On a muggy evening last summer, unit owners from the Five Condos tower in downtown Toronto gathered at the InterContinental Hotel for the meeting that would elect from among them five directors to oversee over their new building's $2.5-million budget.
Three of the elected candidates, Darryl McGregor, Ray Blanchard and George Laczko, sat separately, not acknowledging that they knew one another. They in fact represented the same unit, No. 1306.
"They never said, 'We're three hombres together running as a team to take the majority.' They didn't act like they knew each other. They didn't announce which apartment they owned," a defeated candidate, the retired brewing executive Richard Scully, recalled.
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Within weeks, the results were challenged and court claims filed.
It was part of a series of fierce battles punctuated by allegations of voting irregularities that have raised the spectre of a concerted attempt to seize control of Toronto condo boards and their multimillion dollar budgets.
One of the consequences of Toronto's condo boom has been the creation of hundreds of mini-governments run by elected directors. These boards collect fees from unit owners and sign contracts for property management, security, cleaning and repairs.
Budgets in some buildings in Toronto run as high as $3-million annually.
Court files, condo documents and interviews show that Mr. McGregor or Mr. Blanchard or people linked to them have been involved in elections in at least six different condo complexes in recent years.
Conflicts at condo boards aren't unusual, but the number of boards in which these individuals are involved and the trail of disputed elections have raised eyebrows.
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Mr. Blanchard says he is self-employed in the financial, restaurant and real estate industries, and is a cost-conscious investor who own several condos.
Mr. McGregor is the only listed officer at Perfect Clarity, a company that says on its website that it is one of Canada's largest energy procurement firms.
Reached by The Globe and Mail, Mr. McGregor said that condo election disputes are common and that "I am flattered that I've became a source of adulation but I don't have anything to say."
He referred queries to his lawyer, Brian Horlick, who also acts for Mr. Blanchard. Mr. Horlick did not respond to several phone calls and e-mails.
Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Laczko also did not respond to e-mailed questions and could not be reached by phone.
Reaction to their campaign has ranged from bafflement to outrage.
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"They're fighting hard to be on boards and that should raise a big question: Why? I'm on one board and God, it's work. Why would I want to be on a board in a building I'm not even living at?" Ray Chepesiuk, a unit owner at Icon I condos, said in an interview.
At Five Condos, the acrimony started after Mr. McGregor acquired unit 1306 in June, 2016. Property records only mention Mr. McGregor, but Mr. Blanchard said in a court affidavit that he, Mr. McGregor and Mr. Laczko co-own the unit.
The trio was elected to the board at the July 27 turnover meeting, the gathering at which control of a new building's corporation is handed to the unit owners. However, a lawyer for the condo's developer later raised concerns because 34 proxy ballots didn't actually name specific candidates.
Another vote was ordered, but the three men got a court order postponing it to October. Meanwhile, the interim board in which they held a majority voted in September to terminate the contract of the property management firm, FirstService Residential.
FirstService said it was notified by e-mail at 9:40 p.m. on a Friday. By 10 p.m., the office locks had been changed.
FirstService is now suing for $600,000 in damages, saying in its court claim that the directors "acted deliberately and maliciously in pursuant of their own personal agendas."
L Tower condos
It was not the first time that FirstService had crossed paths with Mr. Blanchard, Mr. McGregor and Mr. Laczko. In 2015, the three were elected to the board at L Tower condos, a high-rise in the St. Lawrence district.
They then dismissed FirstService as the property manager, to be replaced by "a lower-cost alternative," the Blanchard affidavit said.
The Element condos
At The Element condos, in the Entertainment District, Mr. Blanchard was named to the board on Sept. 14, 2016, despite the fact that he didn't own or reside there.
The director who nominated him was Kaive Wong, a realtor who also served on the L Tower condo board with Mr. Blanchard and Mr. McGregor.
Mr. Wong said it was necessary to meet quorum and keep the board functioning.
"Ray Blanchard was appointed given his previous board experience and given that no other members of the ownership chose to run in the last election," Mr. Wong told The Globe in an e-mail. He also denied being part of a group trying to win control of condo boards, saying he seeks board seats as a way to monitor his investments.
Mr. Blanchard then ran for election at the Dec. 14, 2016, annual general meeting. Scrutineers' documents show he received 99 votes, all of them from proxies.
Intrigued by the high number of proxies, some unit owners later asked to see them, but they were told that a flood had damaged them.
Icon I condos
A week before Mr. Blanchard's election at The Element, Mr. McGregor was involved in another vote, at a nearby building, the Icon I condos. On Dec. 2, 2016, he purchased a unit with his spouse, Liliane Vieira, financed with a mortgage at the high rate of 8 per cent.
The transaction took place five days before the building's annual assembly. At the meeting, Mr. McGregor showed up with proxies supporting him and Ms. Vieira, according to a statement of claim filed this spring by the building's corporation. Mr. Wong was also a candidate for the board, but was defeated.
Ms. Vieira withdrew from contention, but Mr. McGregor was elected.
The corporation now alleges the proxies had forged signatures. "Without the invalid forged proxies, McGregor would not have been elected," the court claim said.
Mr. McGregor denies using tampered proxies and has filed his own court claim.
In April, 2013, Mr. McGregor co-purchased a unit at the Charlie Condos, in the Entertainment District. Mr. Blanchard and his spouse at the time, Celina, also bought a unit in the same building.
Mr. Blanchard and his wife ran for the board at the turnover meeting but weren't elected. Mr. McGregor won a seat on the board.
In early 2016, an election for a board seat was won by a man named Tom Meta, who worked at Mr. Wong's brokerage. But questions about the voting were raised by a condo resident who had signed a proxy and then decided to attend the meeting. When he asked for his proxy back, he discovered there were two such ballots in his name. Mr. Meta chose not to take his seat.
"Based on several of the owners concerns (myself included) that were raised at last night's AGM, specifically surrounding the integrity of the voting process, proxies etc., and the perception of an unfair election, I feel that I have no choice in the matter," he said in his resignation e-mail.
A building with a January, 2017, turnover
According to a recent briefing document shared by two Ontario condo-law specialists that The Globe and Mail obtained, three members of a slate ran for the board of a building that held its turnover assembly in January, 2017.
The document said the meeting was cancelled because several proxies appeared forged and members of the slate acted in an aggressive manner. "They were told that they were trespassing and that if they did not leave the premises the police would be called."
The names of the building and of the slate's members were redacted from the document, but it said they were criticized at another condo election for submitting 34 incomplete proxies and were involved in several litigations – an apparent reference to events at Five Condos.
Imperial Plaza condos
The turnover meeting for the newly renovated Imperial Plaza condos took place on March 29. The property manager, FirstService, hired a company to conduct its proxy balloting through electronic voting.
According to Audrey Loeb, a lawyer representing the condo's corporation, one of the candidates was a woman who identified herself as Lily Marques-Viera, a name that appears very similar to that of Mr. McGregor's spouse. She was defeated.
On the website of a Brazilian law firm, a Liliane Vieira is identified as a lawyer who was once "legal co-ordinator" for Perfect Clarity. The firm lists the Imperial Plaza as one of its addresses. She did not reply to an e-mail requesting comments.
"Where are you going with this? … Why is that an issue? I mean, people run for condos all the time," Mr. McGregor said when asked about his spouse and the Imperial Plaza election.
While he did not want to comment further, his involvement in condo elections is now part of two separate pieces of litigations that remain unresolved in Ontario Superior Court.