Florida Appellate Court decision (July 21, 2017).

This case involved efforts by a homeowners association (“Association”) to stop a homeowner (“Owner”) from utilizing the internet to voice his displeasure over the quality of life within the community governed by Association.  Initially, Association filed a lawsuit against Owner which sought injunctive relief to prevent the posting, circulating, and publishing pictures or personal information about current or future residents, board members, management, employees or personnel of the management company, vendors of Association, or any other management company of Association, on any website, blog, or social media.  Association contended that Owner’s conduct was intended to harass, intimidate, and threaten other residents of the community. After filing the action, Association obtained an ex parte preliminary injunction against Owner to prevent certain actions from continuing. Thereafter, the parties entered into a settlement agreement in which Owner agreed to cease certain actions. The court then entered a judgment against Owner enforcing the settlement agreement. Subsequent to entering into the settlement agreement, Association sought a contempt citation against a homeowner for alleged violations of the settlement agreement / judgment. The trial court found Owner in contempt and ordered Owner to stop posting, circulating, and publishing any pictures or personal information about residents, directors, and management on any website, blog, or social media. The trial court order also ordered Owner to take down information that was currently on his websites or blogs, and from starting any new blogs, websites or social media websites relating to Association. The trial court orders became amendments to the settlement agreement between Association and Owner. Owner appealed the trial court’s orders contending that they violated his constitutionally protected right to free speech. Owner contended that a blanket prohibition of his online speech was unconstitutional under both state and federal law because it constituted an impermissible prior restraint on free speech. On review, the appellate court stated that: (i) both the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution prohibit laws that curtail either freedom of speech or freedom of the press; (ii) a prior restraint on publication is presumptively unconstitutional; (iii) court orders that forbid speech activities are classic examples of prior restraints; (iv) online speech is protected under the First Amendment; and (v) freedom of speech does not extend to obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, true threats, and speech that is integral to criminal conduct; (vi) the appropriate sanction for First Amendment misdeeds is a subsequent civil or criminal proceeding and not a prior restraint. The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred in prohibiting Owner from making any statements pertaining to Association on his websites, blogs, and social media without conducting a proper constitution inquiry to determine if the restriction served a compelling state interest. Thus, the appellate court remanded the case back to the trial court to make such a determination. The decision noted that prior case decisions have held that prohibiting use of the internet and other interactive computer services for the purpose of inflicting emotional distress on others is an example of a restriction that serves an important governmental interest. See case decision: Fox_v._Hamptons_at_MetroWest_Condo._Ass’n_Inc._(Fla._App._2017)1

WHO OPPOSES HOA REFORM? By Jan Bergemann Published July 21, 2017

Let’s just face it: HOA reform fails in most legislative sessions because the HOA advocates face the strong opposition of the Community Association Institute (CAI) – the “ENEMY” of all homeowners. This “trade-organization” of “service-providers” – look at the long list of members – is led by so-called “specialized” attorneys who are making their money from the misery of homeowners. But do they really provide a “service” to the owners? I doubt it. Remember: Associations are promoted claiming to provide peaceful “easy” living. Guess what: A peaceful environment wouldn’t create a big cash-cow for these attorneys – it wouldn’t even pay their office rent. So: What’s their service? Eating up huge amounts of maintenance fees fighting often lawsuits that in reality serve nobody and will have no winners but the attorneys? I always get a good laugh when I hear owners supporting this organization, claiming that the CAI works in the interest of the owners. Any owner-friendly reform bill faces the strong opposition of these folks who make their money from the misery of property owners – and renters. If you have ever participated in one of the so-called conferences where all “parties” to the community association bills meet with the bill sponsors – these conferences take place behind closed doors – you would know that the CAI members are always represented in huge numbers and are working hard on derailing any bill that would help to stop the scams, embezzlement and abuse in Florida’s community associations. Their arguments are often ridiculous, but they often work due to the CAI presence at fundraisers of our legislators. They use the owners’ money to work against their interests. See this year’s example at the conference of the Condo Reform Bill (HB 1237) – a bill that was later dubbed the “CONDO CRIME BILL.” Their argument trying to remove criminal prosecution of board members who are seriously violating the laws: “Associations will have a hard time finding volunteers serving on the boards if these provisions pass!” Let’s face it: Every owner in his right mind can really do without “volunteers” who are afraid of criminal prosecution of serious financial crimes. Actually, I have barely ever heard a more “ridiculous” argument – and in this case it obviously didn’t work with the sponsors of the bill. Homeowners have to unite in order to get reforms enacted. “UNITED WE STAND!” is the only way to have success. Attorneys often try to turn board members against owners – and vice versa. That’s definitely the wrong approach. It has to be: Owners and board members together against the enemies of our wallets. Remember: Owners have the numbers, but not the money to convince our legislators that reforms – with strong enforcement – is desperately needed in order to finally stop all the “nonsense” we are reading about daily in the media – or experiencing it ourselves.  And never forget: The money used to defeat our pleas in Tallahassee comes from us – the owners. In reality we are enabling our “enemies” to defeat us by filling their coffers.

HABRA FRAUDE EN ELECCION 2017?

No se ven cambios en el actuar del Grupo Oficialista de la Junta Directiva, ni en sus lacayos, la Administración y los Abogados, para prevenir la ocurrencia de fraude en la elección venidera.

De acuerdo a las instrucciones que nos dio el Abogado Cuevas, ahora tampoco va a haber monitores independientes, ni van a permitir delegados del grupo opositor, no van a mantener ni semblanza de legitimidad. Solo los abogados de la Asociación y los funcionarios de la Administración van a revisar todos los proxies por 10 horas a puertas cerradas y anular los que les convengan. Con las evidencias de fraude en las elecciones de 2015 y del 2016, que es abrumadora, que se puede esperar, pues que esta vez va a ser peor.

Todos pueden acceder a doralislestoday.com y mirar esas evidencias.

El grupo oficialista falló de convencer a la membrecía que lo que pasa en la Asociación, es una riña entre dos grupos que se hacen acusaciones mutuas. La membrecía quiere analizar la evidencia.

Necesitamos urgente regulaciones justas y estrictas de las elecciones y un Plan Regulatorio de Contratos, entre otros cambios fundamentales. Estos cambios los ha rechazado repetidas veces el grupo oficialista.

La membrecía quiere sacar al grupo oficialista de la Junta Directiva, que ya tiene 4 años enquistado en el poder y busca uno mas. Si sigue va a llevar a nuestra querida asociación a la bancarrota.

ELECCION 2017

Existen evidencias fuertes que hubo fraude en las elecciones de 2015 y del 2016 y se demostró que las autoridades estatales son inoperantes para parar esta práctica.

No hay dudas que cambios legislativos estatales son necesarios, y vendrán, pero lo urgente de este momento es que la membrecía vote por el cambio interno, ahora.

El grupo oficialista trata de proyectar el momento actual de la Asociación como una riña entre dos grupos que se hacen acusaciones los unos a los otros. Nada mas lejos de la realidad. ¿Que puede y debe hacer un Miembro de la comunidad cuando ve las arbitrariedades del grupo que gobierna? ¿Es guardar silencio la única opción?

Por lo que se puede ver con la evidencia que se tiene a mano, el grupo gobernante está llevando nuestra querida asociación a la bancarrota.

Queremos alertar a la membrecía de posibles maniobras que pueden utilizar en hacer fraude:

  1. Seducir a residentes a que le firmen proxies ofreciendo a cambio la cancelación de multas, permitiendo la extensión ilegal de sus propiedades a terrenos de la comunidad, otorgando sensores de acceso adicionales a no residentes amigos de directores, etc.
  2. Utilizar los archivos de la Asociación para seleccionar los nombres, direcciones, números telefónicos y demás información, de dueños individuales y corporaciones que no han votado por años, para falsificar sus firmas en proxies.
  3. Requerir a la membrecía entregar los proxies a la administración el día anterior a la votación para su validación, sin ningún miembro opositor ni inspectores imparciales presentes.
  4. El día de la elección NO permitir la presencia de inspectores imparciales.
  5. En el día de la elección, validar los proxies fraudulentos y anular aquellos legítimos, de acuerdo a sus conveniencias.
  6. Advertir a los abogados y a la Administración de la Asociación que si no colaboran sus contratos serán cancelados.
  7. Utilizar a los abogados de la Asociación para intimidar a residentes, que manifiesten su inconformidad con la Junta, con acciones legales.

Detrás del fraude está el deseo de mantener controles críticos en la Asociación, especialmente las finanzas. Hace un año se le propuso a la Directiva la contratación de inspectores imparciales para elección y lo negaron. La Directiva ha rechazado repetidas veces, durante reuniones regulares, nuestras sugerencias de implementar un Plan Regulatorio de Contratos. Es mas de un año de estas propuestas y aun no hay una respuesta.cambiemos-2017-2

FINANCIAL CRISIS IN DORAL ISLES

Thanks to Gabriel Rodriguez and Jaime Correa who continue to fight for the residents of Doral Isles, we are getting the real financial picture of Doral Isles. It is important that all residents are aware that we are currently in a negative financial situation in our community. The community is operating under a major deficit and community reserves have seen a dramatic decline. If it was not for the aforementioned neighbors, we would be headed for a major assessment or dramatic increase in dues.

FERNANDO VERDINI