You knew it had to happen. After a year of growing discontent with the current notorious state of affairs at Marina City, late last month a group of Marina City resident-owners filed suit against the condominium association for the twin 60-story corncob towers overlooking State Street and the Chicago River. The seven owners, most of whom tried unsuccessfully to win seats on the Marina Towers Condominium Association board at its election last April, allege that the current voting proxy system in use by the condo board effectively disenfranchises resident owners, thereby “undermining” the intent of the Illinois Condominium Property Act.
Currently, about half of the condominium units at Marina City are owned by absentee investors. The plaintiffs allege that individual condominium board members and Shari Vass, the owner of Marina Management, also named in the suit, have conspired to solicit the overwhelming majority of voting proxies from these absentee investors in order to remove the ability of resident owners to have a say in the state of affairs at Marina City and, essentially, run the property with little or no real input from owners. The disgruntled owners also allege discrepancies with the April 2006 vote for condo board officers, and are seeking to have the vote overturned and judicial limits placed on the ability of the board and Ms. Vass to seek proxies. (Download a PDF of the complaint here).
Numerous readers of the Marina Watchdog, an independent residents blog, have discussed the lawsuit since the suit surfaced on June 21. Many posts have characterized both the current condominium board and board president Donna Leonard as willfully ignorant of the concerns and needs of building residents, and as less than forthcoming about the true state of financial affairs at the towers. Some posters have suggested that this allegedly out-of-touch attitude led directly to the numerous fires, floods, and police calls of the past several months — as well as to the Gary Kimmel hooker scandal (prior to his indictment by the USDOJ, Dr. Kimmel was the vice-president of the board and chair of the screening and security committees).
Meanwhile, other Watchdog posters have opined that, perhaps, the proxy holders intend things to be this way. Their argument: real-estate agents only make money when an apartment turns over with a new owner or renter. If residents were actually happy with Marina City, then no one would leave — leaving no money to be made by proxy-holding real-estate interests.
Whatever the true state of affairs here at Marina City, it’s a good bet a lot of mud will be slung, largely in public, before it becomes known. The notoriety of the corncob towers has already prompted at least one widely read publication to plan an investigative feature on Dr. Kimmel and the not-so-merry-go-round of Marina City’s repetitive problems. Last month, more than a dozen residents (myself included) were interviewed for the piece, individually and in groups, throughout Marina City, and the opinions shared were surprisingly frank. Check your newsstands in mid-August. (Hint: the publication is the most widely read city monthly in the nation).
Then duck. Because if half of the opinions I heard expressed by my neighbors during those interviews make it into print, the poo-poo is really going to hit the fan. You can quote me on that.