Property Manager Claims Shelton Association Condo Owners Intended To Steal His Financial Documents

Copyright 2012

The owner of County Management services in Trumbull said in a telephone interview that he believes the three condo owners whom he had arrested had intended to steal his financial documents and that the incident could not have been a misunderstanding.

“That is what we believe,” said Gary Knauf, owner of County Management “they intended to steal from me.”

Knauf and one of his assistants, filed larceny claims against Joseph Miller, 79, a former board member of Sunwood Condominiums, Kathy Benedetto, 56, a hospital accountant, and Joan Pagliuco, 66, a travel agent. All three live in the complex that Knauf manages.

The three – along with at least one other condo owner, have been investigating what they say are improper billings and poor management on Knauf’s part. Knauf declined to respond to what he said were false claims.

Knauf said the three came to his office on June 29 after they had demanded access to hundreds of pages of financial documents.

He said “we treated them cordially…we are a full believer in transparency.”

Knauf said his staff made copies of the documents they wanted, and when the secretary who provided them the copies went into Knauf’s office, the three left taking not only 400 pages of copies but 50 pages of original documents.

He said the three knew that they had to pay $60 an hour for researching the requested documents, plus 5 cents a copy. While a final tally of the costs were not presented, Knauf said the three knew they had to pay to take the papers.

Asked why he simply did not send them an invoice instead of calling the police, Knauf indicated it was time for payback.

“They have been persecuting us for three years, they had the opportunity to do the right thing,” Knauf said. “They didn’t offer to give us a check.”

Asked how he knew the three took original documents also, Knauf said they had to because the documents were missing after the three left. He conceded that no one saw the three take the documents, which he claimed had been left on a counter.

While there is no question that the three had been investigating Knauf at least since last winter when a workman died trying to install a skylight on a 39-foot tall roof without wearing a safety harness.

It turned out that no one took out a building permit for the work and that the contractor had broken OSHA laws. Work on the project was stopped at least twice by OSHA and building officials.

“I felt terrible about” the death Knauf said. However he claimed he had no legal responsibility to supervise the contractor nor to make sure required building permits were obtained.

Unfortunately, Knauf is not very knowledgeable about building permits. State law section 105.3.3 says that “Application for a permit shall be made by the owner …or by an authorized agent.”

So it was either the board of director’s responsibility or Knauf’s responsibility to obtain a permit and make sure the company they hired was doing the work legally.

The three arrested deny stealing the documents and said they did not take the originals. They said they assumed since everyone left the office they would be sent a bill for the documents. They had brought a check with them to pay, but said they were not told what the amount they were owed.

“I just can’t believe he stooped to this level to hide something,” Pagliuco said. “The documents weren’t his. They belong to us and the association.”

Benedetto said they later found out the copying charge was less than $16. However, the research charge to find the documents was probably $190.

“This is the most outrageous allegation possible,” said Brian Harte, President and Chairman of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition referring to the arrests.  “This well educated group came to seek guidance from the CCOC in response to documented circumvention by the management company of legal orders and well researched probability of mismanagement of funds.”

“This team was trying to find the truth.  They requested documents that were no different than a private homeowner being able to look at their own checkbook.  The CCOC is concerned with the police department’s and prosecutor’s office judgement in this case in issuing the arrest warrants.  There are specific condo laws that give these rights to owners and the association and management company should be well aware of that.”

“There is no doubt that this is just the beginning of a much larger story,” Harte said.

The three – along with at least one other condo owner – have spent months investigating whether County Management double billed the complex and its role in building projects where required building permits were not sought prior to the work. They are also investigating OSHA violations by the workers hired by the manager.

The three were members of the condo association ByLaws Committee, but were thrown off the committee after the incident.

“Due to a reported incident, in which you were reported to be involved, which occurred at the Office of County Management on or about Friday, June 29, 2012 and which is currently under investigation by the Trumbull Pd., this is formal notification that you are suspended from the ByLaws Committee pending the disposition of the Trumbull Pd. investigation,” condo president Phil Napolitano wrote them in an email.

A roofer died at the complex this year after he fell 39 feet while installing a skylight.

“Francisco Amaral, 46, of Bridgeport, was taken to Bridgeport Hospital after the Feb. 14 accident. He later died from blunt head trauma,” according to the Connecticut Post.

“An inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Bridgeport office also was at the complex this week after the agency received a complaint that roofers weren’t wearing fall protection. Local police, following Amaral’s death, said it didn’t appear he was wearing a safety harness,” the post wrote on June 23.

“We went there after receiving a call that there might be safety hazards, that workers weren’t wearing fall protection,” said John Donnelly, the onsite inspector for OSHA.

Joe Miller had served on the Board of Directors for over a year and ended his tenure in March of 2012.  He said asked one simple question of the rest of the Board and of Knauf at each monthly meeting, “Can someone provide a copy of the financials that a layman like me can understand?”

Miller said he neither got a decent reply nor anything that was easy to follow.  He said that he resigned thinking that he cold do “greater good” from the outside than he could from the inside.

“Everything about Sunwood is controlled by Gary (the Propery Manager) and not the board who are supposed to be directing Knauf.” Miller said.

As Miller was turning himself in for the arrest warrant, Miller said that he asked of the booking Officer, “So this is how a 79 year old man that served his country gets treated?”  Miller is a war-time veteran of the Korean War.

And as for Benedetto, she said after her arrest: “This is not going to stop us from continuing our investigation.”


4 Responses to Property Manager Claims Shelton Association Condo Owners Intended To Steal His Financial Documents

  1. Linda Palermo says:

    I believe that the property manager acted in haste when he had the condo owners arrested remember we have rights. In my opinion not only was he was negligent in carrying out his duties as a property manager because he failed to replace the original documents into the file where he took them from for the members to review inspect and make copies of if they so desired. Also he failure to carry out his obligations and duties as a Property manager when he failed to ask the condo owners if they wanted to pay prior to or at the time that the copies were made and or if they wanted to be billed. If in fact the original documents were alleged taken, sham shame on him for not carrying out the duties of his employment. Please remember these are my personal opinions

  2. Shirley Nowinski says:

    I believe the property manager works for the condo owners – not the other way around. All document relating to the condo operation (also paid for by the condo owners) should have been made available upon request. Since they are already paying salary to the property manager, payment for “research time” is redundant. Copying expense is part of the deductible “business expense”, of managing a business. If the property manager is making a profit off copying condo owners documents is he guilty of tax fraud? Just some thoughts.

  3. Linda Palermo says:

    ‘That is what we believe,” said Gary Knauf, owner of County Management, I believe the property manager works for County Management THROUGH TO the Shelton Condo’s. However statute allows for a reasonable copying fee and allows for a reasonable fee to be paid for a property manager or somesone to watch (baby sits for a lack of a better description)the files so that they are not stolen. So if he didn’t watch so that they were not stolen, he failed to do his job. However I do not agree that the fee of 60.00 is reasonable, TO BABY SIT. I would just love to have a baby sitting job that pays this well.

  4. Pauline C. Baker says:

    I live at 80 Cartright Street in Bridgeport ct ( CMS)County Management is servicing our building. I, and others in the building have had problems with this devious company. When asked about their annual report ( re: MISC.) items breakdown, we were told that it was none of our business. I have, for many years, have had problems with my interior walls due to moisture seepage from outside the building, I have a corner unit and the brick outside needs to be pointed (re-cemented) I told them about this problem on several occasions.(3 years now.) Initially they said they didn’t have the money. To make a long story short. I had to replace the inside of my wall unit, because it was badly rusted and the off and on knob was useless, When the boilers were turned on after and electrical outage, the steam which is normally vented outside the building came thru my unit. I could not turn the steam off. It was awful. The steam caused the wood tile flooring to lift from under my carpeting. My insurance company paid for the carpeting. I had to call their insurance company as I did not get any return calls from CMS. Their own insurance company called them many times, again with out and response. Mr. Martinez said that I had done every thing right and that he would have their claim adjuster set up an appointment to check the damages. This is a little over a month since the day of the reported damage. She took pictures and made notes. A rep finally showed up( after the claim adjuster said that she would in my unit at 4pm) he finally showed up. The first think he said was “I AM GOING TO DENY THIS CLAIM” THIS WAS A VERY ANGRY, DISREPECTFUL YOUNG MAN.) I believe this was Gary’s son. I am 83 years old, and this whole situation has taken its toll on me. The director of the board has an anger problem and scream at me ranting down the hall that I am trying to extort monies from them….. Their insurance company sent the claim adjuster. This wall will be an on going problem. This problem is from outside. The insurance company said that they send a check to cover my claim. They deny that they received a check

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *