Miami condo owners confused by election monitor
By Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor
24 April 2016
told a team of reporters for el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 two weeks
ago that she does not represent herself as a monitor assigned by the
state. Cortesía Univisión 23
When elections monitor Mónica Hidalgo turned up Nov. 20 to watch over
the 2015 balloting for the board of directors at the Los Sueños
condominium, many of the owners breathed a sigh of relief.
They believed Hidalgo had been sent by the Florida Department of
Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR), in reply to their request
for a monitor to supervise the controversial elections at the Hialeah
Hidalgo’s presence was welcomed by both board members who were seeking
reelection and their opponents. Members of both factions say they
gathered signatures on petitions seeking the presence of a
state-appointed monitor who would guarantee the transparency of the
process and report conclusions to the DBPR.
“We asked for her. Yes, of course, we collected signatures for that,”
said Arelys López, who was reelected president of the condo association
in the balloting.
But what López and others involved in the election did not know was
that Hidalgo is not a monitor appointed by the Office of the
In fact, since 2010 that office stopped assigning Hidalgo as an
election monitor after stating that she “blatantly ignored”
instructions prohibiting the delegation of responsibilities,
misrepresented not being at a meeting and other issues. The ombudsman
concluded the March 31, 2010, letter by stating, “your actions, lapses
in judgment, and inattention to duty… have seriously undermined and
diminished the trust and confidence placed in you and reflects
adversely upon the election monitor program administered by this
office.” Her identification badge was revoked.
And in 2012, after at least one condo owner complained, the Ombudsman’s
office demanded that Hidalgo stop promoting herself as a monitor
assigned or certified by the state and warned her that her actions
amounted to consumer fraud.
Hidalgo told a team of reporters for el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23
two weeks ago that she does not represent herself as a monitor assigned
by the state.
“I never say I am certified. I always say I was certified. Little words
that are specific and powerful in any court,” said Hidalgo, who owns
Luminary LLC, a company that supervises condo and co-op elections. “And
I never introduce myself as sent by the DBPR. If someone says that I am
sent [by the DBPR], that’s up to them, but that never comes out of my
Condo owners say there’s no clear way to determine whether a monitor
has been assigned by the state or privately contracted by an
association’s board of directors. The issue reflects the lack of
regulations of condo election monitors, who are not state employees and
do not have licenses or certifications. The state also stopped issuing
identification badges for the monitors it approves.
The Condominium Ombudsman can appoint an election monitor only after
receiving a petition signed by at least 15 percent of the condo owners.
Contacted by Sunshine
Hidalgo said she was contacted directly by Sunshine Management
Services, the company that manages the Los Sueños complex, to monitor
the election there. She added that she is always paid for her services
by condo associations.
Sunshine representatives, however, initially told el Nuevo Herald and
Univision 23 that Hidalgo had been sent by the state as an neutral
party to monitor the balloting. They added that Hidalgo had accepted
the use of notarized affidavits by owners as guarantees of the validity
of their votes, a system designed by Sunshine to avert electoral fraud.
Sunshine’s public relations agent, Helena Poleo, in a later email to
journalists, wrote that the company had provided information about
Hidalgo that it believed to be correct but then appeared to add some
“It is widely known that Mrs. Mónica Hidalgo has been certified by the
DBPR to monitor elections and owns a totally legal company for those
activities,” Poleo wrote. “She has been sent by the DBPR to monitor
elections in many associations. It is our understanding that her
certification remains valid.”
However, a DBPR spokesperson said that Hidalgo refers to a
certification “which does not currently exist. In essence, Ms. Hidalgo
has created a non-existing title.”
Poleo’s email added that the journalists “have decided to focus on
technicalities.” She did not clarify whether she referred to Hidalgo’s
role in the elections, or a previous report about the irregular
notarization of the affidavits used in condo elections.
The previous report quoted several owners at Los Sueños and The Beach
Club at Fontainebleau Park condos as saying they did not sign the
affidavits in the presence of notary Carmen Aslan, whose seal appears
on more than 230 of the affidavits.
Some condo associations seek the help of monitors in elections, to
ensure that they follow state guidelines and avert fraudulent votes and
other irregularities. Although election monitors appointed by the
Ombudsman are required to send the office a report on the process and
results of each election, private monitors like Hidalgo only report to
whoever hires them.
They believed she was from the DBPR
Roxanna Domínguez, the Sunshine employee who manages Los Sueños, said
she worked with the board of directors to collect signatures for the
petition of a DBPR monitor. After obtaining the required number of
signatures, Domínguez said she wrote the petition and delivered the
documents to Sunshine’s offices in Miami Lakes so they would be
forwarded to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s office told el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 it never
received the petition from Sunshine.
Poleo’s email said that although sufficient signatures were collected
to request a monitor for the 2014 elections at Los Sueños, the number
of signatures for the 2015 balloting fell short.
“And the association directors made the decision to contract the
company of Mónica Hidalgo, which is legally established for that
process,” Poleo wrote.
That version contradicts the statements of association president Arelys
López and Domínguez, who told reporters they gathered enough signatures
to request a monitor in 2015. Even two weeks ago, when they spoke with
reporters, both said they were convinced that Hidalgo had been sent by
It’s not the first time.
In August of 2012, Ombudsman Bruce A. Campbell wrote a letter to
Hidalgo telling her to stop promoting her business as having been
“qualified or appointed by the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman.”
Campbell issued the warning after an owner at the Doral Oaks
condominium filed a complaint that June alleging that Hidalgo had been
introduced during a condo election “as a representative of the
Two months later “the board members of Doral Oaks Condominium were
advised of” Hidalgo’s credentials as a “State of Florida Certified
Election Monitor,” according to the letter.
“I am not concerned that you may run a business conducting elections,
but you may not advertise a relationship with the Condominium
Ombudsman, or imply it with reference to an election monitor certified
by the State of Florida,” Campbell wrote. “To obtain employment based
on such representations constitutes consumer fraud.”
Hidalgo nevertheless insisted last week that she can continue to
portray herself as a monitor certified by the state, just as her
business cards state. She said that she received a certificate in 2009,
after taking classes at a Broward college.
“That’s like any other profession,” Hidalgo said. “I paid for my
education, got my degrees. And who’s going to take them away? Nobody.”
Hidalgo sent el Nuevo Herald a copy of a document that states she is
“duly appointed” as an election monitor “pursuant to the provisions” of
the Florida statutes that regulate condominiums. The document was
issued Jan. 1, 2009, and has no expiration date.
DBPR spokesperson Chelsea Eagles said the agency does not currently
certify election monitors. In the past, she added, the agency issued
badges and certificates. But it stopped doing that “in response to an
influx of misuse by election monitors presenting badges [and]
certificates at elections in which they had not been appointed by the
Ombudsman,” Eagles wrote.
Banned by the
Just 14 months after Hidalgo was “duly appointed” as an election
monitor, then-Ombudsman Colleen Donahue informed her that she would not
be assigned to supervise any more elections because of complaints of
irregularities filed by two condo complexes.
“The identification card issued to you by this office is revoked and
you are requested and instructed to return it immediately,” Donahue
The complaints against Hidalgo date to January 2010, when the manager
of a Hollywood condo wrote to the DBPR’s condo division alleging that
on the 19th of that month Hidalgo had turned up at the association
elections with her ID badge, even though the association had not
petitioned the presence of a monitor.
Hidalgo “did not behave as an impartial observer but on the contrary,
made all the owners present aware that she was siding with a
candidate,” the manager said in the letter, obtained under a public
records request. “She made every effort to find faults and
irregularities in the way we handled our elections.”
That same day, according to Donahue’s letter, Hidalgo had been
appointed by the state to monitor an election in another condo. Instead
of going, she sent a representative who was not on the list of
The letter adds that Hidalgo denied having been present at the
Hollywood condo election, but contradicted herself in a telephone
conversation with Donahue. “Several times during our conversation you
talked of yourself being present at the election,” Donahue wrote.
Hidalgo blamed the DBPR for the complaints. She told reporters that the
Ombudsman’s office had sometimes assigned her to work several elections
on the same day and hour, and instructed her to send a representative
to the ones she could not attend.
Hidalgo said she had always conducted condo elections in a neutral
manner and followed state regulations, and that she has kept abreast of
changes in the condo election laws and regulations.
“I am recognized and praised for my work … I don’t even have to
advertise,” she said. “I was the best monitor DBPR ever had, and am
still the best monitor in the state of Florida.”
Univision 23 journalist Erika Carrillo contributed to this report.
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