Today I would like to talk about Gerry Hyman’s latest article. There was a question which brings up an important issue:
QUESTION: I asked at the last AGM why the property manager used a company located 126 kilometres from our condo for paving work and whether tenders had been received from local contractors. One of the board members was about to respond when the property manager advised her that the owners elect the board to make decisions and that the directors do not have to defend their decisions. Was I not entitled to an answer?
ANSWER: Absolutely! The Condominium Act provides: “At an annual general meeting, an owner may raise for discussion any matter relevant to the affairs and business of the corporation.”
Yes, an owner is entitled to ask this type of question, and if the property manager does not want the owners to know the answer, which this question clearly suggests, one has to wonder why. If the contractor had the best quote, or provided another benefit (i.e. they would do the work when the Board was planning to do the work, or had a faster schedule to complete the project, etc.) the owners are entitled to know this.
This also demonstrates that the Board needs to take a course in the Condominium Act as the President, in his/her capacity as Chairman of the meeting, should have ruled the manager out of order and either answered the question himself/herself or allowed the other director to answer on the Board’s behalf. This question demonstrates that the Board either wants to hide something, or the manager does, or both do as there is no reason to refuse to answer the question. But it could also simply be an unaware Board and a manager who is being allowed to take advantage of the situation.
Another question that was raised was:
QUESTION: Our hotly contested election of directors was decided by the proxy votes. The board retained the proxies for 90 days as required by the Condominium Act. The board made copies of the proxies available to an owner who asked to examine them but deleted the names and unit numbers of the voters. Is that acceptable?
ANSWER: The right of an owner to examine the corporation’s records does not extend to records relating to any other owner or unit. I am of the opinion that deletion of information that reveals how a particular owner voted complies with the act.
While it seems fair for the owners to see the whole proxy, it would mean that the ballot vote is no longer secret. If the owner wants to make sure that the vote was fair, the owner could take the issue to court and allow a judge to determine the legality of the proxies. But if the tally – i.e. the final vote – is the issue, the owner does not need to know who voted, just that the number of votes equalled the number of ballots that each candidate received.
Of course, this question generates two issues that can, and should, resolve issues concerning elections amongst other things:
- That condominium owners need an Ombudsman’s Office that an owner can appeal to if he/she believes that there was not a fair vote. The Ombudsman’s Office can be trusted to look at the proxies, determine if they meet the ‘letter of the law’ (i.e. that it is obvious what the owner intended) and that the vote was correct.
- That the number of proxies need to be restricted to no more than two per person. That means there will be less proxies as many Boards go ‘proxy crazy’ before a meeting and get as many proxies as possible to ensure ‘their candidates’ (namely themselves and their buddies) are elected or re-elected. This is obviously not fair to anyone but those who want to remain in power. And if someone does not attend a meeting to hear what the candidates have to say, how do they know who will make the best director.
So, let’s have some democracy and hold our Boards of Directors accountable for their actions and make annual meetings a fair and democratic meeting.