A recent court case has brought up an interesting situation for condominiums. In the case of Gordon v. York Region Condominium Corporation No. 818 et al, Stanley Gordon, a former director of YRCC #818, was suing the condominium after the Board removed him from office for violating the condominium’s Code of Ethics on three different situations.
Mr. Gordon is alleged to have broken the Code of Ethics on a number of occasions, and the Board’s claims include: “assaulting the president of the board; making disparaging remarks about members of the board and property management in public at the ACMO/CCI conference, and two other instances where it was alleged he tried to usurp the powers of the board, misused his position on the board, and instigated conflict.(Source: Straight From the Source article posted on the Canadian Condominium Institute – Toronto and Area Chapter’s Facebook account.)
The Board held an ‘ethics review’, per By-law #9 of the condominium, and decided to remove Mr. Gordon from office, and subsequently filled the vacancy. Mr. Gordon then filed a lawsuit against the condominium and the Board members in order to have his removal overturned, and to declare that the By-law is not valid.
The Judge, when the case was heard in Superior Court, declared that the By-law was legitimate, but that the Board had 90 days to hold another ethics review. Mr. Gordon appealed, and lost on appeal.
This case creates two issues with condominiums: 1) How do you determine what is deemed to be “disparaging remarks“?, and 2) How do you stop a Board from using such a By-law to remove directors who disagree with the majority or want to make changes?
The disparaging remarks issue the most difficult one in my opinion. What you might consider to be a disparaging remark might actually be the truth. While it might be prudent to be careful how often you make a negative remark, to who you make these remarks, or when you make these remarks, it should be noted that the Board should be careful when using these remarks as grounds for removal. The truth may hurt, but the truth is always better.
The second issue can also be a problem. Say, the owners elect someone director who wants to make changes to how things are done in the condominium. If the rest of the Board does not want to make these changes, they could potentially use this type of By-law to remove the director. Mr. Gordon made this point in court, the the courts did not seem to understand this.
In my opinion, if a condominium wants to pass a similar By-law, there should be an independent review of the allegations. This way, the Board cannot use the By-law to remove directors they do not like.