Most condo owners do not know how board elections are suppose to be run so that the elections are fair and reflect their true desires. This ignorance gives the incumbents, the property manager and the condo lawyer the ability to manipulate the process.
Board elections are often manipulated by board presidents, property managers and lawyers who do know what they are doing and have no desire to lose cash-cow accounts.
When Florida appointed America’s first Condominium Ombudsman, one task he had was to appoint election monitors to conduct board of director elections. Preventing election misconduct and manipulation was seen as a priority.
In his book, Condo Board Election Revolt, Valmore Lucier listed 50 different ways condo elections in Florida were tampered with. I have not come across that many stunts but after talking with condo owners here in the Greater Toronto Area, I have complied a fairly impressive list.
|1.||The AGM package requests that owners drop off their completed proxies at the management office. Then, manager can:|
a.) Encourage owners to change their proxy.
b.) A few of the proxies, that support a challenger to the incumbents
|2.||A senior lives in a unit that is registered in her son's name and hands in a proxy. It is accepted only if it helps the incumbents.|
|3.||If a board-friendly owner is in arrears for more than 30 days, his proxy will be accepted.|
|4.||At a recent special owners meeting, a proxy was submitted for an owner who died two months prior to the mailing of the meeting information packages.|
|5.||Altering a candidate's election leaflet by removing the second language text that is read by 65% of the owners that can't read English.|
|6.||The property manager manned the registration desk. When registration was complete, he left the room to converse with the president. It was obvious that the owners will replace the entire three-person board so the manager returned to the meeting room and told the owners that the meeting was cancelled because the president, despite having four security guards hired for the occasion, was afraid for his personal safety. So, no meeting, no vote, no change.|
|7.||Telling absentee owners that they can sign their name to their blank proxy and they will fill in the rest.|
|8.||When a board-friendly owner, (who has already handed in a proxy), shows up, the registrar gives her a ballot. (Two votes.)|
|9.||If the management company and the board are afraid of losing their positions at a requisition meeting, they schedule the owners meeting very early in a month.|
Then they "lose" a few monthly condo fee or special assessment cheques so certain owners are over 30 days in arrears. Therefore they lost their right to vote.
|10.||When an opponent asks for an owners' list, the manager stalls as long as possible and then gives the owner a dated one.|
|11.||The chair uses the position to limit debate and consistently rule in favour of the board.|
|12.||Hold a requisition meeting at an inconvenient time, day and place such as a hotel room on a Friday evening or on a Saturday morning.|
If a lot of owner-residents work, hold the meeting at 6:00 pm on a workday with registration from 5:30 pm to 6:00 pm. This will inconvenience some commuters and parents with small children.
|13.||Stuff the ballot box with forged proxies.|
|14.||Intimidating or bribing the owners for their proxies.|
|15.||Once the ballots had been counted, the manager "found" a couple more in her pocket that she added to the tally.|
|16.||When he saw the ballots laid out on the table, and it was obvious he lost his position, the president—who was chairing the meeting— shouts out that the meeting is over and he stormed out of the room.|
Later the corporation lawyer, who was not present during the meeting, claimed that the Annual General Meeting technically did not happen because no one took minutes.
|17.||After the balloting, the manager, the district manager and the three directors go into a locked room and count the proxies and ballots. No owners are allowed to observe.|
When they come out, they declare that the bylaw was passed.
How to discourage fraud
I would love to write a guide on how to eliminate election fraud but unless the Condominium Act is radically changed, I don't think that it is possible.
However, it is possible to discourage election fraud by:
|1.||Have as many owners as possible learn the Nathan's Meeting Rules that deal with Annual General Meetings so they know what is going on during the owners' meetings.|
|2.||If possible, get a bylaw passed stating that the chair for all owners' meetings must be a disinterested third party.|
|3.||Demand that the owners have the volunteer scruintineers monitor the registration process prior to the start of the meeting along with counting the ballots.|
|4.||If the chair is openly biased, call a motion to replace the chair.|
|5.||If you suspect that fraud is likely, have a lawyer, who is experienced|
in condominium law, attend the meeting. Insure that he or she has a
|6.||If you think that there are proxy irregularities, demand to inspect the ballots and the proxies during the meeting, not afterwards.|
|7.||If you suspect election fraud, say so at the meeting and demand that your suspicions be recorded in the minutes. If you do not complain about the irregularities then, it harms your credibility later in court.|
Preventing election misconduct and manipulation must become a priority.