The civil war at the Casa del Mar condominium appears to have resulted in complete surrender.
The manager for the 27-story luxury tower resigned Thursday and the rest of the board of directors said they would soon follow, throwing the condominium into a potential leadership vacuum. The departures were announced in an email board members sent to Casa del Mar residents.
Just last week, four directors quit in the face of a recall effort mounted over a $15 million special assessment for fire sprinklers and a new dispute over the fate of enclosed balconies.
The resignations came after a contentious meeting Wednesday where there was falling out over installing the leaders of the recall movement as replacements, particularly owner Kate Yannuzzi. Property Manager Iosvany Acosta said he would resign if she was made a director, according to sources.
“We were hoping to construct a non-contentious board to maintain stability until regular elections in March,” said Hope Wigmore, the board member chosen as the new president Wednesday,
When talk of a second recall floated at the meeting, Acosta resigned. Once the property manager resigned, the remaining board members – one just appointed on Wednesday – said they would resign Monday.
“We have unfortunately concluded that there is no path forward that allows us to continue to contribute to the welfare of this association,” the email to residents read. The email also stated: “As board members with a fiduciary obligation to the association, we cannot in good conscience remain on the Casa board without a building manager.”
Besides Wigmore, Treasurer Eric Rocheteau and Directors Martha Lide and Jeremy Weddle signed the email announcing their intention to resign.
But the four also pointed fingers at Yannuzzi.
“Kate demands control of the board, which by all statements in public and private would lead to either the resignation or termination of Iosvany Acosta,” the email stated.
Yannuzzi did not return a phone call or text message for comment about the email.
Complaint to Regulators
Acosta’s resignation comes after a resident filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Andrea Zarate said Acosta’s “threatening demeanor humiliated me and disregarded my rights as a tenant” when she submitted the recall ballots Oct. 19.
Zarate provided a video transcript to the DBPR of her encounter. The video was uploaded to YouTube and a copy was provided to the Independent.
Acosta and Rocheteau are shown in the video questioning Zarate’s right to turn in the ballots because she is a tenant and not a unit owner.
Acosta hung up when a reporter with the Independent tried to reach him for comment. He did not respond to a text message.
In a statement to residents at the Wednesday meeting, the remaining board members criticized a campaign to drive out Acosta “by planting inaccurate and unflattering stories in the local press and urging residents to file complaints against him so that he loses his professional licenses and livelihood.”
The upheaval at Casa del Mar follows tumult at other island condominiums, where residents have complained of a lack of transparency — especially on finances. They say assessments are unexplained or are the result of what they say is poor decision-making.
In June, residents at EmeraldBay, one of four condominium buildings at the Key Colony complex, declined to return two officers to the board of directors. The election results followed lawsuits and word of a criminal investigation involving misappropriation of funds. Later, the posh condo’s property manager was accused of stealing residents’ maintenance fees.
On Wednesday, the Key Colony Homeowners’ Association asked a judge to impose sanctions in one of those lawsuits, saying legal pleadings made by EmeraldBay amounted to a “misrepresentation on the court” by repeating inaccurate figures, according to court papers. Earlier this month, the former president, Louisa Conway, testified in a deposition in the case. The HOA is claiming EmeraldBay is not paying required maintenance fees. EmeraldBay has denied the allegations. An attorney for EmeraldBay, Craig Minko, was not immediately available for comment.
At another Key Colony building, Botanica, the property manager was dismissed last month and replaced with an interim manager after complaints from residents. That building was the victim of a $100,000 phishing fraud, although most of the funds were recovered after an investigation by Key Biscayne police.
Next Wednesday night at Village Hall, State Rep. Vicki Lopez and Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado will host a town hall on condominiums where they will talk about new legislation being proposed to protect the rights of residents.
Lopez said she is hearing a common refrain from condo residents. “There’s a lot of complaining about condo board misbehavior, which includes not giving access to the records when requested and a lot of election issues, including election fraud,” she said.