Update on ABoR Agent Lawsuit

Generally speaking, local real estate boards and agents get along just fine. After all, the board is there to support agents and their real estate market.

But right now in Austin some realtors feel that isn’t the case. After weeks of feuding, two prominent real estate agents have filed a lawsuit against the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR). It’s the type of thing you don’t see every day in the real estate industry, especially in a normally amiable market like Austin.

Let’s break the situation down:

The Plaintiffs

Jonathan Boatwright from Realty Austin and Cord Shiflet from Moreland Properties.

The Defendant

Austin Board of Realtors

The Claim

Upcoming board elections violate ABoR bylaws. Currently, seven of the 16 board member seats up for grabs - two seats previously held by Shiftlet and Brian Talley, an agent at Regent Property Group, along with five that are up for renewal. However, the October 2017 election doesn’t include Shiflet and Talley’s seats.

The Defense

ABoR stands by its claim that they are not violating bylaws and that the seats held by Shiflet and Talley aren’t eligible for a vote until October 2018.

The Circumstances Leading Up to the Lawsuit

Up until August 2017, Shiflet and Talley were members of the ABoR board. The realtors claimed they were removed after asking about the use of a house showing app and rumors of a potential merger with the San Antonio multiple listing service. ABoR CEO Paul Hilgers told The Austin Business Journal the reason for their removal was breaching the ABoR code of conduct after they emailed ABoR members about the app.

Before taking things to court, Shiftlet and Talley formed a coalition called ABoR Members First. The mission is to change the ABoR status quo and how board members are elected.

In August ABoR published a blog post in response to an email announcement Shiflet and Boatwright sent to other ABoR members about ABoR Members First. The ABoR post told members to disregard the information in the email and made it very clear that the email did not come from ABoR. All this came after an August 8th blog post titled “ABoR Board Member Removal: Myth vs. Fact” that singled out Shiflet and Talley for “inaccurate and inflammatory responses.” Members of the ABoR organization have since accused Shiflet and Boatwright of spreading misinformation about the board in interviews with local media outlets.

The next move for the realtors - filing a lawsuit. A suit was filed with the Travis County District Court in September. The immediate goal is to delay the October election.

A total of eight realtors, including Boatwright, Shiflet and Talley, are trying to get their names on the ballot. They’ve met the required number of signatures needed to get on the ballot, yet they still aren’t candidates. The only candidates on the ballot are those put forth by the board’s nominating committee.

Needless to say, if you work in the Austin real estate industry you’ve probably seen some of the drama play out on social media. The realtors have used Facebook as an outlet for getting their message to the masses while ABoR has primarily used their website’s blog to speak their piece.

What’s Next in the ABoR Election Saga

Shiflet, Boatwright and Talley want to disrupt the system and so far they appear to be succeeding. They also want all seven seats to be voted on and for the other candidates added to this year’s ballots. If ABoR agrees to those terms the plaintiffs had said they’d be willing the drop the lawsuit and carry on with the election.

Right now it’s unclear whether ABoR will give into the demands or move forward with the election as planned. But one thing’s for sure. The saga is sure to continue to play out on social media as the two groups battle to get Austin agents on their side.

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