Most board of directors govern fairly, responsibly and successfully. It’s true. In a recent homeowner satisfaction survey conducted by Zogby Analytics for the Foundation for Community Association Research, 84% of homeowners said their elected governing board is “absolutely “ or “for the most part” serving the best interest of their community.
Florida legislators passed a bill this year, HB 1237 – an overcriminalization law applying to condominium board members.
The CAI Florida Legislative Alliance successfully secured amendments to the bill so there was simply a cross reference of criminal activity. The CAI efforts were critical in making this new law much better. However, the bill is still terrible for public perception of community association board members. As I watched the work of the CAI Florida Legislative Alliance during the session, I started researching overcriminalization laws. Apparently, legislators love to create criminalization laws. After you finish reading this article, I suggest you go to twitter and immediately start following @ACrimeADay This Twitter feed documents some of the ridiculous laws and regulations in U.S. Code and the Federal Register. They’ve been posting since 2014 and I don’t believe they’ve repeated any laws. At the end of this article are a few of the ridiculous crimes tweeted from @ACrimeADay.
Before you have fun with Twitter, please read about this overcriminalization law in Florida. HB 1237 is a bill amending the condominium act that spells out specific criminal acts of boards of directors and associated penalties. While the bill does not generally create new areas of law specifically related to criminal activity of a condominium board member, the bill recognizes other areas of the Florida law related to criminal activity; including embezzlement of funds, forgery, tampering with physical evidence and obstruction of justice. Embezzlement of funds is clear and I see no problem with it being spelled out in a condominium law. Stealing money is a crime and anyone found guilty of stealing money; including board members in a community association, should be punished accordingly. However, there are two criminal acts – by their name – create alarm; including “tampering with physical evidence and obstruction of justice”. The examples used in the narrative of the bill include the following: if a board member destroys or refuses to allow inspection or copying of an official record of a condominium association within the time period required by law, the crime is punishable as tampering with physical evidence or obstruction of justice.
Existing law in Florida requires condominium board member to provide access to and inspection of specific books and records. That is a good governance principle that creates transparency and builds community. That law already exists and if an association doesn’t comply, there are avenues a unit owner may take to force compliance.
There are nearly 2.5 million VOLUNTEER community association board and committee members performing more than 80 million hours of work annually. These volunteer board members do not get paid for their work. There is a legal framework that clearly and specifically provides for their authority and their responsibility. It is clearly stated in Florida Statute that condo board members have a duty of a care and a fiduciary duty to the association. In fact, Florida has the most complicated and detailed of laws related to board authority in condominiums. With HB 1237 creating this alarming criminalization perception of board members is unfortunate. It creates an unnecessary perception that condo board members are criminals.
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