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.