Board member refuses to turnover files

T.E. writes: Dear Paul: We are a self-managed corporation. Several years ago, one Board member took it upon himself to set-up an email account for the condo’s correspondence. Recently, because of a disagreement with other Board members, he quit. This Board member has access to the condo email address and he is now refusing to hand over the password to condo corps email address as they linked ‘personal’ accounts to it as well (a personal Google + account). He refuses to delete his personal account and handover the condo email information. It has become quite challenging, to say the least. What can we do? Paul replies: Dear T.E.: Yes, this would be a challenging situation. I assume that you have spoken to the former Board member and impressed upon him the seriousness of his actions. If there are several years of correspondence in this account, I am sure that it contains some valuable information. Records of invoices paid, projects undertaken and Board correspondence with unit owners. Since such a conversation may not have produced any results, you should write the individual a letter to emphasize that you are prepared to take further action if necessary. Communications conducted via email on behalf of the corporation may be considered legal documents, and depriving the corporation’s access to its records is tantamount to theft. If these were paper files and someone broke into an office and left with files that did not legally belong to them, it would be considered stealing. You should attempt to quantify the impact that his actions are having. He must be made aware that any costs, such as late penalties, interest fees, and legal costs incurred as a result of his actions will be charged to his unit. There is no reason all owners should pay for his bad behaviour. In the future, I would advise the Board that at least two individuals have access to the email account and that it be regularly backed up for safe keeping. Good luck!

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