Realtor association suing member for $50,000
The Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) today sent out an email news release commenting on their newly filed defamation suit against Andrea Geller in the Cook County Circuit Court. The $50K+ lawsuit is based on comments posted on a Chicago Agent Magazine article regarding the recent impeachment of the Association’s President.
Geller is a former Board Member and currently volunteers on the CAR Finance Committee, and has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but upon advice of her lawyer cannot publicly comment on the active litigation.
Reactions online have been mixed, with support for both sides pouring in, but with the court documents not yet available, it is difficult to discern all of the facts, but the idea of any Association suing a member is disturbing some, while others point out that it is important for Associations to stand up to some of the abuses they endure on social networks.
CAR reacts “with a heavy heart”
REALTOR® Zeke Morris, president of C.A.R. and Operating Principal and Managing Broker, Keller Williams Realty writes in an email statement, “It is with a heavy heart that the C.A.R. Board of Directors and I have authorized this action against one of our own members — but that member left us with no choice. The ongoing false statements about fictitious financial issues are intolerable and inexcusable, particularly in light of the fact that the Association urged Ms. Geller over the course of several weeks to identify specific concerns so they could be investigated.”
Morris continued, “Rather than act responsibly, she continued with the defamatory posts, through and including this past weekend. We were forced to take action to protect the Association’s well-earned respect and reputation.”
“With freedom of speech comes responsibility,” Morris noted, “and it is wrong to use the ease of the Internet to cast repeated, unsupported and false aspersions on our staff, volunteers and on our Association. The Board has great confidence in its CEO, its Chief Operations and Financial Officer, and the rest of its financial staff, along with its Finance Committee.”
Morris said, “The Association’s budgeting process is thorough, open, and comprehensive, with members involved in myriad committees to shape the offerings of the Association – from education to events, programs and beyond. The Association’s finances are annually audited by independent certified public accountants. We have been, and will continue to be, good and responsible stewards of our members’ dues.”
Association protecting itself or turning against a member?
“That stewardship requires C.A.R. to protect the Association and its staff and members from the damage that can come from defamation,” writes Joe Zekas of YoChicago.com. “CAR’s approach to Ms Geller doesn’t strike me as the most professional way to deal with a dissident member. Following soon after CAR’s removal of its president, who had also questioned CAR’s finances, this heavy-handed tactic could easily leave the public wondering.”
Austin broker, Eric Bramlett, who is no stranger to Board controversy himself added that, “It would be nice to know exactly which of Andrea’s statements CAR finds defamatory. Is it her request for transparency in CAR’s accounting? Her suggestion that high level CAR employees undergo background checks prior to employment? Her suggestion that CAR undergo a forensic audit? Though I’m not an attorney, these hardly seem actionable. I look forward to an explanation from CAR as to why they’re suing one of their own.”
“Perhaps the entire system really does need to be evaluated by a third party”
A common sentiment online was that regardless of this lawsuit or the outcome, the role of the Association is unclear, with some standing strongly against a suit of this nature, while others note that it is easy to conceive that if any group feels defamed, it should stand up.
Amanda Lopez, Founder of Style House Realty in Baltimore opines, “Someone isn’t telling the truth and it will be a battle of the dollar as to who can last the longest to find out the real truth. Something like this wouldn’t go to trial for years and unless [Coldwell Banker] is going to shell out for their agent, who has donated her own time to serve on a committee, chances are that CAR will win merely for the resources they seem to have to stick it out.”
Lopez adds, “It is a shame when people who work for free to protect a trade associations reputation they believe so strongly in, only to be tossed aside when they open their mouths. There seems to be a lot of power struggle between the paid staff on every local board and the revolving door of members volunteering their time to be the “idea creators.” Perhaps the entire system really does need to be evaluated by a third party to deem it as a necessary and well run entity.”
“CAR may not like people talking about this online, but slapping a lawsuit on someone that has already gotten social media legs, is not the way to handle PR in 2012,” Lopez concludes.
What message does this lawsuit send?
Some are calling it intimidation, others are calling it a necessary protection, but Marc Davison, Founding Partner at 1000watt Consulting said, “I cannot think of a single crime worth the punishment of a public lawsuit issued by an association toward its member. What kind of message does that send the public about our industry when it goes after one of its own in public view?”
Davison added, “Granted, I do not have the facts but I cannot imagine what a Realtor could possibly do to incur this public intimidation and humiliation. I know Andrea. She has always been upfront, articulate and a champion for change in real estate. I respect that and I respect her. CAR should back down and deal with whatever this is in private. Like adults.”
Calls for a new alternative to the Association
As is a common response when members disagree with an Association’s behavior, individuals call for an alternative association, as “Joe,” an anonymous commenter on the Chicago Agent Mag story writes, “What exactly is the qualifications for being the CEO of an association. what experience could Ginger Downs possibly have that would be worth $327,000 per year. What is she doing that a $100,000 salary couldnt accomplish.”
Joe continues, “This whole thing is absolutely ridiculous the entire leadership needs to go and now. All the realtors need to get a spine and start a petition to remove the leadership. Otherwise the best way to defeat them is to simply start a new association.”
This will not likely be the lone voice with this suggestion, but as in many instances in the past, this will not be the likely outcome related to this lawsuit.
Show me the money: CAR’s finances
Although an alternative Association will not likely emerge as a result, a common theme has emerged regarding CAR’s books, and the finances of other Associations are likely to go under the microscope.
Jeff Brown, Founder of Brown & Brown Investment Properties tells AGBeat, “Regardless of the emotions on both sides, the question beggin’ to be asked is: Why aren’t all the books of CAR, detailing the journey of every single dime, made public and accounted for? That one act would, if perceived as credible by members and the public, paint the most accurate financial picture possible. Why hasn’t this been done? Why all the tap dancing? Why the bullying?”
Brown adds, “I’ve seen this at every level of the Realtor experience since I was first licensed so long ago. CAR has forced everyone to posture and theorize due to the accounting remaining behind their curtain. So far, this drama has been relegated to ‘he says, she says’, which rarely gets to the truth of reality.”
“As far as the lawsuit goes,” Brown notes, “I suspect there can be only a couple outcomes. If CAR has nothing to fear, their books will easily and quickly demonstrate their innocence of any wrong doing, or even the appearance of it. On the other hand, if a judge forces CAR to turn over a truly complete record of their books, a highly experienced forensic accountant might uncover some unflattering numbers. If the latter is the case, and nobody knows that except the board members, it says something about their judgment that they’d invite such a detailed examination of their behavior.”
Brown concludes, “I seriously doubt this gets to trial. One way or another, history tells me there won’t be a truly unbiased accounting. Everyone will go their separate ways, and none of us will ever know what really happened — or never happened. In other words, when the smoke clears, we’ll probably know about as much as we do now.”
Adding fuel to the fire… “bat-shit crazy”
In an ironic twist, even commenters on the Chicago Agent Magazine website are now calling each others’ comments defamatory. John Q Reason comments, “Perhaps the association is taking legal action because there is factual evidence that Andrea Geller (who most of the industry knows is bat-shit crazy) is making blatantly false statements. Just a theory, but then I am no detective.”
John Q Commercial comments on the same blog, “I know i’m not an attorney, but calling someone ‘bat shit crazy’ sounds like defamation to me. Just a theory.”
“Why would they put someone who is bat shit crazy in charge of the money?”
An industry leader that chose to remain anonymous told AG, “My opinion is this: I don’t know her, she may be bat shit crazy in fact, however, the burden of proof is in fact on the board to prove that she knowingly made false statements. So they may be false but they also have to prove that she knew them to be false and repeatedly made them after a cease and deists letter was received.”
“I also don’t know all the facts first hand,” our source notes, “but seems like to me if they are suing her for money, they may just be proving her point about being a financial train wreck and this may be just an attempt at a money grab. Either way, she doesn’t look bat shit crazy, and if she was bat shit crazy, why would they put someone who is bat shit crazy in charge of the money? That too me seems like proof enough that the board may not make the best decisions.”
“Even if you win, you lose”
Frank Llosa, Esq., Broker of Frankly Real Estate, is well known for his no-holds-barred approach to his commentary on the real estate industry. Llosa tells AG, “I am very interested in hearing the outcome, because I tend to write controversial blogs and comments and I wouldn’t want to curb online discussions. I hope she has the ability to defend herself. The problem with our system is that even if you win, you lose because of the costs and lost productivity.”
Working from home could be permanent for many after COVID
(BUSINESS NEWS) Lockdown has millions of workers doing their jobs from home, and many will never go back to the office again. So how do you settle in for the long run?
Facebook announced in May that they estimate to have about half of their staff working from home indefinitely, even after the pandemic ends. Twitter also made headlines around the same time with similar statements.
When staff work remotely, companies save on major expenses like rent, heating, and electricity. Nationwide (yes, the insurance provider!) recently closed five regional offices, simply because they no longer needed them, thanks to remote working. Talk about cost cutting!
It does beg us to ask: Why do we spend so much money on gas and so many hours in traffic to do things at the office that we can easily accomplish at home?
If you’re reading this right now, you probably have all the tools you need in order to do (at least part of) your job from anywhere: An internet connection and one or two devices, like a cell phone and a computer. That’s all you need in order to collaborate with people all around the globe. It’s honestly kind of surprising that mainstream work culture hasn’t caught up to this technology sooner, considering it’s been widely available for roughly a generation. And the stay-at-home orders have all but dispelled the myth that working from home makes employees less productive.
If these big businesses are eager to make the transition, it will set the tone moving forward for other industries. Undoubtedly, tech companies stand to seriously benefit from a broad shift to remote work, considering they provide the tools that make it possible.
However, there are considerable barriers to overcome before telecommuting can fully go mainstream. For one, it’s still hard to set boundaries between work & play from home, especially when you lack a dedicated office space. If you spend any substantial amount of time at work mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or watching cat videos on Youtube, then that habit is likely to follow you into the remote workplace (and don’t think I’m just throwing shade here, I’m guilty as charged).
There are also financial limitations that can prevent one from efficiently working from home. For example, if I normally use an office computer for my job, but don’t own a computer personally, who would be responsible for ensuring that I get a computer to effectively do my job during this crisis?
Regardless, whenever things go ‘back to normal’, wouldn’t it be great if working from home became a widely accepted option? Job opportunities would be more accessible to skilled candidates from areas outside of cities and tech hubs, those with chronic illness and disabilities that limit them to their houses, and parents with young children who need supervision and care.
If done equitably, we may end up seeing the new shift to remote work have a powerful, progressive influence on the way that we all get things done.
Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19
(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.
Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.
It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)
So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!
I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.
I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?
Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.
I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)
The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.
I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.
Scammers are taking advantage of the unemployed
(BUSINESS NEWS) In a country that’s been stricken by higher-than-ever levels of unemployment, scammers have found a unique way to target this vulnerable demographic.
With unemployment rates reaching unprecedented levels in recent months, it’s a fairly safe bet to say that there’s something that many of us currently have in common: we need a job. While these levels are slowly starting to decline, already down to 11.1 percent in June from an all-time high of 14.7 percent in April, the need for steady gainful employment is still great for many Americans. That’s what makes the newest scam making its rounds particularly vile.
There’s a common misconception that people who get scammed largely deserved their misfortune. Whether it’s presumed that they got greedy, they fell for something that was too good to be true, or they were looking for an easy way out, it’s both unfair and unkind to make these snap judgements of victims of scammers. When it comes to scammers, there’s only one party to blame for these wrongful actions — the scammers themselves.
And with literally millions of people looking for a job right now, these scammers have found a new round of susceptible people to target. It’s a fairly well documented fact that scammers have a knack for knowing who will be easy prey, and this latest scam is no different. According to a report from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers have ramped up their efforts to separate desperate job seekers from what’s left of their meager funds.
This scam is nothing new, but it has surged in popularity with the sheer number of people looking for jobs in today’s economy. Dubbed the “employment scam,” it can take on many forms, but the end result remains the same. At the end of the day, if a person is bilked out of their money, then the scammer has won.
What does this scam look like, and how can you safeguard yourself from falling prey to it? Please note that anyone — from all walks of life, no matter your age, your sex, your race, or any other factor — can become a victim of a scam. The only way to protect yourself is to be aware of the scam and recognize the signs of it. If a potential employer asks any of the following of you, then there’s a good chance they’re a scammer:
- You are required to pay the so-called employer for your own training up front.
- You are expected to give up your banking/personal info for a credit check.
- You are overpaid by a fraudulent check and told to wire back the difference.
- You are told that you need to pay for expensive equipment to work from home.
Please note that these scammers can spoof legitimate companies. They may try to pass themselves off as real-deal businesses; they’ve even tried to emulate the BBB itself. And when you refuse to follow through with their demands, they will double down and might even become hostile and aggressive, resorting to threats and cajoling. It’s important to not cave in; once they start bullying you, they know the gig is up.
The BBB also notes that coronavirus has created a “perfect storm” for scammers, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. They advise that you avoid social isolation, as that can make you more vulnerable to scammers. When in doubt, seek out a friend’s feedback. Sometimes a reality check can make all the difference in whether or not you become a mark. Do a little bit of digging online before you accept an “offer” or share personal information. And finally, be prudent. No matter how many warnings the BBB puts out each year about scams, the only person who can really protect you from getting scammed is just one person…yourself.
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