or fraud or
self-dealing in our community associations. Do we know of a
single prosecutor’s office that has a division or even a single
assistant in their office set aside for crime in community
associations? Are there any assistant state attorneys in the
entire state that even get trained to catch or prosecute
community association crimes? Are our law enforcement officers
trained to catch such crimes? The answer is NO ---- yet the
entire blame on why the system is failing is now somehow placed
at the feet of the men and women who work at the DBPR. Don’t
fall for it. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Of course changes need to be made. The DBPR is not perfect. No
state agency is. However, I can tell you for sure and for
certain that associations everywhere correct their mistakes when
issued warnings by the Division. The Division does prevent
wrongdoing on many levels, whether it’s ensuring that elections
are done properly, reserves are spent properly, budgets are
adopted properly, records are accesses properly and a whole host
of other consumer protection safeguards.
What the report screams is the desire for the DBPR to be more
pro-active and aggressive in combatting crime. That’s fine. But
let’s also demand the same thing from our Florida Legislature,
Police Departments and State Attorney’s Offices. To think the
fault lies with one agency is simply ridiculous and they should
not be the scapegoat when there’s other arms of the state that
have turned their back on condo and HOA crime since they started
building them all over Florida.
The Florida Legislature should not throw the
baby out with the bath water and even think about doing away
with DBPR supervision over our condominiums. Instead, they
should mandate that law enforcement take a more aggressive and
active role in assisting the DBPR and for once, take condo crime
seriously and give it the priority it deserves.