Section 36. Section 718.5011, F.S., is amended to provide that the Ombudsman shall exercise policymaking and other functions authorized in the Condominium Act independently of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and without approval or control of the department. The department must render administrative support to the office in matters pertaining to budget, personnel, office space, equipment, and supplies. All revenues collected for the office by the department shall be deposited in a separate fund or account from which the department may not use or divert the revenues. The bill also repeals the current prohibition on the Ombudsman’s staff actively engaging in any other business or profession, serving as the representative of any political party, serving as an executive, officer, or employee of a political party, receiving remuneration for activities on behalf of any candidate for public office, or engaging in soliciting votes or other activities on behalf of a candidate for public office, or becoming a candidate for election to public office unless first resigning from the office or employment.
Section 37. Section 718.5012, F. S., is amended to remove the requirement that the Ombudsman develop policies and procedures; require the division to process the Ombudsman’s recommendations and petitions in an expedited manner and to require the department to defer to the Ombudsman’s findings.
The bill provides the Ombudsman with authority to administer oaths, subpoena witnesses, take evidence and require production of any matter that is relevant to an inquiry, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things, and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of relevant facts or any other matter reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of material evidence, and may apply to the circuit court for an order compelling compliance. The Condominium Ombudsman would be authorized to investigate any matter that relates to the fulfillment of the duties of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman would have authority to order meetings between unit owners, boards, board members, community association managers and other affected parties.
The Ombudsman would have authority to make recommendations to the division to pursue enforcement action in circuit court on behalf of a class of unit owners, lessees, or purchasers for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, or restitution against any developer, association, officer, or board member or its assignees or agents when there is reasonable cause to believe misconduct has occurred. The division must process the Ombudsman’s recommendations and petitions in an expedited manner and defer to the Ombudsman’s findings.
Section 718.5012(1)(j), F.S., is created to replace the current recall arbitration program under s. 718.112(2)(j), F.S., with a program to be operated by the Ombudsman, as described in section 25., above.
The Ombudsman would have authority to order any aspect of the election process to be conducted by an election monitor. No association or person could reject an election monitor appointed by the Ombudsman or interfere with an election monitor in the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties. The Ombudsman may order an association to implement a known division remedy for a procedural violation of s. 718.112(2)(d)3., F.S., prior to and during a monitored election.
Any unit owner or association acting in good faith on the advice of the Ombudsman shall be immune from any penalties or actions.
The Ombudsman would have authority to issue an order requiring any developer, association, officer, board member, or its assignees or agents, to cease and desist from unlawful practices and to take affirmative action to carry out the purposes of the Condominium Act, if the Ombudsman has reasonable cause to believe that a violation of any provision of the Act or administrative rules has occurred.