Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: What can a co-op board do about a shareholder who wants us to hire his guy?

Here's how to handle that "I got a guy" guy in your building.

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Question:

I’m on my co-op building’s board. Each year at our annual board meeting we discuss the upcoming budget with our shareholders. Invariably, someone raises their hand and says, “I got a guy” who could get the building a product or service that is less expensive than what we are paying. How do we handle this? Signed, Not a Fan of the Guy

Answer:

Dear Not a Fan,

There is one of those “I got a guy” guys in every building, even in my own. And I can tell you that as transparent as my board tries to be, there is a big difference between being on the board and being an observer.  

Last year we were upgrading our security system with new cameras and wiring. We had not yet put it out to bid when we explained to shareholders that we had budgeted $25,000 for the project. One shareholder started screaming at us that “he knew cameras and there was no way it could cost that much.” Of course, he also “had a guy.”  

When we went out to bid the project we took his referral. Not only was that company more expensive, but they only provided the cameras and not the wiring. We had our management company write the shareholder a nice note thanking him for his suggestion and telling him that we went with the lowest bid.

All shareholders have a right to question their board and offer suggestions. Boards shouldn’t have a problem with either as long as the question or the suggestion is offered respectfully. Not all shareholders, however, are familiar with the bidding system or the fact that we depend on our management company to get us reliable people who have worked in their other buildings. We have a fiscal responsibility to our building to carefully vet all vendors—after all, we cannot just hire anyone to do a job and hope for the best. An individual may be free to do that but a board has to follow the rules.  

So the next time someone says they have a guy—or a gal—invite them to pass along contact information to management. You were not elected to take shortcuts or do anyone special favors.

Ms.Demeanor


Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.