Hello Mr. Richardson:
Our board announced that audio recordings of meetings would no longer be allowed. What are your thoughts on this? Does this action by the board violate the Brown Act, the Davis-Stirling or some other statute?
N.D., Rancho Santa Fe
As private organizations, common interest development associations (aka “HOAs”) are not controlled by the Brown Act (which applies to public bodies). The Davis-Stirling Act contains the “Open Meeting Act,” found at Civil Code 4900-4955. The Open Meeting Act does not require that HOA meetings be recorded electronically, but only that draft minutes of meetings be available no later than 30 days after the meeting.
I generally recommend against audio or video recording of board proceedings, except in the rare occasion the association has the proper facilities to record and broadcast meetings (typically only in very large HOAs). Recording meetings often creates two negative problems – it intimidates some and invites others to grandstand. So long as the policy is clearly stated, association boards can take either policy direction.
To Kelly G. Richardson:
We have a question concerning our HOA president. The president is running a construction company that controls all maintenance and repairs throughout the community. She runs the community as a dictatorship and no one on the board is allowed to even speak. We have requested financial records – it won’t work. She told us this could no longer be discussed.
M.L., Lake Forest
Some HOA presidents simply let the position get to their head. HOA presidents have very little power in most HOAs, aside from calling and chairing meetings. They have one vote, the same as each other director. If the rest of the board allows the president to disrespect them and ignore their input (and her conflict of interest), the board is to blame for the situation, since presidents serve at the board’s pleasure, and, like any officer, can be replaced in any open board meeting (after posting the agenda item).
Good luck to your association,
Our board conducts most of its business, including budgets, in executive session, stating they do not want to discuss everything in open session because it makes the meetings too long and dull. The board also claims the HOA legal counsel said it was okay to discuss these items in executive session. It appears that the board does not want to be open and transparent in their dealings with the association’s budget. They move money around without allowing the membership to know or see/hear the reasons for the movements.
Financial discussions are for open session (except for discussions about a delinquent owner’s proposed payment plan). Boards come up with all kinds of excuses for secret meetings, but your board’s excuse (saving you from boredom) is a new one. I cannot imagine that a competent HOA attorney would advise in favor of secret budget discussions by a quorum of the board, so I wonder what the attorney really said. If the board does budgets in closed meetings, what else do they do in secret? Get the board straightened out, or get a new board elected. Transparency builds trust, and secrecy destroys it.
Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Senior Partner of Richardson|Ober, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit potential column questions to Kelly@Richardsonober.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.