Wag the Dog, March 23, 2011

So who exactly is the board of WVH?  For a long time I was sure it was 7 people–5 elected and 2 appointed by the investor at the June shareholder meeting. I felt even surer of this after I had been elected as one of the 7 in June 2010. Imagine my surprise one autumn morning when I saw a letter on the bulletin board in the lobby purporting to be from the board of WVH. The letter was in response to a lawsuit that had recently been filed against the board for election fraud and it was signed, “The Board of WVH.” How could a letter be signed like that if I was a board member and I had never seen it before?

It turns out that there was at least one other board member who had never seen the letter prior to the posting in the lobbies. How was this possible? How was this legal? Since no answers were forthcoming, I referred to the by-laws and couldn’t believe my eyes. You’ll remember that in a previous post I referred to the board (myself included) as an oligarchical elite. Well, it turns out that there is an elite within the elite. It turns out that the officers of the board (4 people) have the full power of the board (7 people) and total say over the entire corporation (roughly 315 households). This is all completely legal and was completely spelled out in the black book, which I read when we converted without understanding the full weight until last fall.

In the social sciences they talk about, “unintended consequences”–the unanticipated and unanticipatable side-effects of certain policies and decisions. Is that what we have here? A cohort of former tenants’ rights folks got together and created a WVH co-op governance structure that concentrates power in the fewest possible hands. Was that an unintended consequence, just a by-product of the limitations of NYS co-op law? Were there other possible governance structures and if so, how was this one chosen? Let me know if you find out the answer, ok?
At least when we had a tenants association we had a counterweight to the investors. What is the counterweight to this tiny tip of a tail that is legally empowered to wag the entire dog?

One thought on “Wag the Dog, March 23, 2011

  1. Not so fast.

    The letter was signed by the board — not by the board’s executive committee.

    Big difference.

    The letter was clearly designed to imply that Maureen and at least one other boardie were in the loop, when they were not, as stated above.

    When was the last time you saw a tail beating up the dog?

    I note that we are 420 households — not 315. When the board tries to push through policies that affect the renters, it’s 420. ALL 420.

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