Question: Our association has serious problems with a female manager assigned to our account by the management company. Management will not remove her, and the majority male board directors say they "like her." Owners who visit the association's office are subjected to her yelling and screaming; anyone protesting is threatened with calls to security if they don't leave. She yells at owners during the board meetings' open forum, taking time away from speakers.
Intent on preventing me from raising issues as board treasurer regarding reserves and finances, she repeatedly interrupted me, then became combative and argumentative against me in front of our certified public accountant. She didn't want me contradicting information she previously gave to the CPA. I asked her to stop interrupting. She began screaming, sticking her finger in my face and ordering me to leave. I thought she was going to attack me, but she stomped out of the conference room and went into her office, only to start throwing things at the wall. As a minority female director, what can I do?
Answer: The meeting's statutory open forum time belongs to owners, not managers. Screaming, yelling and throwing things have no place in professional or adult behavior. All directors should be concerned about a manager who represents the association in this manner, because she is a liability.
A victim of her tantrums could sue her and the association for assault, which is defined as an "unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another" in California Penal Code section 240. It is not necessary for the manager to physically hit or touch someone to be found guilty of an assault. In fact, unwanted contact, directly or indirectly, could mean additional liability for battery.
As a director it is important to document and keep your opinions and recommendations, regardless of how the majority votes, because this board's failure to take preventive action can be construed as ratifying the manager's bad behavior.
If the majority male directors won't take action, you should address potential legal problems by making the association's counsel aware of this problem. Should the association get sued, your documentation may aid your defense should indemnification become an issue.
Even if assault and battery are not available options to offended and outraged owners, claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress or interference with the business of the association may exist. She is interfering with the owners' use, enjoyment and management of a very valuable asset — their home.
This manager's antics have a disruptive and intrusive effect on the association's ability to conduct its business.
She also may need therapy to assist her in dealing with inter-personal issues. Management companies should provide their employees with self-help programs, including anger and stress management courses, violence prevention, victim awareness, impulse control and nonviolent communications skills.
If the management company won't remove this manager, terminate the company along with the risk. Under these circumstances, directors stating that they "like her" is not a rational business decision justifying her continued employment.
Zachary Levine, a partner at Wolk & Levine, a business and intellectual property law firm, co-wrote this column. Vanitzian is an arbitrator and mediator. Send questions to Donie Vanitzian, JD, P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.