CAR Sues Andrea Geller for Defamation, Seeks Damages of $50,000+

by Chicago Agent


Andrea Geller, an agent with Coldwell Banker and member of the Chicago Association of Realtor’s finance committee, is being sued by the association for defamation.

By Peter Ricci

The Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) is suing Andrea Geller, a CAR member and agent for Coldwell Banker, for defamation for public statements she made in relation to Chicago Agent magazine’s story on the impeachment of former CAR President Bob Floss.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages in excess $50,000 from Geller, according to Chicago Tribune story on the lawsuit, is believed to be the first such lawsuit in the association’s 129-year history.

CAR Suing Andrea Geller for “Knowingly False Public Statements”

According to a press release from CAR, the association’s lawsuit is intended to stop “an ongoing campaign of defamation” from Geller, one composed of  “unsubstantiated, reckless and knowingly false public statements.”

Zeke Morris, the president of CAR, is quoted at length in the press release:

“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,” said Morris, who is also the operating principal and managing broker of Keller Williams Realty, CCG. “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. 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.”

Morris continued:

“With freedom of speech comes responsibility, 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. 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.”

Since the original publication of Chicago Agent‘s story on August 20, Geller, in addition to dozens of other members of the Chicago real estate community, have commented, with many calling for greater transparency in CAR’s financials; Geller, who is also a member of CAR’s finance committee, was among the most active voices, calling for an independent forensic audit and questioning the financials of the association not only on Chicago Agent‘s story, but on Facebook as well.

Chicago Agent‘s original story on Floss’ impeachment can be read here.

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  • John Q Commercial says:

    I’m no lawyer but wont this put all issues in question within the jurisdiction of the court to determine what is and is not true? Isn’t it now required CAR PROVE the statements are false?

    Again, not being an attorney, can’t Andrea now subpoena EVERYTHING in question?

    It is abysmally clear to me that CAR has 100% failed its members and is a LAUGHING STOCK among its members and among the general public. The inmates are running the proverbial asylum.

    I will be discontinuing my membership with CAR and moving to NICAR. As a commercial practitioner I have no choice but to distance myself from such an organization.

  • Allegra says:

    I just read that the Board is suing Andrea Geller for $50,000. That’s the “smoking gun” indictment against themselves showing that they are consistent in their pattern of behavior of shutting down dissenters. There is no confidence in a leader that supports that.

    I hope that Coldwell Banker’s leadership will see that standing behind Andrea will be standing behind their hundreds of realtors and all of Chicago’s realtor community. We need powerful office owners to step up to the plate and take care of this mess fast to provide stability in the eyes of the public. The Board is incapable of doing anything except suing a dissenter. Just pathetic because that just makes us all want to be dissenters.

  • Chicago Realtor says:

    As a realtor I am ashamed to be reading about all that has been happening the last couple of months.

    1. Ginger Downs should NOT be making 300+k.

    2. The way Bob Floss was asked to leave two months before his term ended, not right.

    3. Now we are suing our own members?? If her claims are false than they are false. He who owes nothing fears nothing.

    I hope the “Membership” will stand behind transperancy. We need a third party auditor chosen by the members and not the “CEO” or “Board of Directors”.

  • Cindy Says So says:

    It looks to me like an organization bullying. Second time in less than a month that people have “been made an example of” …. Wonder why the anonymous comments? Perhaps fear of retaliation.

    You need to take a good look at yourselves and ask why does this happen?

    Heavy heart? That’s hysterical.

  • Keep Digging says:

    I have read all of the articles and comments over the last several weeks. I used to be a dedicated employee of the Chicago Association of Realtors. The Association has been a valuable, respected and prideful organization for over 125 years. They used to work hard to ensure that their members (Realtors) had the necessary tools and information to succeed in business. I have personally seen the bullying and misuse of funds within the organization. If you don’t fit in or follow their direction then they snuff you out. They don’t go above and beyond to ensure realtors prosper. Its merely in my opinion for their own self gratification and personal pocket books.

    I say you are all on the right track so keep digging and don’t let this be swept away or abandoned. You deserve to have an organization that goes above and beyond for you. You are the members, you are the one’s who pay the dues that pay their salaries.

    Yes, I used a fake name because like everyone else I fear retaliation.

  • makes you wanna say humm says:

    I guess the powers that be were not in school they day they taught public relations.

    The executive staff and directors may very well be correct in their assesment that nothing is out of place financially. But going down this road it looks like there are really defensive of their own members questioning their spending habits. This has guilt and fear of being caught all over it, even though nothing may be out of place. We have the funds for a lawsuit, but not the funds for a forensic audit. A clean forensic audit would shut up their critics just as well. Makes you want to say hum……….

    How dare them sue one of ours for speaking out against the status quo. I guess this will show them not to question them, that is what this says to the whole association.

    I am sure they confered with attorneys on this. And what attorney would not take a lawsuit from an association with pocketbooks like ours. Really does not matter wheather they win or lose, they will show everyone not to cross that line and ask questions….well not questions they do not like.

    Kudos to the executive staff and directors for shutting up their members. You have now shown them who has the power to financially destroy any member who questions them. I am sure this issue is now over. Brilliant idea.

  • scarry says:

    This is even more rediculous than them getting rid of Floss. Only 6 people commenting. I guess it did work. Who wants to get sued. Who can afford to get sued.

  • Lissa Weinstein says:

    I’ve known Andrea Geller since I started in the real estate business. I worked with her at Coldwell Banker and Hot Property Residential Brokerage for several years.

    I’m not that familiar with the details of this dispute, but one thing I know very well and that is Andrea is meticulous.

    She is extremely well-informed about brokerage law, and doesn’t behave frivolously or act impetuously. She is careful, thoughtful, and she is always determined to do things the right way — according to the book. In fact, it can be a little annoying sometimes. That said, my money is on Andrea as an honest, hardworking professional realtor, and I wish her the best and a speedy resolution.

  • send a message says:

    Want to send a message to your leadership- Instead a renewing join another board- I am sure NSBAR or More would welcome you with open arms-

  • Connie Atterbury says:

    This whole episode is disgraceful and reflects very badly on CAR as an organization. Under the circumstances the members of CAR should demand an audit and full financial transparency. We pay the high CAR dues, and deserve answers from a neutral auditor.
    Frankly I am shocked that there is any controversy about full financial disclosure. Filing a lawsuit against a whiltleblower tells me it is time for a change in leadership at CAR. $300,000 is a high salary for a not for profit director. I am certain there are many qualified candidates who could handle an issue such as this more inexpensively, tactfully and effectively.
    Connie Atterbury

  • Lyn Sims says:

    This is really a dismal display of CAR using a heavy hand on any dissenters. Transparancy? Nah, let’s just sue her to shut her up. This has everyone thinking law suit because there are many anonymous comments!

    Sure freedom on speech is alive & well when realtors voice their opinions against their local board. Best way to handle it is to exit this debacle & join another board. I find it unconscionable that a board officer is paid over $300K per year.

  • LLKS says:

    If anyone should be sued it is the board and Ginger Downs – all of them need to leave CAR. Geller was trying to clean up CAR and so was Floss. There are Many agents who believe they will leave CAR and are angry that agent’ money is being spent by Downs and the board to sue Geller – they should take the law suit money out of THEIR pockets – not the agents pockets. CAR can go bankrupt if they keep this up.

  • Bill Knapp says:

    It is a sad day for The Chicago Association when they fire our President for inquiring about the finances and then sue a dues paying member for questioning further into their practices. This entire practice of attacking the whistleblowers undermines the very ethics and integrity our association is supposed to stand for.

    I am not an attorney however I have read through all of Andrea’s comments and believe that CAR will have a difficult time proving their allegations in a court of law. Hopefully this will bring complete transparency to the association and the truth will become evident for all.

    As the a Designated Broker of my offices, I am glad we have the right to choose which board we belong to and I will be watching this case carefully as it plays out. I applaud Chicago Agent Magazine for making the allegations public. Thank you Marcy & Peter!

  • Caroline W. says:

    Aside from what I think is a terrible move on CAR’s behalf, I have to also chime in on my shock at the $300,000 a year salary. REALLY? The mayor of Chicago makes but $216,000.

  • pauleygifrl says:

    I am appalled that a CAR executive would be making 300K when our membership is diminishing, the economy is on the rocks, and the association dues keep rising. This makes absolutely no sense!

    The members of CAR should consider joining other associations. That would certain get CAR’s attention and perhaps encourage them to put their house in order.

  • Paul Francis says:

    Looks like some things never change. Popped in after years of leaving Chicago where I was a Broker and surprise, surprise… controversy concerning a board is in the headlines.

    Reading over this and remembering the days I was a Broker in Chicagoland, makes me really appreciate the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors (GLVAR) where it really does operate for the Broker/agents. (And it even publishes the annual financial report for the agents to review!)

    I certainly admit.. some very entertaining reading catching up during some boring football games being aired in our area. Especially the comments under the original story.

    Over $300k a year for about 12,000 members? Damn… I’m in the wrong business!

    I’ll start a new board up there for only $250K a year and model it like GLVAR where agents can vote out the entire leadership if they are not happy. Anybody want to sign up?

    Just kidding of course… Don’t sue me.


  • scarry says:

    I have been checking dues from all associations and I can easily get the amount of dues for 2013 from every association except CAR. It seems that figure has not been announced as of yet I wonder why?

  • scarry says:

    sorry my mistake it is up on their site

  • Shakespeare says:

    The association doth protest too much, methinks.

    What a disgrace. Nothing like denying bad behavior and engaging in exact said bad behavior to defend yourself.

    Mainstreet Organization of Realtors here I come.

  • Makes Sense says:

    I’m surprised by the reaction here. Lots of accusations were being thrown around – from both sides. I recognize CARs desire to put an end to it. While I hate to see it, one of the few ways to rectify the situation is in the court of law. All documents, financial statements, meeting notes, etc, can be subpoened, and all statements will have to be made under oath. Shouldn’t this serve as the “forensic audit” that Andrea was asking for?

  • Fred Glick says:

    Some people never learn that the worst thing is not act, but the coverup.

    Good luck, Andrea!

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