Unrealistic Expectations Get You Nowhere
Unfortunately, there are some litigants that have become all too familiar with the Condominium Authority Tribunal (the “CAT”), but for the wrong reasons.
Recently, Mr. Jack Gale returned to the CAT for the ninth (9th) occasion to address his 70th records request made to Halton Condominium Corporation No. 61 (“HCC 61”) since November 2017. This time he took issue with the adequacy of HCC 61’s November 21, 2021 board meeting minutes. As the resident “condo commando”, Mr. Gale was concerned that the minutes lacked the transparency and detail needed to keep unit owners informed about their condominium and its management. Mr. Gale’s complaints including issues pertaining to grammar such as “Director” versus “Directors” and the omission of certain facts about elevator noise complaints that emerged after the meeting took place.
Ultimately, the CAT found Mr. Gale’s claims to be without merit. The CAT, correctly, found that the heart of Mr. Gale’s complaint was governance. Mr. Gale’s evidence and submissions extended well beyond the Board’s minutes and were more akin to airing his political grievances about HCC 61’s decision-making, which is outside the CAT’s jurisdiction in a records case.
The CAT made three key determinations: i) HCC 61 was not required to contain the “granular” level of detail Mr. Gale was seeking, ii) the purpose of board meeting minutes is to accurately “document a board’s business transactions and show how the corporation’s affairs are controlled, managed, and administered,” and iii) perfection is not the standard to measure board meeting minutes.
Once the CAT dismissed the Application for being meritless, it undertook a careful analysis to determine whether Mr. Gale’s conduct crossed the line and what repercussions should follow if it did. The CAT applied the legal test in Manorama Sennek, v. Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 116, 2018 ONCAT 4 to determine whether Mr. Gale had become a vexatious litigant.
The CAT considered whether Mr. Gale brought the application for an improper purpose. The CAT defined an improper purpose to include “using the Tribunal to harass other parties to get what one wants or to prove a point, and to challenge the board’s authority”. After reviewing the extensive evidence on Mr. Gale’s history with HCC 61, Member Sapin made a finding that Mr. Gale was at least partly motivated to bring the application to undermine the HCC 61 board and bully it into providing minutes that meet a standard of perfection he was never entitled to.
Not only had Mr. Gale admitted to engaging in a letter writing campaign against the board, he had sent over 1000 emails containing demands for records, complaints, or to criticize the board’s decisions over the last 4 years. Again this was in addition to his seventy (70) records requests. Most notably, when Mr. Gale and HCC 61 were last before the Tribunal in a Stage 3 hearing, the Member referred to Mr. Gale’s pattern of conduct related to records requests as “troubling” and cautioned him that there may be cost consequences if he is found to abuse the records request process in the future.
The CAT did not restrict Mr. Gale from bringing future applications, however, it did send a message in that he was ordered to pay $2,000 in costs, one of the largest awards levied against a unit owner to date. This should be a clear signal to other “condo commando(s)” out there that the CAT will not tolerate attempts to abuse its system and unrealistic expectations will get you nowhere.
All of the information contained in this article is of a general nature for informational purposes only and is not intended to represent the definitive opinion of the firm of Elia Associates on any particular matter. Although every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate and up-to-date, the reader should not act upon it without obtaining appropriate professional advice and assistance.