S.U. from Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our condo association Zoom 2020 Annual Meeting conducted in November had two main items on the agenda: elect 3 officers and ratify or reject the 2021 budget approved by the board. The proposed budget resulted in the monthly condo fee increase. The meeting package sent to unit owners included the ballots for the board election and ballots to reject the budget. Both ballots should be presented to the property manager on the day before the meeting, at the latest. The first item on the agenda, voting for the board election, took longer than expected, because each of 24 participating unit owners voted openly via zoom for 6 candidates. Property manager then tabulated the votes, but did not provide information how many votes were received via ballots. There was no verification of the tabulation for correctness.
After that agenda item was “completed”, the board decided to table (postpone) the voting on the budget, explaining that at that point the meeting was already taking too long. The Board president also stated that he cannot supply information to unit owners how many ballots rejecting the budget property manager received ahead of the meeting, despite demand for such information made by unit owners.
Is it legal for the board to “table” unit owners voting on the budget because the organization of the meeting failed? Is it legal for the board to withdraw information how many unit owners rejected the budget via budget ballots ahead of the meeting? I have lived in the condo for 16 years and never experience such problems with the budget ratification or annual meeting. What action should the unit owners undertake at this time? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Mister Condo replies:
S.U., I am sorry that you had such a disjointed condo Annual Meeting. It is required in your by-laws that the Annual Meeting be held and election of officers and ratification or rejection of the budget occurs. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. If you truly need legal advice, you should seek the opinion of a qualified attorney. That being said, I want to ask you a practical question. Was the approved budget likely to have passed at the meeting had the vote been held? Was it so egregious or out of line that homeowner would have voted against it. The Board also has the ability to pass the budget and consider it ratified unless enough homeowners vote against it. In other words, it isn’t just the folks who attended the meeting who have a say. The same is true for the election of Board Members. Because your condominium association is a Connecticut corporation, it is imperative that accurate records are kept of all votes. That includes legitimate proxies submitted in accordance with the association’s rules on doing so. If neither the Board nor the Property Manager can produce records that satisfy homeowners, they could face a legal challenge from any of the homeowners who wish to sue them. Of course, that requires a lawsuit and the expense and effort that goes along with it. Zoom meetings are here to stay for a while. It is important that Boards and Property Managers become adept with the technology and realize that the record-keeping requirements do not change just because there is a virtual meeting. I truly hope no harm was done to your association because of this sloppy record-keeping. My advice would be to look at the outcome and decide if it is worth challenging. By the time the next Annual Meeting comes around, it is likely the meeting will be live and in person, eliminating the need for a virtual meeting but never diminishing the need for accurate record-keeping. All the best!
1 thought on “Condo’s Zoom Annual Meeting Creates Chaos”
Voting is a serious matter, except when it is not. When voting is lopsided or when all are apathetic or just happy that enough candidates are runnin, then nobody pays much attention. Yet when it gets serious, if its not done well then what happened to S.U. can easily occur.
Election procedures must be created in advance and adhered to. What is needed is what is termed Evidence Based Elections, where everyone can trust the results, see and verify the votes for themselves and trust the security of the ballots. That’s a tall order for public elections, especially when they involve a secret ballot. Where everyone can see everyone else vote (in person or on Zoom) is the simplest form of an evidence base election. Another is a system without a secret ballot where everyone can see every vote associated with each voter and voters can successfully dispute that they actually voted the way that was claimed. A secret ballot makes this much harder – how do you know the Manager counted accurately? How do you know that nobody substituted or modified ballots? – that’s all possible yet it takes a lot of expertise, planning, and vigilance.