Keeping Board Elections Honest How to Fend Off Fraud

Los Sueños—a 13-building, 396-unit condominium complex on Hialeah’s west side—takes its name from the Spanish word for 'dream,' but the outcome of its November 2015 owners’ association board election was a nightmare. Although each unit had one vote, a total of 457 votes was cast—somehow, the complex had mysteriously gained 61 additional units...and the entire election was now highly questionable. 

The Miami Herald reported that half the votes were thrown out, including 174 duplicates. The losing candidates complained to the state agency that regulates common-interest communities: the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes in the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR)

The Los Sueños situation is a droplet in a rising tide of complaints about condo election fraud and other administrative irregularities all across the state. According to The Miami Herald, the Division in 2015 received 1,908 such complaints statewide, of which 566—almost 30 percent—came from Miami-Dade County. We wanted to ask what civil or criminal penalties might apply in such cases, but no one at the Division responded to our request for comment. Under Florida law, falsifying a signature, or in this case, forging an election ballot, would be a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000, according to the Herald.

Criminal Convictions 

“Punishment against individual directors is rare. I am not aware of any criminal cases prosecuted in Florida,” says Lisa A. Magill, an attorney who is of counsel to the Kaye Bender Rembaum law firm in Pompano Beach and a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers. That's not the case elsewhere; recent cases in Pike County, Pennsylvania, and Las Vegas, Nevada, have indeed resulted in criminal convictions.

At Wild Acres Lakes, a private community in the Pocono Mountains near Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, the board’s chairman and secretary tried to rig the 2014 election by filling out blank ballots for people who generally don’t vote in elections. They were thwarted by the community’s manager, who contacted the district attorney’s office and the state police. 

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Comments

  • Sheila M Cooperman on Monday, March 12, 2018 11:22 AM
    I live in a plum/cortina condo in Boca Raton. In my opinion, and from the evidence our election has been conveniently manipulated for years. I would not find it hard to believe that ballots are actually thrown out, if the outer envelope reads certain names. There have been years, where my ballot came back to me, after months saying it could not be delivered. Once again, the election packets did not reach everyone. The information sheets were written by the president for all the board members, and she used two sheets. One to talk about how wonderful they are, (they are not) and the other to slander and slam one of the candidates that used to be our president. The ballots not being received finally made the election have to be rescheduled. A bunch of us, worked tirelessly to follow the procedure to get an ombudsman. This process is very detailed, and required the February 1 sheet which was the "first notice of the election." This process also requires at least 14 days. That is not easy when you have such a large village and so many owners are out of town. We did not have enough time. When the election has to be rescheduled, we knew we had more time. We scrambled to get these owners to sign the petition for an umbudsman. So many of us know that for years, if you ran you were than threatened in some way. I personally have seen this. Instead of the new package starting from the 1st mailing they began from the 2nd mailing. This even though our docs have some very "specific voting details" Therefore the new packet did not contain a "first notice of election" and the umbudsman office refused to go forward with the process. Is there some place we can contact, besides doing an appeal. This can be very costly for the community. The current president will use the association attorney for all.. It is my opinion, this witch has used this man as a henchman or hatchet man to do her little evil deeds. this was just more manipulation in my eyes from the President and the attorney. He alone gets on my nerves, and I have had the unfortunate events where I had to send a letter to the community that he can not harass you by targeting you,, and If you feel you are being harassed, I have provided the phone number for the bar. We want a fair election, and we have not had one in years in my opinion. My opinion comes with detail, but let's just leave it at that. The threats can get so bad that I had to open a sheriff's report directly on her. That is fact. I appreciate your assistance,