By Peter Ricci
It was more than a month ago that Bob Floss, then the president of the Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR), was relieved of his position, and that Zeke Morris, the association’s president elect, assumed the presidency early.
But now, in an exclusive interview with Chicago Agent magazine, Floss is speaking out about why he was, in his words, “impeached,” and removed from his presidency.
Bob Floss Speaks out on Impeachment
Before we cover Floss’ allegations, we should point out that Floss’ main claims remain unsubstantiated, and though we reached out to other members of the Chicago Realtors community for additional perspectives, there are facets of his statements that we are unable to verify.
“I was impeached,” Floss said. “I got pushed out the door because I asked to see all the finances.”
Those “finances,” Floss alleges, primarily involved two areas of CAR’s budget:
- CAR’s various entities – Floss said he was pushing for more detailed explanations for all CAR-owned entities, particularly the Northern Illinois Real Estate Information Network, or NIREIN, a for-profit referral and holding company that holds real estate licenses, and, Floss claims, that has no discernible paper trail in CAR’s records; and other for-profit entities, such as a for-profit MLS with no available information.
- CAR’s expenses and operating costs – as part of CAR’s recent merger discussions with the North Shore – Barrington Association of Realtors (NSBAR), Floss said he began taking a deeper look at CAR’s expenses, including the lease on its current headquarters, the various expense accounts and dinner charges of directors and staff members and, most notably, the salaries of CAR leadership, including CEO Ginger Downs.
Regarding CAR’s other entities, Floss told us they first came under question during CAR’s merger discussions with NSBAR, and he alleges that because NSBAR requested more information about those financials – and because CAR did not provide them – the merger fell through.
“They weren’t getting a true, crystal clear picture of our finances,” Floss said. “If there’s nothing wrong with the finances, what difference does it make? Just show them. All of them … Now the whole membership is suspicious.”
We reached out to Judy Gibbons, the president of NSBAR, for that association’s perspective on the merger talks, but she opted not to comment for the story.
And regarding Downs’ compensation, Floss said he was also in discussions with her about the extension of her current contract with CAR. Though he supported extending Downs’ contract by four more years, Floss wanted her salary to be readjusted to reflect CAR’s current membership levels of 12,500, not the 18,000+ that it currently reflects. According to a recent INMAN News piece, Downs earned $350,772 in salary and benefits in 2008, along with a $10,287 expense account, but in 2010, she took a 6.5 percent pay cut to $327,821 in salary, incentives and benefits.
Chicago Association of Realtors Respond
CAR has disputed every detail of Floss’ account to us, and again, though Floss did share emails with us confirming that other CAR members were looking into CAR’s finances, his main claims remain unsubstantiated.
Also, though Floss’ claims insinuate that Downs spearheaded his impeachment, we should also point out that Downs does not having voting power on CAR’s board, and ultimately, it was the board of directors who voted on his expulsion. The current board of directors includes President Zeke Morris, Treasurer Ron D. Abrams, Immediate Past President Mabel Guzman and the following Directors: Rafael Alvarado; Wayne P. Caplan; Sarah Coulter; Will Crowden (commercial forum director); Juan Del Real; Matt Farrell (president-elect for 2013); Tammy Hajjar (affiliate director); Kathy Kalnes; Greg Kosin; Lauren Mitrick; Hugh Rider (government affairs director); Mike Sato; Matthew Silver; William J. Stegeman; and Dan Wagner.
CAR provided us with a statement in response to Floss’ allegations:
“The Chicago Association of Realtors Board of Directors deliberated about the Association’s change in leadership in executive session and its decision remains confidential. It is not true that the Board made this change in leadership in response to anything related to the financial operations of the Association. The Chicago Association of Realtors has extensive policies and procedures in place to ensure financial oversight and transparency. We are committed to serving our members and are excited about the upcoming year.”
In addition, Chicago Agent interviewed Downs for this story, and she made several points throughout the course of our discussion:
- Though she could not comment specifically on Floss’ expulsion from the board, Downs did say that his inquiry into the board’s finances had nothing to do with it. “Absolutely in no shape or form was Bob impeached for that,” she said.
- NIREIN, Downs said, is the only for-profit entity owned by CAR, and information about the network is freely available on the CAR website.
- Regarding matters of financial inquiry, Downs said that CAR has a clearly-stated policy for whistleblowers that dictates what process members should follow and who they should contact if they uncover any financial irregularities with CAR – a process, she said, that Floss did not follow.
- Though Floss told us that the whistleblower policy was only instituted a week before his impeachment – and therefore did not cover his personal financial investigations – Downs said the policy dates back to Oct. 6, 2010, when CAR first adopted the policy. “I’m a little bit astounded that that’s something he’s brought up,” Downs said, in regards to Floss’ statements on CAR’s finances.
- Downs also said that when the board of directors considered impeaching Floss, they consulted the association’s by-laws, which can be read in full here. Though Downs could not specifically comment on which of the by-laws the board exerted, Floss told us he was charged with “Harassment,” which is detailed on page 24 of the aforementioned document.
Floss’ statements come after an earlier interview with Chicago Agent, in which Floss expressed optimism that whatever differences he had with CAR could be resolved internally through mediation between Laurie Janick, the general counsel for NAR, and Peter Friedman, CAR’s general counsel.
Floss had provided Janick with a list of requests. They were:
- That he be reinstated as a member of the CAR executive board for one year.
- That he be reinstated as a member of both the CAR and IAR board of directors.
- That his photo be displayed alongside all the other past presidents of CAR.
- And that he be allowed to hand out awards at the upcoming CAR inaugural.
“I’m really optimistic this can be worked out within the Realtor family,” Floss had said. “I bet this will be resolved by the end of this week.”
But after Floss’ requests were denied, he contacted us with his side of the story – and we should be clear that this story is ongoing, and we will continue to report on it as more details emerge.