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QUESTION/ANSWER BY JOHN H. GETTINGER, ESQ.

Question:

I am a manager. Increasingly myself and staff are asked to unethical behavior (not illegal). I am currently in a position where I must report all communications with certain residents to the president before responding. Sometimes I am not allowed to respond (to even basic requests). I would be fired in the heartbeat if I do not tow the line. Do I have any recourse?

Answer:

It depends on the terms of your management agreement with the homeowners association. For instance, your management agreement may require you to report all communications with all residents (and not just certain residents) to the board (and not just to the president). Your management agreement may require you to respond promptly to all homeowners' requests (and not to report them first to the president before responding). I suspect that the management agreement requires that any amendments thereto be in writing signed by the parties. As such, to the extent that the president's oral communications with you are inconsistent with your obligations under the management agreement, they are not valid or enforceable. Moreover, I doubt whether the president, in communicating directly with you, is acting with the authority of the entire board, but in all probably is acting as a "lone wolf" without board authority. Importantly, the management agreement will provide under which circumstances your services can be terminated. It may be that the Board will need to establish "cause" (that you breached your obligations under the management agreement) in order to terminate your services. Your failure to follow "rogue" unethical instructions from the president, which are inconsistent with your obligations under the management agreement, will not constitute proper "cause" to terminate your services.

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