Condo Corruption: Don’t Be A Victim
Many Jersey Shore residents value the benefits of living in a condominium association. One of the main perks is not being responsible for outdoor maintenance including landscaping and snow removal. However, there is a dark side that has recently received some attention.
Several cases of corruption have become public, including a Rockland County treasurer who pleaded guilty to taking over $13,000. In a separate case, an NJ condo association president pleaded guilty to embezzling over $50,000 from the association. According to Community Associations Network on October 12, 2017, an Egg Harbor Twp man was accused of stealing over $350,000 over the period of seven years from the Club at Galloway Condo Association.
Another area of concern is the act of management and board members receiving kickbacks from vendors. Residents feel violated when they place their trust in board members and managing agents only to learn of their unethical behaviors and other undesirable practices as they manipulate the process to advance their own self-interests. In 2016, Deborah Goonan wrote an article about condo association abuse in South Florida, which included condo election and financial fraud. The Miami Herald reported a case where 84 signatures were forged in fraudulent ballots submitted in the annual board member election. Other “take-over” schemes include rigging the association’s elections by printing phony ballots and discarding others. Here are some tips to protecting yourself if you live in a condominium association:
- Encourage transparency of all decision making and spending.
- See if the management firm participates in Community Associations Institute (CAI) responsible for continuing education and credentialing for their managers.
- 2 people can sign off on checks over a certain amount
- Three different people should be appointed to signing checks, paying bills, and reconciling the bank statements. This should not be one person.
- A regular audit of the books is vital to a smart business practice
If you are having a problem with your association, the Association unit in the Department of Community Affairs has the authority to intervene in the operation of ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution), open meeting requirements and provide owners reasonable access to accounting records. Contact the Bureau of Homeowner Protection by calling 609.984.7574 or click www.state.nj.us/dca. If you suspect criminal acts, document evidence and contact the county prosecutor’s office. Living in a condominium association can be a rewarding experience, but be sure to practice vigilance, attend the board meetings and ask questions.
If you were a victim of condo corruption, please comment below.