Question: My large homeowners association has six employees, including office personnel and maintenance. Two employees were laid off and two quit. One board of directors member is very friendly with the manager, and they dine together. I just learned that three of the four employees hired to fill those openings are relatives of our property manager. The jobs her relatives took were changed to accommodate their work habits. Some of one maintenance employee's duties were shifted to another maintenance worker who is overloaded. Another relative hired as a security guard takes long lunches and breaks and walks around aimlessly while two guards pick up his slack. When I questioned the board member, he told me personnel matters are confidential and he wouldn't discuss it. Owners fear the manager and are afraid to attend meetings or speak up because if anyone questions her she will make up violations, haul the owners into hearings and fine them. What recourse do owners have against the manager and against the board?
Answer: Management incompetence can be costly to owners.
Although your property manager may believe that nepotism is acceptable, your board does not have to permit it. It is the association that hires, pays salaries and sets the job descriptions for employees. The board also has a duty to supervise all its employees and vendors, and if they cannot perform, they should be terminated, including managers.
Write the board regarding your observations and concerns. Any injuries or damage that might occur to people or property because of the guard's "slacking off," for example, could result in liability, which the association would have to pay.
Civil Code section 1357.100 outlines what steps must be taken before rules are valid. If the manager's so-called violations were not created in accordance with those requirements, put the board on notice. Owners have an obligation to demand their boards follow the law. Owners should not ignore "made up" violations but challenge them in writing to the board, forcing the board to prove a violation is lawful and just.
The late Stephen Glassman, an attorney specializing in corporate and business law, co-wrote this column. Vanitzian is an arbitrator and mediator. Send questions to P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.