Condo Board Elections this Tuesday!

Board elections are this Tuesday (May 1, 2012)! If you want to cast a vote, please be at the Church of the Atonement before 7pm, as Mrs. Ingold has voting closed before the meeting commences (which is an arbitrary time between 7pm and 7:30pm), and remember to bring a valid photo ID.

The meeting is going to be held is a few minutes’ walk away from TBN. The address is:

The Church of the Atonement
5749 North Kenmore Ave,
Chicago, IL 60660

If past years are any indication, please expect to have to cast your vote prior to being introduced to the candidates. Also, do not expect for a chance to hear but a brief statement from the candidates or to have an opportunity to ask them any questions.

For those of you who are coming to your first meeting, please do share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Clarified Voting Instructions

The voting instructions and final reminder of the annual meeting were recently published. It seems like the Mrs. Ingold has tried to make them as confusing as possible. Here are some points to keep in mind:

1) Voting in person cancels out any proxy you may have previously surrendered. Just show up on election day, cross out the word “proxy” on the sign up sheet and sign next to it. Then carefully fill out and submit a regular ballot.

2) Make sure you fill in you name, unit number and the correct date (May 1, 2012) and signature, or your vote will be thrown out.

3) Since there are four open seats on the board, each unit gets four votes.

4) You DO NOT have to vote for four candidates. You can choose to only vote for one or two candidates if you desire.

5) If you only want to vote for a single candidate, put a single “X” in front of the candidate’s name. That candidate will receive all four of your votes. Do not put any “X”s in front of any other candidate’s names.

6) If you would like to vote for two candidates, put a single “X” in front of each of their names. Do not put additional “X”s in front of any other names. This will effectively give two votes to each of the candidates.

7) Do not put more than four “X”s on your ballot or else it will be voided.

If you are not going to be available to come to the meeting, you can submit a proxy ballot till election day! Although your vote will be counted as long as the proxy is valid, it will not be put directly into the ballot box, and will be subject to further scrutiny for “verification” (and could possibly be misplaced on its way to the accountant). However, it’s better to take this chance than to not participate in the vote. Click here for a blank proxy form, and click here for instructions to fill out the proxy. Please not that if the person you designate as your proxy does not sign the form, it will be deemed invalid.

This is the one time in the year where we as unit owners are empowered to affect change. Let’s all make sure our voices are heard and our votes are counted!

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Proxies and the Annual Meeting

If you are available on Tuesday, May 1 2012 at 7pm, please come to the Church of the Atonement (5749 North Kenmore Ave) for our condo’s annual meeting. This is an ideal opportunity to ask our current board about the multiple liens on our building (which make it impossible to refinance, buy or sell a unit), the multiple cases of litigation our condo association is currently involved in against both unit owners and vendors, upcoming special assessments, the huge sums of money we are paying our multiple lawyers and the dismal state of our reserves. Most importantly, you will have a chance to vote for up to four board members to join our condo association’s board.

For those unit owners who have already submitted a proxy ballot and wish to revoke it, fear not! If you vote on election day it will override any proxies you may have previously surrendered. All you have to do is to cross out the word “Proxy” next to your unit name on the sign-up sheet on election day and replace it with your signature.

If you are not going to be able to make it to the condo board election on Tuesday May 1, 2012, you can fill out a proxy form (available by clicking on this link) and submit it to the office to vote for the candidates you wish to support. The proxy form has been made purposefully confusing so it will be easy to throw out regime-opposing ballots. Click here for an example ballot to show you how to fill it out. Officially, proxy forms need to be submitted to the office by 1:30pm on April 23rd. However, in the past the office has accepted proxies as late as election day.

Mrs. Ingold, the board president/building manager was seen in the office today with the two election judges. It’s more than likely that she was trying to have opposing proxy votes thrown out. If you have already submitted a proxy, please ensure it follows the example form (including all signatures and the correct date) or it will not count.

Finally, if you feel that you are being ill represented by our emasculated rubber stamp board, there is no better time than now to have your voice heard.

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The candidates are in!

The candidates for the four openings on the board have been published. Surprisingly, Mrs. Ingold has chosen to run only three candidates for the open positions, each of whom are incumbents. The fourth, Mr. Sanes, has decided not to run again. The other two candidates are from the camp Mrs. Ingold has dubbed “dissidents”, and Ellis Levin has described as “the minority in the building”.

If one speaks to any of the incumbents, you’ll find reasonably intelligent and pleasant individuals.  A stark contrast from the lemmings they are when one looks at their board voting record. These are the individuals Mrs. Ingold supports with the proxy votes given to her by intimidated unit owners. Let’s look at each one below:

Ted Sieber:
If you have been to any board meeting, you may notice Mr. Sieber as the elderly gentleman who is usually sleeping in the corner till he is nudged by Mrs. Ingold to vote in favor of her initiatives. He almost never speaks in the meeting except to “second a motion” or vote (though he often does not remember what he is voting for). The sole idea he gave in the last year was to fine anyone who complained about the state of the building. The unit owners in attendance jeered at this,  and he was quickly hushed by the rest of the board.

David Goglin:
Mr. Goglin’s past year’s tenure has been a disappointment to many. He was initially considered to be an independent thinker. It’s hard to know if it was because of a stick or a carrot, but Mr. Goglin has joint the fold and voted in lock step with Mrs. Ingold 100% of the time for the entire past term.

Frank Perham:
Perhaps the most insidious of the three, Mr. Perham is well educated, well spoken and polite. He was hand picked and anointed onto the board by Mrs. Ingold to replace one of her long-time allies who passed away. In the absence of Mr. Tatera who is Mrs. Ingold’s right hand man, he is the go to person for both Ellis Levin and Mrs. Ingold (both of whom often whisper in his ear during board meetings) when they want to bring up a topic without having the minutes reflect that they are the source. He has also voted 100% of the time with Mrs. Ingold.

What’s most dangerous about Mr. Perham is that he does speak up during board meetings, but only to support Mrs. Ingold’s agenda. In contrast to our many silent board members, Mr. Perham has been able to twist most unit owner’s questions or complaints into something different, and remove focus from their original points. We predict that he will pick up the most proxy votes at the end of the election as he is the most valuable of the three to Mrs. Ingold.

Some of the topics these three individuals have helped fast track include:

  • The 2012 budget (without addressing any of the questions regarding blatant discrepancies posed by Mr. Bogdan and Mrs. McCarty). This budget was put together by only Mrs. Ingold, Mr. Tatera and Ms. Dryssen. No other board member was invited to provide input, and none of the rubber stamps had a problem with this.
  • The acceptance of the contractor who repaired (and also set fire to) our roof without looking at competing bids. The bid chosen was over $100,000 greater than other bids that were brought to the board, but were not accepted to be even considered.
  • Allowing Mrs. Ingold to appeal suing her neighbor for not paying for the entire plumbing bill for a pipe they the two have in common when it overflowed. (He had offered to pay for half of the bill). This was done in order to increase the fees he would have to pay his lawyer to defend him in court even after a judge threw out the lawsuit the first time round.
  • Allowing the  very dangerous precedent of allowing Ellis Levin to tack on arbitrary “Legal Fees” to fines without any board member being able to look at any invoices. Levin explained during a meeting that only the board president is privy to the fee breakdown. Other board members should be content with just the aggregated amounts. So far two residents have been hit with these four figure “legal fees”, and not one of Mrs. Ingold’s rubber stamps have said as much as a peep about them.
  • Approving expenses bundled into aggregated amounts without requesting a breakdown or looking at any of the receipts, and deriding those board members who do request to see these receipts.

Each unit owner gets four votes – one per open seat. (The cover sheet we were given is from last year, and is incorrect). Fortunately, it’s possible to allocate all four votes to one or both of the remaining candidates (Omar Ghaffar and/or Tammy Richmond) without voting for the three incumbents. If you have already surrendered your proxy vote, do not fret. Voting in person on election day overrides any previously issued proxy. Just cross out the “proxy” in the signature section of the sign-up sheet on election day and update it with your signature.

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Ellis Levin punishes dissenting board member days before his Judicial Election

Eleven bar associations have found Ellis B. Levin (our association lawyer) “not qualified, not recommended” as a Judicial candidate. Most owners who have encountered Levin’s abrasive and aggressive manor would not be at all surprised by this. He is well known to empower and enable condo board presidents to “bully” residents and board members who have dissenting opinions, both at our building and others he was eventually fired from.

Most recently, Levin is helping Mrs. Ingold, the building manager/president of the board to punish Ms. Cathy McCarty, a board member who initially fell out of favor with Mrs. Ingold after she tried to persuade Mrs. Ingold in vain to look at more than the single contractor bid that Mrs. Ingold had chosen to complete our roof repair. Of course, Mrs. Ingold got the contractor she wanted even though their bid were over $100,000 more than Ms. McCarty’s bid.

Levin sent Ms. McCarty this letter, in which she was fined $450 and also has to pay $1554 for Levin’s legal fees. In her response, she paid the fine in protest, but not the legal fees. Now, Ellis Levin and Mrs. Ingold have sent her a notice informing her that if she does not pay Levin’s legal fees, she will be evicted from her own condo. Ms. McCarty has been on time with all her mortgage and assessment payments, so such a threat is unwarranted. The majority of our rubber stamp board endorses this fine and obviously does not represent building owners, but if we as unit owners allow this harassment of Ms. McCarty to continue, it will set a very dangerous precedent. Ironically, in another incident, Levin has helped a renter (not from our building) remain in a unit without paying rent.

At least Ellis Levin has made clear that his hourly rate is $185 per hour. Levin is present for the duration of every board meeting, and these meetings can last well over 3-4 hours if you include the “in camera” portions of the meeting where the board actually makes its decision prior to the public meeting. We are also charged this amount when he writes us threatening letters (which most unit owners have received at some point while at TBN). We as building owners are paying him this rate to just sit around and occasionally threaten us and protect the building manager / president of the board. Obviously this is a waste of our money, and this guy is now running for Judge!

The $1554 legal fees Levin is charging for 8.5 hours of “work” are obviously for the hours he sat in the board meetings, during which a small portion (most likely less that 5 minutes seeing how this rubber stamp board works) was spent discussing Ms. McCarty’s fine.  Our board would have paid these fees as they do for every meeting, but the charges have been passed on to Ms. McCarty to unfairly increase the punitive damages to her.

Even though Ellis Levin was found to be less than qualified by eleven bar associations, this does not preclude him from winning a seat on the bench. Judge Vanessa Hopkins was found to be ‘Not Qualified’ back in 1996, but she still got on the bench, and last year she missed 206 days of work. Levin’s election for a seat on the bench is on March 12, 2012.

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Mechanics Lien Claim

Mrs. Ingold, the president of the condo board, building manager and self professed “condominium expert” has failed us again. Not only did she push through Savemax to perform the balcony repair disregarding competing bids (much like our roof work), but now she has failed to inform residents about the mechanics lien Savemax has filed against our building on November 4, 2011.

According to the Illinois Condominium Act Section 18.4(r), all residents should have received information regarding the mechanics lien claim within 7 days of service. Did letting the owner/share holders know about this lien just slip Mrs. Ingold’s mind, or was it inconvenient timing as she was already going to deliver enough bad news via the 2012 budget? Also, when is she going to officially let owners know about it?

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Hallelujah – a response from building management!

The 2012 TBN budget has been out for a little over a month. This budget, much like those of years past, contains many inconsistencies and implausible numbers. Two board members, Mr. Bogdan and Ms. McCarty, got together and enumerated these in a letter to the president of the board/building manager. Mr. Bogdan also provided a comparison of the budgeted numbers vs disbursements for the balcony special assessment. After not receiving a reply for almost two weeks, a follow-up letter was dispatched. Finally, a week later, a bright light shone on our building, the angels sang and a response from management was dispatched.

It’s too bad that even after taking a month to formulate it, the response did not address any of the questions posed. Here are the salient points from the response with comments:

1) There is a slight reduction in the amount unit owners will pay in 2012.

  • This is nothing to tout. We are all being hit with a fresh special assessment. Also, if the building’s finances and physical assets were properly maintained over the almost two decades the president of the association / building manager has been in charge, perhaps this we would have had enough reserves and addressed the building’s issues before they became this dire.

2) The restatement that Mr. Bogdan asserted that our special assessment was overpaid by $109,800.

  • This is not a response, but a restatement, along with a misquote. The actual quote was that our special assessments will triple for the month of December 2011 which will be a hardship for owners, especially during the holiday season. Nothing was said about the assessments for 2012. This is true because of the additional balcony money requested. A question regarding the legality of this additional assessment was also raised. Making claims about how much interest has been saved does not address the questions regarding the budget numbers which, on their face, seem fabricated.

3) The board saved thousands of dollars in interest by using money earmarked for the balcony project for other purposes.

  • Once again, this does not address any of the points in the letter. Also, if building management had maintained our reserves, this point would be moot.

4) The condo garbage rebate has been extended.

  • This has nothing to do with our management, although they make it seem that way. Groups like the Association of Sheridan Condo/Coop owners brought to light that the rebate may be in jeopardy, and it was letters from the residents of Sheridan Road to Mayor Emanuel which made the difference. In fact, TBN is one of the only buildings in the area which is not part of this association, and our board did not once mention to unit owners that we could potentially lose the garbage rebate.

The building management is expert in distracting people’s focus when difficult questions are asked of them. Their response letter is a model example. A much easier rebuttal would be to stop hiding building finances and receipts from unit owners (which is against the law). Currently, only Mrs. Ingold, Mr. Tatera and the building lawyer, Elis Levin have access to these documents, and they proudly tell this to whoever asks. The other board members — most of who have historically blasted each year’s budget through with great zeal — have zero knowledge of the true financial state of TBN, or any knowledge of the veracity of the budget numbers.

The board meeting to approve the budget is on December 1, 2011 at 8pm. As a share holder and member of the building community, you should try to attend this meeting and get answers you deserve regarding the 2012 budget. You can also witness first hand how our rubber stamp board functions, which may arm you with valuable insight for next year’s elections.

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Questions Regarding the 2012 Budget

The 2012 budget was distributed to unit owners on October 20, 2011 and will be voted on by our board during the board meeting on December 1, 2011. Two board members, Mr. Bogdan and Ms. McCarty, have compiled a number of questions regarding discrepancies and issues with this budget.

Much like the budgets from years past, it seems obvious that very little thought has gone into this year’s proposed budget, and most of the numbers do not add up or make sense. Additionally, we have not been given any income or cash flow statements to see if our actuals match last years budget, or by how much we are off.

Unfortunately, we would not be surprised if our rubber stamp board passes it with little fanfare. If you happen across any board members, we encourage you to try to get answers to these questions. One would hope they have some answers, since they will be voting on this budget in a few weeks.

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Condo Education

Understanding how the system works is the first step required to effectively affect change. We have found the following two links to be very handy in this respect:

Mark Pearlstein’s Condo Column

If you have other useful links, please add them via a comment to this post.

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Possibly lower your Property Taxes

For those of you who missed the Property Tax Bill Review meeting last week, fear not. You still have time to submit your application online for free:

Just follow the “Please Click Here To File A Complaint Online” link from the link above. You will need your property PIN and to remember that we live in Lake View Township. You can request an in-person hearing if you desire, and do not need to hire an attorney. If you prefer paper forms, follow the “B.O.R Complaint Form” link instead.

You should receive a receipt number right away if you file online, or in the mail if you file the paper form, which you can use to submit evidence (e.g. the value of comparable condos, etc.)

You have till November 14, 2011 to file. If you file, your taxes may go down, and at worst, stay the same. They promise the taxes will not be adjusted upwards, so you have nothing to lose!

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