Welcome Aboard. . .Now What? Help for New Board Members

Tom Marcossan laughs when he remembers joining the board as treasurer when his building went co-op in 1986. "I was stupid. I didn't read the magazines available or take advantage of any organizations out there. We were the first board the building had. We learned mostly by knocking our heads together," says Marcossan, who has since become president of his 340-unit Greenwich Village co-op.

Marcossan is not alone in the head-knocking category. Although there are numerous resources, legal documents and organizations available for aiding green board members, experts say few utilize them. Sadly, some are not even aware of groups like the Council of New York Cooperatives, which provide support and educational opportunities for board members. In fact, there is a support network out there for new board members, if they are willing to look around and put the time in to learn the ropes.

Board Basics

Board members are elected by the shareholders during the annual meeting which usually takes place in the spring. Any shareholders who cannot attend the meeting can give their voting rights to another shareholder to cast for them in the form of proxies. Board officers, including president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, are designated by the directors alone but, advises attorney Craig Schiller of Schiller & Associates, It's usually best if the board is in unanimous agreement over who should be an officer.

Different responsibilities come along with the different titles that make up the officers of the board. Briefly, the president, under the bylaws and general Business Corporation Law (BCL), is in charge of all board and shareholder meetings and can set agendas for meetings, as well as appoint committees. The treasurer cares for and maintains the corporation's funds, approving all payments of bills by the managing agent and overseeing the income the building collects from commercial tenants and other sources. The secretary's main function is to record the minutes of board meetings, while the vice president acts as a stand-in for the president if and when that person is absent or unable to act in that role.

The ideal candidate for the board is someone who can bring his or her professional expertise to work for the co-op. Certainly that was a consideration when Elizabeth Brown, board president of the Dorchester, an East 50s co-op, approached Curtis D. Deane to run for the board. Being president of a real estate firm that owns co-ops, Elizabeth and the board knew I already had experience in this area and wouldn't need to be told much to understand what needed to be done for the corporation, explains Deane, who came on board in May.

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