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(Above) Image by Perfect View 3D of the main entrance to 111 East Chestnut, a 444-unit 56-story condominium also known as Elysées. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

20-May-19 – A Circuit Court judge will decide if a unit owner, who is a former board member, has gone too far with lawsuits and other complaints against a Gold Coast condominium association.

111 East Chestnut Street Condominium Association is suing Brian Connolly, saying he has filed “frivolous” lawsuits, reported “matters of no consequence” to city departments, made “incessant” requests for association records “for no reason other than harassment,” embarrassed board members and association employees on his “malicious website,” and lodged complaints with the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, and the IRS.

The association says he has done this in retaliation for being removed, twice, from the condo board for “disruptive behavior” and banned from ever serving on the board again.

In 2013, Connolly was fined $1,000 by his condo board for what they say was “erratic and intimidating behavior” but Connolly says he was fined for being an “outspoken critic” of the board. His lawsuit against the president of the condo association, Anthony Milazzo, and six directors, tried to recover the fines. It was dismissed in 2014 but on March 29, 2019, the Appellate Court of Illinois reversed the dismissal and allowed the case to move forward. That decision has since been appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Filed on May 8 in the Chancery Division of Circuit Court, the lawsuit against Connolly calls him “a well-known Internet troll and provocateur” and says he has “undertaken a campaign of retaliation and harassment” that has “consumed the association’s resources, both financial and human.”

111 East Chestnut

Listed as co-defendant is Victoria Valentine, who co-owns with Connolly a condo unit at 111 East Chestnut.

(Left) Photo of the lobby of 111 East Chestnut, from an MLS listing of a unit for sale there.

According to the condo association, it must pay $12,000 per year extra to its property management company as “combat pay” to “withstand Connolly’s barrage of complaints and demands.”

In addition to multiple injunctions against Connolly, they are seeking monetary damages and they want to evict him from his unit.

Connolly insists it is a free speech issue.

“When governments want to control people, the first thing to go is free speech,” said Connolly (right). “Sadly, some condo boards believe in absolute control. However, that’s just not aligned with the law or the courts in Illinois. But regardless, for some unscrupulous condo attorneys, it sure can be a tremendous fee generator.”

Brian Connolly

Board sends cease & desist over audio recordings of board meetings

Two days before the lawsuit was filed, Diane Silverberg, an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, sent an email to Connolly, demanding he stop posting to his website audio recordings of board meetings.

Silverberg said that while the Illinois Condominium Property Act allows unit owners to record board meetings, it does not allow them to make such recordings available to the general public.

Diane Silverberg

“Doing so defeats the purpose of allowing only unit owners to attend open association meetings,” wrote Silverberg (left) on May 6.

Silverberg mentions this in the lawsuit against Connolly, saying only unit owners are permitted to attend board meetings, “a fact of which he is so well aware that he recently took it upon himself to shoo a non-member of the association out of a board meeting.”

Connolly says the Illinois Condominium Property Act does not expressly prohibit non-owners from attending board meetings, that a recording of a board meeting can be defined as “minutes” of the meeting, and minutes are already made available to buyers, real estate agents, and other non-owners.

Appeal focuses on rights of unit owners in condo associations

Four members of the 111 East Chestnut Street condo board – Anthony Milazzo, Mike Fish, Serap Brush, and Glenn Greene – have appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court the March 29 decision by the Appellate Court of Illinois allowing Connolly’s lawsuit against them to proceed.

In her petition to the Illinois Supreme Court, Silverberg says the United States Constitution and the Illinois State Constitution only protect an individual’s free speech rights from impairment by the government. The appellate court, she says, “should have found that there are no rights of free speech implicated in a situation, as here, where the ‘speech’ in question is solely...among private citizens on private property.”

The condo association could not have impaired Connolly’s First Amendment rights, she says, because “the purported restrictions...were taken not by the government, but rather, by individual members of a private condominium association pursuant to a private contract among the parties.”

To rule otherwise, says Silverberg, “is tantamount to the creation of constitutional protections that do not exist by any reasonable interpretation of the U.S. or State Constitutions. Such a ruling...effectively transfigures a condominium association into a state actor.”

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