can a condo board remove a member??

discrimination article, revisited
Christine Haughney’s March 7 Appraisal feature in the New York Times (East Side, West Side, Bias Claims Abound) made a big splash in the inter-tubes, with many comments about the merits (or lack thereof) in the claims by unit owners at Manhattan condominium Trafalgar House that the condo board discriminated against them because one of the couple is Hispanic; there was even some commentary about the mustache on the “investigative” reporter who figures in the story. All that is very interesting, of course (even the mustache), but one aspect of the story jumped out at me:

Speaking with Mr. Diaz apparently cost Ms. Bruni her seat on the condo board, which removed her on the ground that she had brought negative attention to the building, according to court papers.

The condo board “removed” a member for doing something the board did not like?? That is clearly what Ms. Haughney reports, citing “court papers”, so I have to assume that the plaintiffs made that allegation in the lawsuit.

2 things:

  • I did not know that condo boards had that authority
  • condo boards don’t (usually) have that authority
  • (okay … a third thing) the condo board at Trafalgar House does not have that authority

Section 4 of Article 2 of the By-Laws of Trafalgar House (in the condo declaration, which is available on ACRIS, page 22 of 52) describes the process for removing a board member:

Any member of the Board of Managers may be removed with or without cause by a Majority in Common Interest of the Unit Owners …. Any member of the Board of Managers whose removal has been proposed by the Unit Owners shall be given an opportunity to be heard at the meeting.

I believe that this is a standard condo declaration clause in Manhattan; certainly under this clause, the power to remove a board member is not vested in the board but in the unit owners. It takes a majority of owners to get elected to the board; it takes a majority of owners to get removed from the board; and the election and removal need both be done at meetings of the unit owners.

I don’t know whether Ms. Haughney got the facts wrong, as alleged in the complaint, or whether she got the allegations right and the board ‘did’ something it did not have the power to do (‘remove’ a board member). If a condo board had this kind of power, that would be something unit owners would want to know, I suspect.

should that be a removable act?
I suspect that in almost all situations in which a unit owner does something that the press finds interesting, some other unit owner is going to be mad that the building got the publicity, for fear that it (a) subjects the condo to unwanted scrutiny, that (b) reduces the value of condos in the building. In the case in the NY Times Appraisal, the shareholder talked to a news reporter about a dispute with another shareholder, a form of airing dirty linen outside the ‘family’. Personally, I don’t see a problem with these folks defending themselves in the press, as they are the defendants in a lawsuit filed by the neighbor, but I guess other unit owners were more sensitive about that.

I have touched on this dirty linen problem before, in two posts about 9 months ago: June 3, 2010, suing, shaming + publicizing your problems / a fraught cost-benefit analysis, and June 1, 2010, the politics, wisdom or inanity of airing dirty linen about your coop or condo. One of those posts dealt with a considered decision by a condo board to go very public with their complaints that the developer had built a building with a lot of defects; the other dealt with what seemed like a very childish dispute between board members in a coop.

In both cases, the publicity could be anticipated to reduce market value of everyone’s unit in the building, but in the case of the considered board decision the board hoped that going public was bitter medicine that might help cure the problems. In the other case, at least some board members acted like idiots, by exchanging emails,

that dissolved into name-calling and taunts about board members’ height, spouses, intellect and virility [,]

behavior about which the Board president said "personal attacks and profanity continued at a May 25 [board] meeting".

Nothing like a pissing contest in the New York Times to prove to potential buyers that your coop is run by some idiots!

But I would not think that the remedy for such behavior is ‘removal’, but (electoral) defeat: the time-honored remedy of throw the bums out!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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