If you recall, back in July the 111 East Chestnut Condominium board sent out a notice regarding an investment they were making on the homeowners’ behalf. Titled “Legal Proceedings and Associated Fees at 111 E. Chestnut,” the board gave the membership a heads-up as to their spending, rationale, and expectations. Well, this last week it paid off rather dramatically! Each member is now a part owner of a prestigious goose egg.
By way of background, back in June of this year board president Milazzo and his posse got skunked. Michael Boucher, a former owner here, had sued 111 and the board for variously violating his rights. On July 12, 2016, after duel Summary Judgments, the Circuit Court heard for the Association. But that was short-lived. On August 11, 2016, Boucher appealed the decision. And on June 14 of this year, Appellate Court Justice Neville, now Illinois Supreme Court Justice Neville, reversed and set a condo industry-changing, homeowner-rights-empowering precedent.
In perspective, in Illinois condo law history, experts are calling the Boucher opinion “the next Palm.” By opening the door to transparency regarding board meetings, the Palm Decision was a huge step forward toward board transparency and accountability. The Boucher opinion now takes another quantum leap forward underscoring constitutional rights, due process, and board members fiduciary duty to individual homeowners.
But to Milazzo, who set the standard of his board dominion early on in his board tenure by announcing to a fellow board member that he worked very hard to eliminate dissent, Justice Neville’s ruling was unacceptable. Milazzo said: “If allowed to stand, the Boucher appellate decision significantly and detrimentally impacts all Illinois condo associations’ ability to self-govern and to restrict unwanted behaviors. Given that, the Board has decided to appeal this decision to the next Appellate Court level.” THE UN-SPUN TRANSLATION: “I’ll be damned if I’ll be second guessed!”
So Milazzo and the board turned to their go-to law firm Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit and their hockey-enforcer-like condo litigator Diane J. Silverberg for help. And on July 19, Silverberg filed a 21-page (58 with exhibits) Petition for Leave to Appeal (PLA) with the Illinois Supreme Court.
As to what it cost YOU, in his July letter to homeowners, Milazzo set expectations: “Thanks to prudent decisions by our Board and management, our Building continues to hold a strong financial position. We are in capable hands with an experienced, professional management company (Sudler), have the attention of highly experienced attorneys (KSN)…” THE UN-SPUN TRANSLATION: “It doesn’t matter. It’s not my money and we’ve got money to burn.”
And after an estimated $20,000-plus spend on the PLA, this last week the Illinois Supreme Court DENIED Silverberg’s petition. With the help of Silverberg’s ever strident litigation posture, we got skunked again. That’s right, she got us zilch, nada, bupkis, a BIG FAT GOOSE EGG. Said one owner on condition of anonymity: “Homeowners would have gotten more for their money if Milazzo had put a pile of cash in the middle of the Chestnut Room and set it ablaze. At least then, there would have been momentary heat and light. Milazzo and Silverberg got us a potential liability.”
Worse yet, the 20-plus grand on the PLA does not include the cost of the suit through summary judgment and the appeal. It’s been five arduous years of costly litigation. And of course, now with the law definitively on Boucher’s side, we (read YOU) have a serious exposure. So… “prudent”? Maybe in Vegas. But here, it’s more accurately described as “chronic fiduciary blight”.
As to the board’s plans for proudly displaying their prestigious trophy, of course not. Mum’s their word. But it will long be top-of-mind among real estate investors, insiders and the media.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Coming up, “111 Board Celebrates Five-Year Lawsuit Anniversary with Homeowner Taco Party.” Silverberg’s attendance is doubtful however. It’s rumored she’ll be dining at the Ritz.