When it comes to board members pushing their own pet projects, stalling meetings, and generally gumming up their building’s administrative works for selfish reasons, Chris Ebert, senior property manager of Downtown Properties in Manhattan, feels like he’s seen it all. But the memory of one particular board member’s personal agenda stands out in particular.
“One board member just kept trying to convince the other members that this certain contractor wasn’t needed for a particular job, even though everyone knew he was wrong,” says Ebert. “Turns out he just didn’t want to pay for his share of the project— and he ended up taking up 3-1/2 hours of meeting time. They had a very long agenda, but nothing else got done. Finally, one board member walked out of the meeting.”
Granted, we all have personal agendas. After all, it’s part of human nature to want things for ourselves and our loved ones. Most of us vote for political candidates based on what they would do to benefit us personally. Parents typically join the PTA or a school committee because their child is in the school, and they want to make certain their child receives the best benefits possible—they don’t tend to remain on that committee or PTA group when their child moves on to another school.
When it comes to co-op and condo boards, many members join because they have a personal issue that’s important to them and they want to see it through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when those personal agendas and pet projects encroach on a board meeting, stir up controversy and discord, or prevent other important business issues from being conducted, it can become troublesome and even downright libelous.
“The worst is when a board member comes on to use the board as a profit center,” says Adam Leitman Bailey, an attorney and founding partner of Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. in Manhattan. Bailey remembers a board member who would reject the buyer of every unit that came up for sale, and then purchase the unit when it was put back on the market at a discounted price. That situation—in which Bailey represented a rejected buyer—eventually went to court.