Q&A: Shady Election

Q I live in a condominium and we just had our annual election. Each year, new people run for the board, but the existing board members solicit proxies in order to remain on the board. As a result, five “old-timers” seem to make all the decisions on our nine-member board.

This year, the election seemed a little shady, because one of the owners received a call from our managing agent the day before the meeting to say, “if you are not coming to the meeting, send me your proxy.” During the election, board members handed in over twenty proxies, and I wonder how many of them were obtained by the managing agent.

Our proxies are not absentee ballots, but the right to vote for whatever business comes before the board. I can not understand why it is so important for these “old-timers” to be board members. It is such a thankless job. And I can not understand why our managing agent is so committed to helping them remain on the board. Do you have anysuggestions?

—Upper West Side Owner

A “Most condominium buildings follow the same procedures for holding annual meetings and elections,” says David L. Berkey, Esq. of the law firm of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP in Manhattan. “The existing board of managers either through a nominating committee or as a board usually recommends a slate of officers to run for the new board. In the absence of ‘term limits’ in the condominium bylaws, existing members of the board of managers are not prohibited from running for office in successive years. It is quite common for board members to serve on the board for many consecutive terms. That is because they believe they are doing a good job for the building, may work well together as a group, and may even enjoy the fact that they are in a position of authority, despite the hours of work required and the thankless nature of some of the work to be done.

“It is often beneficial for a condominium or a cooperative to have new ideas presented to the board for consideration by newly elected board members. If your building does not have term limits and you want to get ‘new blood’ on the board, you have to

use the political process of encouraging ‘new’ unit owners to run for the board, convincing other unit owners to vote for the new candidates and collecting proxies from those that can not attend the meeting so their votes can be cast for the new members.

“Some boards and nominating committees will send a mailing to the unit owners asking unit owners to nominate candidates for the board. If a bylaw (or voting procedure adopted by the full board) provides that nominations are to be received by a particular date and that no floor nominations will be considered at the annual meeting, then only candidates nominated by the stated date may run for office. If your building uses this procedure, be sure to nominate the ‘new’ unit owners to run as candidates for the board by the cut-off date. In the absence of a cut-off date for nominations, the unit owners should be permitted to nominate candidates for the board of managers at the annual meeting.

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