T.G. from Middlesex County writes:
Dear Mr. Condo,
I don’t really have a question, per se, but more of an observation:
Boards and representatives from management can single-handedly influence the life of an association. Associations led with respect and neighborly values have a greater chance of prospering than one that is led by condemnation and bullying. I happen to live in an association that falls into the ladder category.
The Board and management are dumbfounded as to why they have such a sparse turn out at open meetings and a lack of community interest in affairs of the organization. During meetings, they search for reasons as to why things so important go unattended. A majority of the few who do attend the open meetings, are board/management “groupies” (many of whom are the spouses or significant others of the Board members) who nod in unison like bobble heads to whatever their demigods say. Things typically move forward uneventfully with Old Business. Then, invariably, there is a topic that turns our board, management representative and the groupies into what can be characterized as high school drama queens. For those brave enough to stand with a comment or idea, as a singular unit the Board and management rep quickly dismisses the idea or comment if it is not in line with proper ideology.
The management rep uses the opportunity through his monthly report to single out those who have offended or spoken critically of him. The rep will never call the offenders by name, rather, by some derogatory noun. He stands on his soap box of editorial and opinion as he whirls up a frenzy in the room. The groupies pounce on whatever is getting the board or the rep in a tizzy, neutering those who deign to challenge this machine. The gossip flows. It is never flattering. The meeting is then adjourned.
I know many people in our association who fear this board and management. The fright is such that the owners refrain from making suggestions, complaints, voicing concerns or asking for due process whether in person or by letter. I have been told by several that they have to mind their “Ps and Qs” because they need their decking replaced or their door painted and to speak at meetings is to jeopardize their project. Those who have been taken to task at an open meeting will never set foot in one again. Likewise, those who have heard of the Board’s and management’s demeaning treatment don’t want to take a chance of being put in either of their crosshairs.
I anticipate your suggested answer to our plight: If enough people feel as strongly as do I, you should unite and run for Board positions. The fact is that people are too apprehensive to run against this Board–owners have been kowtowed and brought to heel. To even support an “outsider” causes them concern for repercussion if anyone was to find out. We are familiar with the word oppression in the news, it is broad, it is vast, it chills free expression and it crushes the spirit. Oppression lives in my Association’s backyard; it has marked us all.
Mister Condo replies:
T.G., based on that account, I am certainly glad I don’t live in the type of condo environment you have described. I do have a few suggestions as to how you can improve your association but you are right in your anticipation of my initial response. You describe your Board as self-centered and not serving in the best interest of their constituents. Yet, as far as I can tell, the membership returns them to power year after year. Your assertion that people are too apprehensive to run for the Board makes no sense to me. Running for the Board is the right and responsibility of all civic-minded residents. It is a difficult and challenging volunteer career but can also be most rewarding. In the case of your association, I would think it would be quite easy for the sitting Board to be dethroned. None of them drew Excalibur from the stone to be deemed ruler. They all serve at the will of the electorate. Get out the vote and get them out of office. If you don’t you truly have no one to blame if things don’t change.
As for any other form of abuse that comes at the hands of a Board member or a Property Manager, I would suggest contacting an attorney to see what rights you have. Derogatory nouns on the public record like that management report may just find the property manager on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Unlike your Board who is a group of unpaid volunteers, your Property Manager is a business person with concerns outside of your community. Report them to the Better Business Bureau, file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection, go after them on websites like Google, etc… Unprofessional behavior as you have described need not go unpunished. In a severe case, it could even cost them their license or their job. You need not suffer silently at the hands of a bully, especially one that makes its living off of your common fees. Fight the good fight. Good luck!