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STATE OFFICIALS: Seven Bridges Election Can Be Contested, Forced Into Mediation

Boca Raton Delray Beach Florida Florida Condo HOA News News
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Campbell Property Management Dodges Questions About Seven Bridges Delray Beach “Coverup.” Newly Elected Board Members Not Calling For Reelection.

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The Seven Bridges Board of Directors Election Could End Up In State Mediation.

BY: ANDREW COLTON | REPORTING

DELRAY BEACH, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation tells BocaNewsNow.com that the recent board election in the high profile community of “Seven Bridges” can be contested after allegations of impropriety became public through our exclusive reporting.

“HOA elections must be conducted in accordance with Section 720.306 and the procedures set forth in the governing documents of the association,” wrote DBPR Spokesman Pat Fargason. “The Department’s arbitration unit has jurisdiction over HOA election disputes.”

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As BocaNewsNow.com first reported on December 23rd, Seven Bridges Board President and candidate Larry Orbach accessed a secure online voting system while the election was taking place over several days. He allegedly shared information about vote tallies with candidates he supported. He also, allegedly, targeted homeowners who hadn’t voted by visiting them personally to seek their vote. That information was not available to other candidates. When Campbell Property Management’s onsite manager — Heidi Womack — learned of the breach, she called a secret meeting with all of the candidates in which she instructed them to keep the breach private.

Emails obtained by BocaNewsNow.com, and first revealed in our December 23rd report, showed that the secret Zoom meeting took place on Sunday, December 13th. Candidates called on Orbach to resign and drop out of the race, which he did. But neither Womack, nor any of the candidates, made Orbach’s actions or resignation public until minutes before vote counting began on December 15th — a full two days later. In a short email, Womack announced Orbach had resigned and dropped out of the race.

Meaningless Vote

The issue: anyone in the 800 home community who voted for the well-liked Orbach ended up casting a meaningless vote. Womack and the candidates all knew that there was an issue at least two days earlier, providing ample time for votes to be recast for other candidates. But by covering up that information, potentially hundreds of votes were disenfranchised — raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the election.

In an email from one candidate to Womack, it became clear that legitimizing the election wasn’t a concern. Controlling the narrative about Orbach’s resignation was.

“I agree that this letter from Larry removing himself should occur prior to the vote,” wrote a candidate. “I realize the difficulty of the position. However sending the letter now allows more leeway in explanation. As time goes by the narrative becomes more difficult.”

While seemingly something from a movie satirizing Florida, HOA elections are no joke. Boards in high value communities often oversee budgets in the millions of dollars and must comply with federal and state regulations.

With candidates in an impossible position — anyone who contested the election while it was underway would appear to channeling a disgruntled President Trump — it became Campbell Property Management’s responsibility to take action. Community Managers are licensed by the State of Florida. Licenses are subject to review and revocation.

Campbell Property Management CEO John Tight, VP of Sales William B. Campbell, III, and COO Dan Tiernan didn’t respond to our requests for comment on the company’s position on the election and the actions taken — or not taken — by its employee.

Neither Womack nor Orbach responded to a request for comment.

Property Management Is Big Business

Property management is big business in Florida, with annual contracts running in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And Campbell Property Management lists landscaper “Complete Property Maintenance” as its sister company. That company provides landscaping services to Seven Bridges. Landscaping contracts, generally speaking, could run $1,000,000 or more in South Florida’s large communities. Any appearance that Campbell oversaw a tainted election could potentially cost the company a significant contract if board members blamed Campbell for mismanaging the election and voted the company out.

But the new board, seemingly acting in cahoots with Campbell, said nothing about the election impropriety even after the election, until BocaNewsNow.com’s report. That generated an unsigned email from “the new board” nearly twelve hours after our article first posted, authenticating our reporting although claiming that it meant nothing. Ironically, the email listed several items the new board was already managing. Homeowners contacting BocaNewsNow.com report no work sessions were publicly announced, raising questions about when the “new board” met.

Whether the election is officially contested remains to be seen. Several homeowners tell BocaNewsNow.com that they may ask the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to get involved, if for no other reason than to legitimize the election so there is no cloud of distrust hanging over the new board of directors. Mediation could lead to a new election, determine that the current election was fair, or create another viable solution.

The HOA is in the midst of defending a federal lawsuit filed by a homeowner claiming discrimination. A federal judge refused to dismiss the case earlier this month.

BocaNewsNow.com asked each of the new board members if they planned to ask for a new election to eliminate the stigma surrounding the December 15th vote, but Marc Bender, Attorney Justin Hertzberg, Arleen Goldenberg, Aliya Unger and Jack Kaye did not respond.

The silence may be short lived. Any action by the State would fall under F.S. 119, otherwise known as Florida’s Sunshine Act.

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