L.D. from Middlesex County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our executive board agreed unanimously to accept monies solicited by a Unit Owner from our vendors who wishes (along with a few other unit owners) to install a flagpole with lights in the community. By accepting this contribution, isn’t this a violation of the CHAPTER 828* COMMON INTEREST OWNERSHIP ACT Sec. 47-245
(j) No person shall provide or offer to any executive board member or a person seeking election as an executive board member, and no executive board member or person seeking election as an executive board member shall accept, any item of value based on any understanding that the vote, official action or judgment of such member or person seeking election would be or has been influenced thereby.
The Board unanimously voted to do this because the money influenced them and this is verified in the minutes that they accepted this money under these circumstances, thanking the solicitor for their initiative. So they made this decision without involving the community at large stating they have the power as the Executive Board to make changes to the Common Elements. This has upset the community as they feel they have been railroaded into something that is going to have maintenance and other expenses going forward and needs more due diligence before pursuing. People that question it are being called unpatriotic which is unfair. This community already allows people to display the American Flag and many do. What is your take on this? Are they breaking the law? What remedies do we have? If they are not, how can we put a hold on this and make it a community based vote not just the BOD. Thank you.
Mister Condo replies:
L.D., my first instinct was to tell you that there is a big difference between the association accepting money from vendors (which is allowed) and individual Board members accepting money (definitely not allowed, sound the alarms!). I asked a friend of mine who practices community association law in our state for a further opinion. Here is what the attorney had to offer:
“The statute you’ve referenced was enacted to prevent bribing board members to influence their official actions. As you describe what happened, apparently money was given to the association itself rather than for board members to keep personally. Doing this is not illegal or even uncommon. For example, some laundry machine services will give condominiums a percentage of the revenue from coin-operated machines used on-site, and some cable or satellite television companies will pay an association a cash stipend to help market their products to incoming purchasers.
Generally, the board does have the power to decide whether to change the common elements or to install something on them, like a flagpole. The bylaws of some communities may restrict this power, often by capping the dollar amount which can be spent on the change without a unit owner vote. You should carefully review your association’s bylaws for such a provision and consider talking to an attorney about what rights you may have if it has been violated.”
Sounds like great advice to me. All the best!