Q&A: Fair Election

Q One of our board members has been president for many years. She runs the building on a unilateral basis, giving out very little information about the business of the condo. Unit owners have little influence because the she is elected by the board, not by unit owners. When it comes to elections, she controls them. Our accounting firm runs the election. After the ballots are cast, the president (who is also one of the candidates) takes all of the ballots and mails them to the accounting firm. Is that fair? The accounting firm counts the votes, and I’m sure they do it in an honorable way, but what if the president has already manipulated the ballots? We want to get a fair count? Who should we go to deal with this?

—Ethical Unit Owner

A “The bylaws of a condominium provide for the procedures and requirements of the calling and holding of the annual meeting of the unit owners and the election of the board of managers,” says Dennis H. Greenstein, Esq., a partner at the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Manhattan. “The bylaws generally state that an annual meeting of the unit owners shall be held by a certain date each year and that one of the purposes of the meeting is the election of the board of managers. They further state that all unit owners may attend the meeting in person or by a proxy given to another person. A notice must be sent to all unit owners stating the date, place and time of the meeting and the business purposes of such meeting.

“It is not uncommon for board members to be reelected, however, the ballots for each election should be delivered to the inspectors of the election (to be appointed at the beginning of the meeting) and thereafter tabulated by them. It is highly irregular and is not appropriate for any person running for the board to receive the ballots or have access to them. Each of the inspectorsof the electionshould receive the ballots at the meeting, tabulate and submit an affidavit confirming that the tabulation of the ballots was properlyperformed. If time does not reasonably allow the complete tabulation of the votes by the time the meeting is adjourned, the inspectors should be given the ballots and complete the process the next day. In any event, the results should be posted so that all of the unit owners will be informed of the names of the individuals elected to the board.

“If the letter writer or any other unit owner wishes to run for the board or support other candidates to run for the board, they should solicit proxies since many unit owners may not attend the meeting. Generally the bylaws provide in voting for board members, that each unit owner receives one vote for each amount of the common interests of the condominium which he or she ownsand the candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall be elected. The Condominium Act requires that at least one third of the board be elected each year.

“In the eventa unit owner believes that there was an irregularity in the election,the following options may be available: 1)an application to the court challenging the election to determine if itwas properly conducted, and possibly ruling that another meeting must be held for a new election; 2) a special meetingmay be called forthe election of a new board; or 3) the unit owners may seek to remove a board member or members. The bylaws of the condominium must be reviewed to determine how some of the above actions may be taken and what requirements must be met to proceed with such actions.”

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Comments

  • I live in a condominium that has about 170 units. We just had an election of Board of trustees. About 120 units representing 67% of total beneficial interest voted. However our condominium document dose not provide guidance on how the votes should be counted. Shall each unit be given one vote or shall the votes be tabulated based on the beneficial interest of each unit (in our condo association, the beneficial interest of each unit varies from 0.2% to 0.8%)? Thank you in advance for your advice!