Q&A: Estate and Ownership Transfers Q&A: Bad Board President

Q&A: Estate and Ownership Transfers
Q Several years ago the board president of our condo association was removed from his position after he was caught manipulating votes and actually coercing senior citizens in the building to sign blank papers and say they were proxies. He made copies of the proxies by putting the resident owner’s signature over the real proxies and then voted for the people he wanted around him. When the new regime took over, all of the files were gone. The president was actually seen packing file boxes in his auto. The new regime didn't want to go backwards and let him off the hook. Next, the old board president had expensive surveillance cameras put in the building. It was told to me by a reliable source that he had surveillance cameras put in his apartment to watch other shareholders in the common areas.

Are there any laws or regulations that prohibit a unit owner or a shareholder to watch other building residents on private surveillance cameras? Also, I believe the old president has hidden the building files in a storage facility which I saw him go in/out several times. Is this enough to build a case against him?

—Keeping Secrets in Sarasota

A “Your inquiry raises several questions,” says Lisa A. Magill, a shareholder attorney with the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm of Becker & Poliakoff. “First, the use of proxies in the election of directors of a condominium association has generally been prohibited since 1992, so the former president should not have been given the opportunity to manipulate proxies in order to control the election. Please ensure your association follows the election procedures set forth in Section 718.112(2)(d), Florida Statutes and Chapter 61B-23 of the Florida Administrative Code.

“Second, there may be a question as to whether the security cameras were installed in compliance with your condominium documents and Florida law. Generally, the installation of security cameras would be considered a material alteration or substantial improvement to the common elements of the condominium, thus prompting a vote of the owners if the declaration does not authorize the board to make material alterations. Arbitrators appointed by the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes only permit boards to act under the “necessary maintenance” exception when a “convincing factual predicate exists such that the board’s action was necessary to protect the common elements or inhabitants from a known danger” (quoting from Dellagrotta v. West Coast Vista Condominium Association, Inc.; Arb. Final Order dated October 4, 2013).

“That being said, the way you explained it the security cameras are clearly property of the association and thus the Board of Directors should have complete control over any monitoring, maintenance or viewing of a live feed from the cameras. It is appropriate for the association’s current board of directors to demand return of any equipment installed in the former president’s unit as a common expense. Your board of directors should consult with the original vendor to verify whether or not the initial installation or subsequent modifications included this equipment or whether there are features that allow remote access to the video. There may be a need to change passwords or update the feeds.

“Finally, while you describe a problem that is far too common in community associations, it would be unwise for the association to pursue a cause of action against the former president based upon pure speculation that association records are contained in a storage facility. This is especially true due to lack of action on the part of the board of directors seated immediately after the former president was ousted from office.”

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