The sign was posted Friday, July 29 on the doors of Beth Callans Management’s Mediterranean Plaza headquarters.
“There are NO BCMT payroll checks today,” it read.
Approximately six weeks earlier, the company had canceled direct deposit and notified that live checks for the payroll cycle — which had previously arrived via direct deposit every other Thursday — would arrive Friday morning, instead. Two weeks later, the checks were late. Then, on Friday, July 29, employees learned that they wouldn’t be receiving their paychecks.
By Monday and Tuesday, as rumors about the company’s financial problems swirled among the approximately 80 communities the company managed — roughly half of which were located on Longboat Key — communities began canceling their contracts with the firm. By Tuesday, employees were cleaning out their desks and retrieving files from the communities they managed, according to two employees, one who manages Longboat Key properties and one who manages Sarasota properties, who spoke to the Longboat Observer on the condition of anonymity.
Robyn Nystrom, executive administration manager for the company, said that she could not comment on whether the firm is closing or on payroll issues. Beth Callans, owner of the Longboat Key-based company, could not be reached for comment.
However, both employees told the Longboat Observer that they were told that the office would lock its doors at some point this week.
For many — both employees and those whose properties the company managed — the events marked a dramatic shift from the institution they once knew.
“This lady was the best there was in the business,” said one employee, who manages a Longboat Key condominium.
In a 2010 interview, Beth Callans told the Longboat Observer that she founded her company in 1998 with a single assistant working out of the Northern Trust Building. She worked in property management for 10 years before branching out to form her own company. She said that she spent the early days writing letters to condominium associations to let them know about the new venture before landing her first client, Portobello Condominium Association.
The company grew to nearly 200 employees; revenues in 2009 topped $8.4 million. In 2010, Callans’ company received the Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award for the “11 or more employees” category.
Reflecting upon her time in the business, Callans said at the time:
“It’s been 11 years of building.”
One employee, who manages Sarasota properties, said that the company used to be “a great place to work.”
“Everybody was very serious about the job at hand,” he said.
But in recent years, problems began to surface.
“I started watching for what wasn’t being done about a year ago,” the Longboat Key condominium manager said. “For example, we weren’t getting property inspections, which is something I relied on.”
The Sarasota condominium manager said that the company had to bring in an outside contractor to sort out a “major amount of money” that was misplaced.
Then, six weeks ago, payroll issues began to surface.
“The first time (payroll checks bounced), everyone was surprised,” the Sarasota manager said. “The second time, everybody was just mad. Now, people are furious.”
Meanwhile, both condominium managers say that Callans hasn’t been in the office regularly for at least six months.
“When I was first hired, there was nothing she didn’t know about or give an OK for,” the Sarasota manager said.
As word of the company’s issues spread over the past few weeks, many associations began discussing how to move forward with their management.
Bob Simmons, president of the Grand Bay Community Association — which includes all seven Grand Bay associations — said that the association decided Saturday to cancel its contract with Beth Callans Management.
“We can confirm that we did terminate our relationship,” Simmons said.
The community will hire Rampart Properties to take over management.
Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association President Jay Yablon said that he learned of developing issues within the company approximately three weeks ago.
“We’ve taken precautions in the past several weeks based on information that this sort of thing could be happening,” he said. “We didn’t publish anything to our owners because we believed if there was a problem, it would come out independently, and, out of respect for Callans, we should not be publishing their problems.”
Bill Levine, president of the Bay Isles Association Master Association, said Monday that, although he had met with company officials, a resolution hadn’t been reached.
The Longboat Key condominium manager who spoke to the Longboat Observer said that his community canceled his contract with the company Monday and that he and the condominium’s other employees
would be hired by the condominium.
The Sarasota condominium manager said that many properties are making arrangements for employees to continue working at their communities. Additionally, some have made arrangements to give employees their paychecks — even though that means essentially paying a second time for expenses for which they were already billed.
Despite recent turmoil, at least one employee had good things to say about Callans.
“I have the greatest respect in the world for the lady,” he said. “She was very intelligent, and she was great with her employees.”