I have often said that mixing the role of board President and manager is a dangerous practice. This co-mingling of roles and powers has led to corrupt and illegal acts. It just becomes too easy, and seemingly too tempting, to keep one’s hands out of the cookie jars.
So reading this article, I immediately see many of the bad practices that I warn of all wrapped up in one package. While there is no indication that Sigrid Ingold has, or will ever, do anything immoral or illegal, her operation of the condominium highlights all sorts of actions which raise my “condominium spidey sense.”
Ms. Ingold has been president of her condominium association, the Thorndale Beach North of Chicago, for 19 years, and for the past 5 as property manager as well (paid $43,000/year for a part-time job).
There are two things here which I become concerned about. First, the role of president should never remain in the hands of a single person for more than a few years. I like American Statesman Richard Henry Lee’s description that an office without term limits creates a:
most highly and dangerously oligarchic
and I particularly enjoy historian Mercy Otis Warren warning of missing US Congressional term limits:
[without] provision for rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done….
I feel such warnings are also appropriate to consider for condominium boards.
Second, by being president, she has significant influence on the awarding of condominium contracts. In this case, the board – with her as president – awarded a well-paying part-time management job to her for the last 5 years. And much like the separation of congress, the judiciary, and the president being a great idea to reduce abuse and corruption in US politics – the separation of board and management company is something I find serves a like role in condominiums. If not in operation, then transparency, the separation of roles creates checks and balances on the use of condominium funds.
Speaking of which, even the board of this condominium is being denied the review of bank statements and invoices. Further, the condominium has had one audit in its 44 years history, and that was 15 years ago.
I would like to point out that the Illinois Condominium Property Act 18.5.d.1.ii shall maintain the following records for examination to any unit owner in the condominium:
Detailed and accurate records in chronological order of the receipts and expenditures affecting the common areas, specifying and itemizing the maintenance and repair expenses of the common areas and any other expenses incurred, and copies of all contracts, leases, or other agreements entered into by the master association, shall be maintained.
The fact that the board is being denied review of the bank statements appears to be in direct contradiction to the state act. Given that legislation, refusal of sharing financial documents – with duly elected board members – raises significant and real concern over the operation of the condominium in a proper manner. This isn’t a concern for just the Thorndale Beach North condominium – but any condominium which refuses to share fiscal details.
Combined, the length of Ms. Ingold’s presidency, her role as manager, and the lack of fiscal disclosure, makes for significant concern over the financial operation and wellbeing of the condominium. It appears that all knowledge of the finances is held, and has been held for a long time, by one single person, with no public audit or disclosure on the funds.
As indicated by Robin Morgan:
Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.
I personally would never buy into the Thorndale Beach North condominium corporation because of the significant concern I have over such centralization of power in a single person.
I highly encourage reading the original article. There is also a dissident owner blog site with tasty details here. Combined, there are lots of other concerns that I haven’t touched on here, and the article and blog makes great, if not scary, reading about a condominium ruled by a single individual.