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I Was a Felon. Elect Me to the Condo Board!

Park Slope, Brooklyn

Vote for a Felon
Sept. 18, 2018

It has come to light that a candidate for president of a condo board in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has a past felony conviction. Can this person legally run for a seat on the board? 

Some states, including Florida, bar people who have been convicted of felonies from serving on association boards – but New York is not among them, attorney Lisa Smith, a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russelltells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times

A condominium’s bylaws may address the issue when describing board member qualifications. But even if the bylaws are silent on the matter, the board should notify all unit-owners before the election if the candidate was convicted of a serious crime, such as a felony sex offense. When doing so, the board should share only facts that are available in the public record. If it fails to notify residents, the board could be held liable if the person later goes on to commit a crime in the building. 

Should someone’s past crimes automatically disqualify them from serving on a board? A decades-old drug possession plea deal, for example, may say nothing about whether someone would be a competent board president. But if the candidate was convicted of embezzlement or money laundering, he or she is probably not the best person to control the purse strings. 

And then there’s the matter of criminal background checks when co-op and condo boards hire staff. In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits discrimination against job-seekers based on their prior arrests or criminal convictions. Under the act, employers with at least four employees, including co-op and condo boards, are forbidden from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history until after they have made a conditional job offer. 

If a board decides to withdraw a conditional job offer after examining the applicant’s criminal history, it is then required to give the applicant a written copy of the reasons the job offer was revoked. Acceptable grounds for revoking a job offer are if there’s a “direct relationship” between the criminal offense and the job’s requirements, or if the hiring would create a “reasonable risk” to property or personal safety.

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