Condo Drama of the Highest Order

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H.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We had a pipe freeze of our sprinkler system in a unit that was under foreclosure. The Property Manager took no preventive action prior to a severe cold snap to ensure the utilities were on in the foreclosed unit. The Property Manager resigned effective 4/30/15 during a heated Board meeting when he was trying to gain control over the repair and reconstruction of the common area and 5 damaged units. He reiterated his resignation in an unauthorized email he sent to all the owners and negatively spoke about some board members. He has since garnered supporters and shopped around a petition for owner signatures for two actions: 1) to remove 2 of 7 Board members who scrutinize his performance and 2) to retain his services. The President of the Board of Directors is suspected to be involved with the petition. The Secretary also involved with the petition gets periodically employed as a handy man by the association and has maneuvered to providing management of the freeze repair without going through any bidding or review process. There has been discussion of conflict of interest but little action to fix the situation. The Secretary refuses to share the petition and signatures with the other Board members. The President is refusing to follow the bylaws and hold a meeting to discuss the petition. We are in the middle of soliciting bids for a new management company. I’m the Vice President and I am one of the targeted Board members named on the petition. Do you have any advice on this craziness other than thank the owners who want my resignation and wash my hands of it?

Mister Condo replies:

H.H., that is quite a drama your association has going on there. Backroom dealing, conspiracies, political maneuvering, personal agendas… Get me some popcorn; I want to see how this movie ends!

Sorry to make light of such a serious subject but emails like yours always have me shaking my head in disbelief over how far astray basic community association governance can go when the wrong people get into office. Let’s start with the Property Manager. If he has resigned and broken his contract with the association then he needs to be out of the picture. Property Managers are not allowed to petition association members for anything unless under direct order from the Board to do so. Based on what you have told me, I’d contact an attorney and threaten with a lawsuit if he does not cease and desist at once any and all further involvement with this association unless he is offered a new contract. The old contract is now broken with his resignation. Depending on your state, you should also report him to the Department of Consumer Affairs or other government agency that oversees Property Managers. If you live in a state that requires licensing for Property Managers you may even ask that they revoke his license based on this behavior.

The impropriety exhibited by your Board Secretary borders on criminal and is another matter for an attorney. Awarding of jobs without bids is likely not allowed under your bylaws. The Secretary who is receiving money from the association for Handy Man work may be in violation of your bylaws and even local law. This is another item for an attorney to bring suit if necessary. I am not sure what your President has done exactly other than behave unethically if he is working outside of the association bylaws.

Legal action aside, this has become a political “battle royale” within your association. If enough association members are fed up with these shenanigans, a recall election should be sought. Depending on your state and your bylaws there is a specific procedure to follow. If typical residents aren’t fed up or they just don’t seem to care, I would resign from the Board and pay close attention to the dealing and actions of the Board. Clearly, I wouldn’t want to serve on such a suspicious Board and I would want nothing to do with this personal agenda-driven Property Manager. But you may be in the minority and there may not be too much you can realistically do about it. You can seek your own attorney to bring action against the Board for improprieties and violations of the association’s governance rules. If your state has an agency concerned with the dealing of Boards and Property Managers you should most definitely gather as much evidence as you can and report them. Condo associations are businesses and, as such, have to be run in an open and legal environment. If they are not doing so, well-meaning unit owners like you can bring them to justice. Good luck and please keep me posted.

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