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Ask an Expert: How can we kick this bully off the board?

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Q. For the past 20 years, the board of my co-op has been controlled by one man.  If you do not do as he wants, he forces you off the board. He will not let us speak at meetings, makes major expenditures without telling the shareholders, makes and changes house rules for the benefit of himself and his friends and often at the expense of other shareholders.  

Due to his bullying, a doorman is going to sue the building, which will cost us all lots of money. We want him off the board but somehow he gets enough proxy votes to continue. Some suspect proxy fraud. 

Can you help us?

A. He may be a bully, but your co-op is a democracy, so your best move is to get him voted off, say our experts.

Write a letter to your neighbors sharing your concerns, and organize an opposition group to "solicit a sufficient number of proxies to elect a slate of candidates at the next annual meeting that does not include the long entrenched board president," says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.

Avoid running a negative compaign, however, which "is never a good direction for a building," says Michael Wolfe, a property manager and president of Midboro Management. Instead, he says, "Campaign diplomatically--emphasizing background, experience and what you wish to accomplish."

Your opposition group should collect its own proxy votes, though "some owners may be afraid not to give their proxy to the bully," says asset manager and real estate broker Roberta Axelrod of Time Equities.

As far as your suspicions of proxy fraud, says Wolfe, "inspectors of election--managing agent, attorney, accountant--are supposed to be appointed to verify the vote, including examination of all proxies." 


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