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CCOC Decision Summary

#68-08, Kessler v. Cloverleaf Center I Condominium (September 10, 2009) (Order by Charles Fleischer, Panel Chair)

Kessler complained that her condominium had violated its own rules in its 2008 annual election.  This condominium has two classes of members, each of whom can only vote for members to the board from their own class, and she claimed, among other things, that the condominium failed to enforce this bylaw.  After the CCOC accepted jurisdiction of the dispute, the parties agreed to hold a new election under the supervision and management of the Maryland Homeowners' Association (MHA), and that disputes over MHA's decisions would be resolved by the hearing panel.  As part of its general supervision of the election, pursuant to the consent agreement, the panel chair resolved a dispute over the secrecy of proxy ballots by establishing a procedure that would allow the MHA to verify the legitimacy of the proxy ballots while preserving the secrecy of the proxy votes themselves.  The election was then held with a new board elected, and Kessler was one of the new board members.

A member then filed a request to inspect the election records including the actual ballots.  The condominium opposed this request, citing its bylaw requirement that all voting was to be by secret ballot.

The panel ruled that the bylaws conflicted with Section 11-116(c) of the

 Maryland Condominium Act, which declared that all books and records of the association must be made available for inspection by any member.  There are 6 very narrowly-worded exceptions, none of which applies to secret ballots or elections.  The panel also noted that under Section 11-124(c) of the Condominium Act, any conflict between the Condominium Act and the association's own governing documents must be resolved in favor of the Condominium Act.  The condominium's own bylaws contained a similar provision.     

The panel therefore ruled that any unit owner may, on proper request, inspect and copy the proxy and absentee ballots.

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