We’re coming off a rough winter season [and] one of our snow plow vendors has refused to service our building due to lack of payment, which is being worked on. However, the super is directly telling shareholders that the board isn’t paying the bills, which is far from true. Would his actions be considered insubordinate, and if so, can the board push for a formal reprimand against the super?
Ned in Toronto, Canada
You indicate that the snow plow vendor refused service due to lack of payment, which is being worked on, so the superintendent is telling the truth – just a truth you do not want passed onto the shareholders. And no, this is not insubordination, unless you told the superintendent the reasons as to why there is no snow plow vendor (non-payment) and asked him to keep the information confidential. Then it is considered insubordination – going against a directive. I think what you have here is a superintendent [who] talks to shareholders who may have complained to him about lack of snow removal and who knows the reasons and shared the info. I would do two things:
1. Issue a letter to the shareholders or post a notice and explain to them the reasons why the snow plow vendor has refused service to your building, as you indicate, due to lack of payment and that you are working on it. Explain “why” you are unable to pay them (is there an underlying cause here?).
2. I would talk to the superintendent and let him know that when there are inquiries as to why a service is not being done, to refer shareholders to the board; let him know it’s not his place to tell or share his opinion to shareholders regarding financial problems or financial issues with a vendor. Document your discussion for his file.
I disagree. Unless the superintendent attends board meetings or is party to board correspondence, [he] lacks full knowledge of the situation. [His] comment shows a lack of respect to the board or to the manager. If the super needed to say anything, it should have been to ask the manager or a board member.
The superintendent is an employee of the corporation and has to walk a fine line [among] board, manager, and owners. He failed in this regard. Does this deserve a reprimand? Probably not, unless it is repetitive.
I agree, however, with the need to communicate. Don’t make your life more difficult (and put the super in a bad spot) by relying on unofficial communication.
Ned in Toronto, Canada
I agree with you, Steve; supers walk a fine line and unless this has been clearly spelled out to them – written in their job description or employment contract – they may not realize this (or choose to ignore it). That’s why I recommended point two. Document it and put it in his file. That way you have written documentation that he [is] aware of his responsibility to not comment on items pertaining to the operations that he may not have all the details to, and to bring these to the attention of the board or manager.
I also agree with Ned. Very good advice.
What I would add is that you tell the super to refer complaints to the board, instead of relying on the super to know what information he can and cannot give you. He can simply say he doesn’t know the reason, and the shareholder should ask a board member. This gets your super out of the loop altogether.
I agree with Ned’s comments, specifically numbers 1 and 2.
I notice that you are in Yonkers; are the staff members of 32BJ? If so, there are specific guidelines to follow when the board or your management company needs to reprimand.
Whether or not they are members of the union, due to a very similar experience, I recommend that the staff and all board members sign a confidentiality agreement. It should be prepared by your attorney. Their signing the agreement provides the board and shareholders greater leverage, if needed, to reprimand.
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Some of the responses have been edited for clarity. Opinions expressed in Board Talk do not reflect the opinions of Habitat.