Great Brook owners in Milford will try to replace condo manager

MILFORD – About 30 unit owners from the Great Brook Condominiums gathered in the VFW hall last week and listened to an attorney explain how they can recall members of their board of directors.

Condo owners at the 96-unit complex contend that board members support a condo management firm that engages in abusive practices.

John Cronin, of Cronin, Bisson & Zalinski of Manchester, outlined the actions the owners can take to hold a meeting to elect new board members.

There is a mechanism in place to change the board, and a director can be removed at any time, with or without cause, he said.

Owners say they are left out of all decision making by the five-member board, the condo association’s financial records are not available for scrutiny and new board members are appointed to the board without their input or notification.

They also complain that Cal Davison, of Cardiff Management of Brookline, engages in heavy-handed and aggressive fining practices, singles out for punishment owners who criticize her, blocks attempts by owners to see the complex’s governing documents, and in essence controls everything the board does.

Davison has denied these complaints.

Cronin advised a non-adversarial approach and said Charles Perkins, the attorney for the board, will set up an agenda for a special meeting that will be held between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20 .

If the owners elect new board members at the special meeting, they should meet immediately and take up the issue of management.

New management, however, will typically not sign on to the job until a forensic auditor goes over the books, he said.

The board can appoint a committee to search for a new management firm – if that’s the decision – and there are management companies that provide “bridge” services until a permanent one is hired.

Cronin was a spectator at the association’s annual meeting in November, and last week said he was surprised that no information on the budget was shared.

Cardiff has been Great Brook’s management firm for 10 years, and it is very common, Cronin said, for condo associations, even when they are happy with their management firm, to put the job out to bid.

Cronin gave a brief history of condominiums and said a condo association “is supposed to operate as a democracy and condominium’s board of directors is supposed to do what’s best for the community at large, and that means testing vendors, getting quotes” from vendors and contractors, which is something Great Brook unit owners believe hasn’t been happening.

He also advised not using Robert’s Rules of Order at the meeting, because “it can be used in a technical way to chill discussion.”

At the informal meeting on Thursday, Dec. 18, he avoided discussion of individual grievances and advised people to “take the high road, get people of like mind and get out the vote.”

With 30 signatures on a petition, “the board has an obligation to conduct a special meeting,” he said.

Owners wanted to know how they can be sure that the meeting is conducted properly.

Charles Perkins is a credible, professional attorney, he said, and “if worse comes to worse, you’ve created a paper trail. I am confident a judge will not be too pleased.”

In response to a question about the use of proxies for owners who can’t attend the meeting, Cronin said he and Perkins will monitor the treatment of proxies.

He urged the owners to avoid expensive, time-consuming litigation.

“We just want to be heard without the threat of lawsuits,” said owner Karen Nestor.

After unit owners aired complaints about Cardiff Management, including what they said were abusive emails, Cronin told them mass circulation emails would be useful to them if they wind up in court.

At the end of the meeting last week, Walter Swanbon, one of the unit owner organizers, said he will have no trouble getting enough signatures on a petition.

In an email answer to a question about the upcoming special meeting, Davison said Cronin “had no authority to make such a comment or commitment on behalf of attorney Perkins for a range of reasons.

“Attorney Cronin has been told many times over by attorney Perkins that no such meeting can or should be scheduled until after an appropriate petition has been received,” she wrote.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@