Keeping HOA Meetings In Order

Question: Our board uses Roberts Rules of Order to conduct our meetings and discussion is limited to board member deliberations with no comments allowed from guests. Some members have asked us to reconsider and to allow open comments from the audience. Is this a good way to go?

Answer: Board meetings are meetings of and for the board, not the general members. Once the board meeting is called to order, guests should be advised that they are there to listen only. The chair can make an exception to this rule during the meeting if there is a good reason to do so, such as asking a particular guest with special knowledge for comment. But this exception should be used sparingly or it will be perceived to be an invitation for other guests to jump in.

Question: Our board recently presented the coming year’s budget at the annual meeting. A number of members said the increase was too high for them and that they couldn’t afford it. A couple of others chimed in with the same tune. The board president reacted by caving in. Without first consulting with the rest of the board, he stated the proposed increase would be reduced by half! Now we don’t have enough money to properly fund operating and reserves. How can this have been avoided?

Answer: There are several ways this could have been handled differently. Other board members could have challenged the president for promising something beyond his authority (like reducing the budget). This would have been embarrassing but not out of line considering the consequences of his unilateral action.

The other more political approach would be to respond to the complainers that “the board would take their comments under consideration at the next board meeting”. This removes a volatile topic from the meeting but doesn’t dismiss the concerns expressed.

The third and best response is to patiently explain why the HOA needs this budget to properly care for the common elements. Proper maintenance of the common elements has a direct affect on individual member home values. Failing to maintain properly will cause values to fall and may make selling and refinancing more difficult. One way or another, the consequences good or bad will cost the members money. Wouldn’t they rather pay for good consequences?

Now as to the president problem. Board presidents do have certain authority but not to reverse a board action or vote. This person needs to be reminded that the mark of an effective leader is that they do not buckle under pressure.

Question: What can be done about a board president lying to the board about legal opinions obtained from the HOA’s lawyer?

Answer: All board members are entitled to see legal opinions generated for the HOA and, indeed, should always review them before making decisions that concern that legal opinion. If the president withheld this information when requested, the board should take issue with him. Board officers serve at the pleasure of the board majority. If the president is disseminating false or misleading information, the board majority can removed him from office and appoint another director.

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