Bill Morris in Legal/Financial on June 9, 2015
About ten years ago, at least partly because of the toxic atmosphere, the co-op's annual meetings stopped attracting a quorum, and the elections to the nine-member board's staggered three-year terms ceased. The board degenerated into two sharply split, warring factions, each with its own legal representation. On one of the factions sat Olga, who had been elected to the board in 2005. "[We didn't have a] board that [was] all on the same page," she recalls. "It was a board of five or six [on one side] to three or four on the other."
In 2011, though, the board members managed to put their differences aside long enough to hire Rachlin Management. Some were very pleased. Jonas Winograd, a current board director, recalls that the property "had 25 violations when we hired Rachlin. They cleaned up all the violations and saved us a lot of money." But others insist that the new manager made things worse. "Rachlin Management is a complete disaster," asserts Joseph. "We have never seen a management company as bad as this management company."
Despite the Desrosiers's complaint, Danielle Rachlin, president of Rachlin Management, recalls "things were going extremely well until about 2013." That was when, as she puts it, "the person on the board who was the voice of reason had some personal issues [and was not involved anymore], and the opposing side of the board jumped in and started to run the board the way they wanted to."
As a result of this shift, the board began hiring contractors on its own. "We were trying to do some capital work in the building, [so] we decided to bring in our own companies; we had got bids from them," Olga says. "We had an electrical project to do. [Rachlin] told us that we needed to hire an engineer, and each building would be about $150,000, because it was an upgrade to the electrical system. There was no such upgrade. It was just changing the electrical panels. We got it done for $32,000." She adds that "the bids would go to the board, and the board would pick which one they wanted."
Before long, Rachlin Management was getting requests for payments from vendors it had never heard of, including plumbers, electricians, contractors, and a security camera company. "We had no idea who they were — and they wanted payment," says Rachlin. "They said they were hired by Joseph Desrosiers. We told the board we needed their approval to pay these vendors, and we needed proof that they were licensed and insured."
The way things stood in the fall of 2014, though, made it increasingly more difficult to govern. Olga, the current president, admits that the issue of "personalities" was the deeper problem. "It went personal, that's what it was," she says. "It was no longer business."
The two board factions were evenly split among eight directors until a former board member who had resigned took back her resignation, siding with Winograd and his supporters. With a five-to-four majority, this group declared Winograd the new president, replacing Olga Desrosiers.
Would she go quietly? Don't miss the conclusion next Tuesday.
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