January 8, 2019
Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAB-8278-15) (Hon. Todd E. Edelman, Trial Judge
L. Van Grack for appellant/cross-appellee. Paul Strauss and
Crystal K. McBee were on the brief for
C. Mugavero for appellees/cross-appellants Gateway Georgetown
Condominium, Inc. and Zalco Realty, Inc.
Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Washington,
MCLEESE, ASSOCIATE JUDGE
cross-appeals arise from a dispute between condominium owner
David Bridgforth and the condominium association of which he
is a member, Gateway Georgetown Condominium, Inc. Mr.
Bridgforth argues that the Nonprofit Corporation Act of 2010,
D.C. Code § 29-401.01 et seq. (2013 Repl.) entitles him
to get access to certain records related to Gateway's
financial dealings. Mr. Bridgforth further argues that the
trial court erred by concluding that the provision on which
Mr. Bridgforth relies must give way to a conflicting
provision in the Condominium Act, D.C. Code § 42-1901.01
et seq. (2012 Repl. & 2019 Supp.). Mr. Bridgforth and
Gateway also challenge the trial court's denial of their
respective requests for attorney's fees. We affirm the
trial court's ruling on the merits and remand for further
proceedings with regard to attorney's fees.
following facts appear to be undisputed. Mr. Bridgforth owns
two condominiums in a building in the District of Columbia.
Gateway is the condominium association for the building and
is incorporated in the District as a nonprofit corporation.
Mr. Bridgforth is one of Gateway's members. In October
2015, Mr. Bridgforth filed a suit alleging that Gateway and
its management agency, appellee/cross-appellant Zalco Realty,
failed to provide him with records that he had requested
pursuant to the Nonprofit Act. (For ease of reference, we
refer to appellees/cross-appellants collectively as Gateway.)
trial, Mr. Bridgforth sought enforcement of fifteen requests
for information he had made to Gateway in various forms over
the preceding three years. The trial court found that eleven
of Mr. Bridgforth's fifteen requests did not comply with
the requirements of the Nonprofit Act. See D.C. Code
§ 29-413.02(b)-(c) (requiring, among other things, that
requests be made by signed notice, be made in good faith and
for proper purpose, and describe requested records with
reasonable particularity). The trial court further determined
that the remaining requests were largely directed at
information -- regarding personnel matters, pending or
anticipated litigation, or files of members or individual
unit owners -- that Gateway could properly withhold under
§ 42-1903.14(c)(1) of the Condominium Act. The trial
court therefore denied Mr. Bridgforth's claim except as
to portions of two of Mr. Bridgforth's requests that were
directed at information not subject to withholding --namely,
documentation of Gateway's expenditures related to
air-conditioning units in the building.
trial court denied Mr. Bridgforth's request for
attorney's fees under § 29-413.04(c) of the
Nonprofit Act, on the ground that Gateway had acted in good
faith. The court noted that the only two requests requiring a
response were buried in a large number of unwarranted
requests and that Gateway thus had possessed a reasonable
basis for doubting whether Mr. Bridgforth had a right to
inspect the records he requested. Finally, the trial court
denied Gateway's request for attorney's fees under
§ 42-1902.09 of the Condominium Act, interpreting that
provision to apply only where a case was brought by a
unit-owners' association against a unit owner.
Bridgforth does not contest the trial court's denial of
many of his requests under the Nonprofit Act. Rather, Mr.
Bridgforth challenges the trial court's ruling that
Gateway was entitled under the Condominium Act to withhold
certain information that would otherwise have been subject to
disclosure under the Nonprofit Act. Mr. Bridgforth's
challenge thus turns on the interaction ...