Understanding the Intended Purpose of Board Meetings March, 2017 We’ve all either experienced or heard nightmares about Board Meetings that are overtaken by unruly, and sometimes downright belligerent, Homeowner Forums. Aggressive residents hurling accusations and insults at Board Members, Association vendors, and often other residents, that proves to not only be inappropriate, but unproductive. Such behavior and discourse leaves me disappointed; Disappointed for the Board Members who volunteer their valuable time and the resident members who attended to understand the business of the Association and provide valuable feedback. This behavior also leaves me questioning whether or not we have done an adequate job as an industry in educating residents on the true purpose of Association Board Meetings.
While Association members are encouraged to attend Board Meetings and Board Members appreciate constructive feedback and participation, the main purpose of Association Board Meetings is for Board Members to conduct business on behalf of the Association. Board Meetings are not neighborhood social events. They are not town council meetings. While open general session Board Meetings have time allotted for a Homeowner Forum, their primary purpose is not to provide a forum for members to ask questions and share feedback. Board Meetings are meant to serve as a transparent forum where Board Members make executive decisions on behalf of the Association and its members, and members are welcome to attend and observe.
Associations, much like our local, state and federal government, are representative democracies. Homeowners elect Board Members at annual elections to represent the membership and make business decisions on behalf of the Association. With very few exceptions, homeowners do not have the right (or the responsibility) to vote on Association decisions, including the selection of vendors and the approval of vendor proposals. These day-to-day operational decisions are exclusively made by the Board of Directors. It is important for Board Meeting attendees to keep in mind that Board Members take their role seriously, thoroughly vetting decisions before ever considering a vote at a Board Meeting. Through this vetting process, Board Members are often privy to detailed information when they cast their votes that resident attendees are not. As such, residents should give their elected Board Members the opportunity to be successful and the confidence to meet their obligations. Should an owner feel that they are not being adequately represented, or feel that they are better suited to represent the Association, they may run for a Board seat during the next Board Member election.
I understand many readers may be wondering about the residents who know better, but continue to be aggressive and inappropriate at Board Meetings. While we cannot force grown adults to behave appropriately, Board Members do have tools available to ensure that attendee conduct is professional and productive, and may implement procedures for restoring order should there become an issue.
Whether an Association is currently experiencing conflict at Board Meetings or not, an important “best practice” is for Boards to draft and adopt a Board Meeting Conduct Policy, outlining the purpose of Board Meetings and setting expectations for Board Meeting attendee conduct. Board Meeting Conduct Policies should include the following:
▪ Unprofessional or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.
▪ Attendees must hold their questions and comments until Homeowner Forum.
▪ Attendees who wish to address the Board during Homeowner Forum must first complete a Speaker Form, listing the topics they wish to address. Both the Board Meeting Conduct Policy and the Speaker Form itself should include a time limit for how long each attendee is permitted to speak (usually between 3 – 5 minutes).
▪ Board Members are limited by statute regarding what questions they may answer or discussions they may engage in during Homeowner Forum. As such, it is not uncommon for Board Members to only listen, considering member feedback during future Board discussions and decisions. To set the right expectation, the policy should make it clear that while the Board values member feedback, the amount of discourse permitted during Homeowner Forum is limited.
▪ The Board should consider including a more formal Homeowner Forum whereby residents are asked to stand or approach a podium when they address the Board, giving the speaker the respect they deserve while mitigating interruptions from the audience and setting the stage for professional discourse.
▪ Lastly, it is important that the policy include procedures for restoring order should attendees become aggressive or unprofessional, including an option to temporarily adjourn the meeting until order can be restored, or permanently adjourning the meeting should the inappropriate behavior continue.
Once the Board has adopted the Board Meeting Conduct Policy, it should be printed on the back of each Board Meeting agenda and on the back of the Homeowner Forum Speaker Form. This ensures that all attendees have a copy and the Board can reference the policy should it be necessary.
At PMP, we take the role we serve in our residents’ lives seriously and believe that it begins with education. This is what prompted PMP to create and distribute our exclusive “Dr. HOA Guide to Association Living” to help residents better understand each party’s roles and responsibilities. The more we can educate residents, the healthier the Association will function, mitigating confusion and turmoil.
To learn more about drafting and adopting a Board Meeting Conduct Policy, please ask your your respective PMP Community Manager to add this topic to your next Board Meeting agenda. Questions, feedback and suggestions for future topics can be submitted to DRHOA@PMPROLLC.COM.