Thank you for helping people understand HOA laws!
Civil Code 4925(b) states, “The board shall permit any member to speak at any meeting…” (executive sessions excluded). You wrote in a past column that “members may observe board deliberation, but the law does not give members the right to participate.” This appears contradictory to 4925(b). Which law were you referring to that disallows member participation at the board meeting?
I.S., San Diego
There is a big difference between addressing the board during open forum and participating in the board’s deliberations of agenda items. Nothing in the Open Meeting Act supports the notion that members participate in board discussions. If homeowners had the right to participate in board discussions, why would open forum be necessary? Open forum is important because members do not have the right to interrupt board deliberations, and the open forum statute guarantees that members can always have a time to speak to the board about issues important to that member. I often see meetings in which members are allowed to talk during deliberations. When homeowners are allowed to interject, question and even argue with the board, the result usually is chaotic and longer meetings. To argue with the directors, get on the board!
Dear Mr. Richardson:
Our board won’t let us defer our open forum to another homeowner knowing that they have something of value to say. They absolutely said, “you can’t do that.” Is this true?
C.S., Anaheim Hills
Civil Code 4925(b) gives any member the right to speak, subject to reasonable time limit. If the board set a time limit for each member, ceding one’s unused time to another would defeat the time limit’s purpose. The priority is making sure each owner has an equal opportunity to speak. Deferring time to another would give that member an advantage over other members. So, yes, I agree with your board on this one.
Thanks for your question,
In a past column, a questioner wrote, “prior to open board meetings, our board has closed door meetings.” How’s that again? Doesn’t pass the common sense smell test to make homeowners sit around waiting for the open meeting/forum. Our board starts with the open meeting/forum, so homeowners know when to be there at a given time.
Some boards hold open forum at the meeting’s beginning, while others wait until the agenda is complete. There are arguments in favor of both, but I prefer open forum at the beginning. This allows owners to address the board about something they see on the agenda. Also, if open forum is at the beginning, a homeowner can update the board on something on or off the agenda, and then leave the meeting. Many boards feel that it is better to get the agenda finished first, but this can convey the message to the neighbors that their questions and information are of a lower priority.
Closed sessions immediately prior to open meetings should be scheduled to minimize delay of the open meeting but can often be unpredictable. Boards can try to watch their time and avoid appearing disrespectful of the homeowners waiting for the open meeting to start.
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®.