State: Former West Palm condo board misspent more than $1 million
Palm Beach Post
By Tony Doris
February 04, 2017
WEST PALM BEACH —State regulators say former board members of the
20-building Whitehall condos on Village Boulevard misspent more than $1
million of their association’s money on themselves and shifted hundreds
of thousands of dollars from reserves to cover budget shortfalls
without authorization from unit owners, violations so serious that
investigators forwarded evidence to state prosecutors.
Lead Investigator Harry Hague of the Florida Department of Business and
Professional Regulation’s Bureau of Compliance wrote the current board
of Whitehall Condominiums of the Villages of Palm Beach Lakes
Association on Jan. 26 that the former board committed a series of
“major” civil violations of state condo law.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also investigated and is
awaiting word on whether the Office of Statewide Prosecution will bring
criminal charges based on its findings, an FDLE official confirmed
“They’re reviewing it,” Eric Jester, special agent supervisor in the
FDLE’s West Palm Beach field office, said, declining to comment further
on the open case.
Though prosecutors say they can’t talk about an ongoing investigation,
the regulatory agency’s warning letter detailed 10 violations of state
condominium law that occurred from 2010 through 2015. The association
could be fined $5,000 per violation if the association doesn’t respond
to the letter or if violations recur.
Among the violations cited by Hague at the 480-unit complex:
The former board improperly paid directors
The former board improperly paid directors Vincent Rossi, Charles
Keeling and Michael Weadock more than $242,400. State condo law
requires that officers serve without compensation unless the condo
governing documents allow otherwise. Rossi and Weadock were paid as
property managers and Keeling, a retired police officer, was paid for
estimated $357,200 “for expenses unrelated to
The association spent an estimated $357,200 “for expenses unrelated to
condominium operations.” A more precise accounting was impossible
because records weren’t kept. However, Hague wrote, evidence shows
“Association funds were routinely expended for the exclusive personal
benefit of a member or members of the board of directors and that these
expenses were insufficiently or inaccurately reported and accounted
for, or went unreported.”
"diverted” $455,000 from reserves into the operating
The association “diverted” $455,000 from reserves into the operating
fund without condo owner approval, and with no plans to refund the
President failed to pay his maintenance dues for more than 90 days
It was current board members, starting in 2014, before they were
elected, who fired the first salvo against the former board, by filing
a civil suit, seeking to remove them for alleged misuse of association
money. They got the state agency to oust President Rossi from the board
for failing to pay his maintenance dues for more than 90 days.
Shortly thereafter, Keeling became president but neither he, Rossi nor Weadock are on the board anymore.
Keeling could not be reached for comment.
Rossi, in a deposition taken in that lawsuit, denied wrongdoing. Any
money he withdrew with the association ATM card was to reimburse him
for money he laid out for the association, he said.
Condo debit card tranactions at casinos
Shown association bank records documenting such expenditures as money
withdrawn from ATMs at the now-shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino in
Atlantic City, N.J., he said he didn’t remember the items. “I don’t
know what that is,” he said. “I’m thinking how many years ago was that.”
Condo debit card records also show multiple transactions at the Seminole Indian Casino in Coconut Creek.
“Is it regular, Mr. Rossi, for an association to withdraw association funds at a casino?” he was asked at the deposition.
the auditor said this?
He replied that the association was told by its auditor, “if money was owed or put in, that it can be taken out anyway.”
Rossi, undergoing treatment for throat cancer he attributes to Agent
Orange, responded by email Thursday to a request for comment.
In his time at Whitehall, “I have never been charged or even questioned
on any criminal or even civil charges whatsoever,” he wrote. “I was
re-elected four times over an eight-year period by the owners. Before
that, the former three presidents lasted three months, two weeks and
Weadock, for his part, confirmed to The Palm Beach Post that he was
compensated for working as part-time property manager, starting before
he became a board member. “I absolutely know of not one penny of
illegal money spent anywhere,” he said. “You would never find any
checks made out to to me other than my wage checks.”
As for casino expenditures, “I don’t know about that at all,” he said.
He blamed the investigations on “spiteful stuff, condo bull.”
sums are missing
But Cary Collins, a plaintiff in the 2014 suit who has since become
board president, says the records — or the lack thereof — indicate vast
sums are missing, maybe three or four times what investigator Hague
documented. The association has a $1 million insurance policy to cover
such losses but can’t collect unless criminal charges are brought, he
unit owners are paying higher maintenance fees
Meanwhile, unit owners are paying higher maintenance fees, because the
new board is obligated to replenish the depleted accounts as
aggressively as it can, Collins said. Unit owners now paying an average
of $420 a month probably would be paying as much as $100 less, $1,200 a
year less, if not for the missing money, not to mention that the higher
assessments depress their property values, he said.
chapter previous next