by Dan Tiernan, COO, Campbell Property Management
This is an ongoing series where we will explain the meaning of an unusual or interesting word; words or phrase that is relevant in community association management. Hence the name – What is that Word Wednesdays!
We have all read about Condo Commandos. This is a derogatory reference used to describe over-zealous directors of condominium and homeowners associations that abuse their powers for personal reasons.This is not an urban legend – there are some association directors that believe their position grants them the powers of a dictator. Condo Commandos do exist and it is up to the owners in the communities to fight back against these tyrants. Most owners that take on this fight against unscrupulous board members are doing it for a valid, logical reason, based on the appearance of a real problem or problems.
Unfortunately, some of the owners in your community may be accusing your Board and/or Manager of all kinds of evil doings, when in fact everything is above board, legal and ethical. There may be no evidence of any problem, but that will not discourage people from complaining, particularly if they are conspiracy theorists, paranoid, uninformed or just mean-spirited.
We call this kind of person a “Recreational Dissident”. It is their hobby to complain, accuse and abuse people in charge of managing and leading associations, when there is not evidence of wrong doing. The requests made by these kinds of people can create a huge distraction to the board and staff. These distractions waste the time of paid staff and volunteer board members, increase expenses and distract associations from retaining focus on the real issues of the community.
Here are some best practices for dealing with these recreational dissidents:
1. Understanding – it is always best to try and understand what the person is looking for – so ask them. This might help you provide them more or different information that will help them address their concern. If they do not have a clear purpose or goal, that is also a big clue that you are likely dealing with a recreational dissident.
2. Transparency – don’t try and delay or refuse their access to records, this just validates their accusation that you are “hiding something.”
3. Discovery – if the record requests are comprehensive or complex, this does not obligate the board or management company to sift through records looking for the information. Put the burden on the owner to look through the records (with supervision) and find it themselves. If you have paper records, e.g., you can provide them access to boxes of information for past years.
4. Control – if it becomes a burden, the Board of Directors has a right (subject to restrictions in the governing documents) to control the frequency of inspections and amount of time for inspections.
Has your community had this issue? How did you deal with it?
Legal disclaimer – I am not an attorney and I do not play one on TV. This should not be considered legal advice.