Filled with conflict, Fireside Terrace in Buffalo Grove looks toward condo board vote
Chicago Tribune
By Ronnie Wachter
24 August 2016

Following orders from a Cook County judge, a group of Buffalo Grove condominium owners will assemble Saturday to elect an all-new board.

The move follows an ongoing battle between condo owners and their property manager that has resulted in at least 26 calls to the Buffalo Grove Police Department since January 2015.

a community that has no operating budget

The Fireside Terrace homeowners association board is currently empty after all five members either stepped down or moved out. The only thing resembling leadership for a community that has no operating budget and several maintenance needs is the property manager that the last board hired.

And some homeowners say Joan Ness, the owner of Care Property Management, Inc., has become increasingly unseen and rarely heard from. They accuse her of hiding their own finances from them and maneuvering to derail the Aug. 27 board election.

It's like living in a prison camp

"It's like living in a prison camp," said Judy Altman, a former board member who helped hire Ness.

Ness has declined requests for comment since 2015. When former board members hired Care Property Management in January 2015, the board president was Don Harigodt, Sr., who moved last summer to McHenry.

While Aleksey Karnyevich examines discarded ceiling panels in the hallway of one of the Fireside Terrace buildings, fellow resident Kenneth Swiatek studies a wall, looking for unrepaired damage. (Ronnie Wachter / Pioneer Press)

The homeowners, who want to eliminate Care Property Management, also have accused him of funneling association money into the pockets of his son, Don Harigodt, Jr — a claim Harigodt, Sr. vehemently denies.

"They're all liars," he said. "What I'm being accused of, I've done none of."

Harigodt, Jr., has not returned calls for comment since 2015.

breach-of-fiduciary-duty suit

Fireside Terrace, a collection of 143 condominiums in the 600 and 700 blocks of Grove Drive in Buffalo Grove, has been the focus of a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. The breach-of-fiduciary-duty suit alleges that, through a course of years, several different defendants have misused the unit owners' money.

Judge Thomas Allen ordered a board election as part of that suit.

Altman is not running for the association board again, but she and the five owners, who are running, accuse Ness of stealing several boxes of the association's financial records. They also say she disrupted their attempts in 2015 to call an all-owners meeting to elect new board members.

refuses to disclose current financial statements


Because Fireside Terrace no longer has a single board member, Care Property Management is paying the group's bills based on an old budget, according to the group of condo owners. Ness, they said, refuses to disclose current financial statements.

Kenneth Swiatek, one of the five owners vying for a board seat Aug. 27, said the residents have never seen Care Property Management's current contract, which runs from Feb. 1 until Jan. 31, 2017.

He said they got a hold of Care Property Management's 2015-16 contract in November, and they found that the association was paying the group $2,350 a month, plus a long list of add-ons.

"But we don't have this year's contract," Swiatek said. "No one would show it to us."

Based in Hanover Park, Care Property Management handles 23 condominium and homeowners associations, with many located around Bartlett and Streamwood, according to its website.

The services it advertises include monthly reporting of financial statements, assistance with organizing maintenance, attending the boards' meetings and assistance with litigation.

Ness is described on the website as a senior property manager with more than 20 years of experience managing single-family residences, rentals and homeowners associations.

The other four candidates for the board's five open spots are Pawel Gasior, Hannah Worcel, Evangelina Guajardo and Aleksey Karnyevich.

Swiatek and his partners filed the suit on July 9, 2015, alleging that Ness tried to disrupt a recall vote of existing board members during a meeting about a month earlier on June 4, 2015.

In the lawsuit, Swiatek and the new candidates allege that Ness took possession of written votes and then counted the ballots in an "area away from the owners."

intentionally disqualifying enough recall ballots

In subsequent conversations, several of the current board candidates accused Ness of intentionally disqualifying enough recall ballots to keep in place the board members who had hired her.

Harigodt, Sr. hired his son

Another allegation in the lawsuit details how Harigodt, Sr. hired his son, Harigodt, Jr., for landscaping, snowplowing and maintenance work from 2009 to 2015 and paid him about $200,000 each year, totaling $1.2 million over the six years.

The discord at Fireside Terrace has led to dozens of police visits.

On Feb. 23, resident Jason Lewis received an order of protection against Altman, while Altman and several of the candidates have filed multiple complaints about Lewis' behavior. On April 1, Wright told the police that someone stole a package that was mailed to her.

On May 14, officers arrested Worcel and her father, Morris, charging them with disturbing the peace.

In mid-April, officers called an all-homeowner meeting, hoping to quell the volume of police calls to the property.

The board vote Aug. 27 could provide some clarity—something judge Allen specifically ordered July 27.

He specified how Care Property Management and the other defendants had to give Swiatek and the plaintiffs a complete list of every owner's address, even ones who live elsewhere but rent their units, since every owner will be eligible to vote.

Guajardo, Karnyevich, Swiatek, Gasior and Worcel are the only candidates running for the five seats.

Swiatek said he took that as a compliment from the current unit owners. He recalled the months of in-fighting that have led to this weekend's vote.

call themselves the Yellow Team

To campaign for it, he and his partners started to call themselves the Yellow Team, a name based on the color of the paper they printed bulletins on and distributed around the property.

Guajardo said the struggle to get to an election had already produced fruit. Buffalo Grove police records show that the number of calls to Fireside Terrace has dropped since the April meeting with officers.

"It's brought us closer together," she said. "Before, we didn't know our neighbors. We didn't know each other. Now, we've become a real neighborhood."

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Owners of problematic Fireside Terrace condos in Buffalo Grove elect new board
Chicago Tribune
By Ronnie Wachter
01 September 2016

Eva Guajardo is part of a group of residents who are not happy with the conditions of their condominium complex in Buffalo Grove.  (Brian O'Mahoney/Pioneer Press)

For the first time in months, condominium owners at Fireside Terrace in Buffalo Grove will lead their homeowners association board, casting doubt on the future of a property manager new board members say cannot be trusted.

At least 26 calls to the Buffalo Grove Police Department have generated from Fireside Terrace since January 2015, as some owners have squabbled with former neighbors and condo leaders. Tensions started to settle after a Cook County judge earlier this summer ordered the owners to assemble Aug. 27 and elect a new board.

Until that vote, the Fireside Terrace association board had been empty since all five members had either stepped down or moved out. The five new members who won Aug. 27 were the only candidates for the board seats.

"I'm so relieved," said Evangelina Guajardo, one of the five newly elected officials. "Everything fell into place. As we were casting our proxies, it was like a party, almost. It was like, 'Finally, finally.'"

Guajardo, Pawel Gasior, Kenneth Swiatek, Aleksey Karnyevich and Hannah Worcel now have authority to create an operating budget and decide what to do with their current property manager, including the possibility of severing contract ties with Care Property Management Inc., Guajardo said.

She and the four other board members have all said that they do not trust Care Property owner Joan Ness, who helps manage 23 area condominium and homeowners associations, with many located around Bartlett and Streamwood, according to its website.

Ness has declined requests for comment since 2015.

"My preference is to cut them right now," Guajardo said, even though Fireside Terrace's contract with Care Property ends Jan. 31.

Fireside Terrace, a collection of 143 condominiums in the 600 and 700 blocks of Grove Drive in Buffalo Grove, has been the focus of a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. The breach-of-fiduciary-duty suit alleges that, through a course of years, several different defendants have misused the unit owners' money.

Newly elected board members have alleged that Care Property has hid an operating budget, bills and past financial records. They've also alleged Ness disrupted previous attempts to call an all-owners meetings in the past.

The members have said the association has gone for months on an outdated budget because no board ever approved a spending plan for 2016.

As conflicts escalated, the property seemingly deteriorated.

Visitors can find cracks in foundations and hallway walls, and incomplete ceiling paneling that have left wires and ducts exposed.

In the months leading up to the Aug. 27 vote, Buffalo Grove police have recorded the discord between new board members and other unit owners. Since 2015, law enforcement officials have arrested Worcel, a member of the new board, issued orders of protection, fielded a pile of disorderly conduct and theft complaints.

In April, police organized a meeting with all owners in an effort to quell the rancor.

After the recent board vote, Altman said she felt a hope for the future that she hadn't felt in years.

"I can't tell you how excited I am," she said. "We're desperately trying to get a hold of our complex. ... The only thing I have out of life is my condominium."


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