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It’s Getting Scary Out There

Maybe I should take the latest complaints I’m getting about living conditions in stride – only these are from inmates, not apartment owners. Dissatisfied residents of co-ops and condos contact me all the time. Usually their anger is directed against board members, which I figure is natural given the power they wield over the rank and file on the home front, and sometimes seek to extend beyond the bounds of the building.

A few months back, I was contacted by an ex-Marine officer (or was he from the Army) I really don’t remember. I do remember that he claimed that he’d lost his post and pension because one of the former board members in his co-op had it in for him, and reported a pile of disinformation to his superiors, which he said got him canned. Given the way the letter rambled on, I wasn’t sure if his tale were fact or fiction. 

Except his wasn’t the first case reported to me of board members threatening to disclose, or actually disclosing, alleged misdeeds by their fellow directors — to employers, the SEC, and other agencies, in order to get their colleague in trouble, and out of their hair.

Now the complaints are coming from people who never crossed the threshold of a co-op or condo.  Judging from recent communications, it seems that inmates aren’t too thrilled with their living arrangements either (which I understand), and figure I can solve their problems (which I don’t).

Just a few days ago I got a letter from an inmate at a correctional facility in Upstate New York.  I knew this even before I opened the letter because prison protocol apparently dictates that the inmate post identifying information on the outside of the envelope, maybe so the recipient can decide whether she wants to open it. I figured a letter from prison is probably really safe because of all the screening it has to go through.

As best I could tell, which wasn’t easy because the letter was written in nearly invisible ink, using prison lingo unfamiliar to me (not ever having served time myself), Inmate X claimed that some of the corrections officers didn’t treat him right when they accompanied him from his cell to the clinic. He says he was roughed up as payback for a grievance he’d filed earlier that day.

Mind you, I don’t take the complaint lightly.  I figure there are lots of not-so-nice guys in prison, both among the guarded and the guards.  And, yes, I’ve even been involved in the middle of  altercations among residents in fancy buildings. But I’m not a criminal lawyer. Maybe on The Good Wife a junior associate can defend a suspected murderer in one episode, and on the next take the part of some real estate owner, but that’s not how it works in real life.

What really made me nervous, though, is that Inmate X said he had gotten my information from a fellow prisoner, which makes me fear that I may be getting a slew of complaints from other prisoners in different facilities not satisfied with their living conditions.

Indeed, Mr. X is not the first inmate who has sought my assistance in this regard.  When my book, The Co-op Bible, first came out I got a bunch of letters from prisoners in several states with grievances they wanted me to address, including one I specifically remember went on for fifteen handwritten pages.

I’d like to help, I really would, but I have my hands full dealing with the complaints of residents who may break a House Rule (but usually abide by the law), and can be more demanding about a lot less.

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