With a defamation suit filed more than two years ago by the Chicago Association of Realtors and its CEO against a member who questioned the handling of the association’s finances heading to trial in March, colleagues of the defendant have created a legal defense fund on her behalf.
Andrea Geller, a broker with The Chaz Walters Group at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, raised the association’s ire in comments she allegedly made alleging “irregularities” in the association’s finances and a lack of “checks and balances” to protect the association.
Geller’s comments accompanied an Aug. 20, 2012, Chicago Agent article detailing former Chicago Association of Realtors President Bob Floss’ claims that he was “pushed out the door because I asked to see all the finances” including the salaries of CAR leadership, including CEO Ginger Downs.
CAR executives “disputed every detail” of Floss’ explanation of his removal from office, Chicago Agent reported at the time. CAR and Downs filed suit against Geller a little more than two weeks later.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000, alleging that as a result of “Geller’s false and malicious statements,” CAR and Downs “have suffered damage to their respective and collective reputations and have incurred costs responding to and dispelling these false statements.”
With the trial date looming, Re/Max Suburban broker-owner Jim Nelson has created a legal fund for Geller on gofundme.com, with a goal of raising $75,000.
“I do not know Andrea all that well but I am vehemently opposed to an association filing a lawsuit against [a member] for asking questions and making comments about the finances of that association,” Nelson writes on the site. “In my opinion, this is a David versus Goliath story with the association using their funds to attack an individual with limited funds.”
Since the legal fund was created on Jan. 6, 45 people have contributed more than $4,600.
Geller — who’s widely known as a speaker at industry events including Inman’s Agent Reboot conferences — thanked those who have contributed.
“The trial is only in about 60 days but it seems like it is going to be the longest 60 days of my life,” she said. “Your support means everything.”