The Austin Board of Realtors has lost a court battle over the terms of its upcoming board election.
As part of a lawsuit filed by two of the organization’s members, State District Judge Jan Soifer has ordered the Board of Realtors to include seven open seats on its board of directors in this month’s election, rather than the five seats the board had maintained were open. The two additional seats are those vacated when Austin real estate agents Cord Shiflet and Brian Talley were ousted as directors Aug. 2.
The lawsuit — filed by Shiflet and Jonathan Boatwright, another member of the organization — is part of a wider internal fight over the operations of the Austin Board of Realtors.
Shiflet called the ruling “a huge win” for he and other Austin Board of Realtors members, including Boatwright and Talley, who have waged a public battle with other members of the organization’s leadership. Shiflet and other agents have accused the group’s board of directors of putting the agency’s interests ahead of those of the 12,000 members in the real estate trade association.
In a written statement, the Austin Board of Realtors said: “We are disappointed in the outcome of the hearing and the board will be evaluating the options moving forward. Regardless of today’s decision we will move forward continuing to focus on serving our members.”
A trial date for the lawsuit has been set for Dec. 4.
In granting the temporary injunction, Soifer ruled that the organization must “desist and refrain from issuing ballots for or otherwise holding the 2017 annual election” without including the candidates for seven positions, including Shiflet’s and Talley’s seats, which have been filled with board-selected appointees. The group has 16 seats on its board of directors.
Shiflet and seven other agents had been petitioning Austin Board of Realtors members to get their names on the ballot to run against the candidates put forth by the board’s nominating committee. The lawsuit contends that the board is violating its bylaws in refusing to hold an election for the seven seats, saying it is another indication of “a troubling pattern of recent action by the Austin Board of Realtors leadership to perpetuate their terms and hinder fresh ideas and active member involvement.”
Shiflet said that in light of Soifer’s ruling, “hopefully now we have the momentum to go in and do what needs to be done. I’m excited for our members, that we fought to let our voice and our rights be upheld and a judge took absolutely no time to rule in our favor.”
“Today we forced the board to allow members to vote,” Shiflet said. “I’m incredibly proud to have helped make that happen… I hope to be elected back to the board and have a chance to get in there and work hard to make things better for our members.”
On July 19, the board censured Shiflet and Talley “for openly communicating with members” about Austin Board of Realtors business, the lawsuit says. The censure stemmed from Shiflet and Talley soliciting members’ input about a board proposal to mandate the use of an app that provides services for showing their residential listings.
The two also sought members’ feedback about a possible merger with the San Antonio Board of Realtors. They said the board had discussed the idea behind closed doors “without wanting input or consultation from members and without some board of directors having transparency,” even though it “may be the biggest and most impactful decision ABoR has ever explored,” Shiflet wrote on Facebook.