Open Forum: Drudge or Jewel?

Open Forum: Drudge or Jewel?

The “Open Meeting Act” (Civil Code Sections 4900-4955), requires at Section 4925(b) that all membership meetings and board meetings have a time set aside for members to speak. This time is often called “open forum.” In open forum, a member can speak on topics on or off the agenda. Some associations avoid open forum and others have unrestricted open forum, but both extremes are unhealthy. The time for homeowners to contribute to the meeting is not during deliberations – that is the board’s role – but during open forum. Open forum is an important element of a healthy association. If members have a fair opportunity to address an attentive board, they will have a more positive view of their association, and directors will be better connected with the community they serve. Consider these guidelines: Directors: Establish reasonable time limits to protect participation by all. Most associations allow 2 or 3 minutes per speaker. Have a timekeeper and consider giving members a “30 second warning” to help them. Do not interrupt, argue with, or respond to the speakers during their time. Listen to the speakers and take notes. Show attentiveness to their concerns – you just might learn something new. Do not record open forum comments in the meeting minutes – comments are not actions. Some speakers may disagree with the board or criticize. Deal with it — you are in a position of service, and they might sometimes be right! After open forum concludes, the chair should inquire if any item from open forum should be referred to a committee or management. If an answer to a question is...
Improve Your Board Meetings: Drafting a Code of Conduct for the Board of Directors

Improve Your Board Meetings: Drafting a Code of Conduct for the Board of Directors

A common frustration for managers and association boards of directors is dealing with issues that arise out of conflict with individual board members. At some point we have all heard of the board member who is hostile, disagreeable or the proverbial “loose cannon.” Other boards have struggled with how to rein in the director who consistently advances his or her own agenda without regard to the best interests of the association. Finally, there are directors elected, for whatever reason, who feel compelled to reveal confidential information about the association to third parties. Unfortunately, the Corporations Code does not yet contain a provision allowing the board to remove a director for behaving badly. The slap on the wrist that follows improper disclosure or misconduct does little to undo the damage already done. There are, however, viable options available to managers and boards to address misconduct. In most cases, the most direct option to control improper behavior is censure. There is no more effective method of controlling improper behavior than by confrontation by one’s own peers. Like any disciplinary hearing, the director should be advised of the improper conduct committed and be provided with an opportunity to explain his or her actions. The director should also be cautioned that continued misconduct will result in further disciplinary action by the board to protect the association and could include obtaining a court order seeking to enjoin their conduct detrimental to the association. If the conduct committed is improper disclosure of confidential information, the best option is to exclude that board member from executive session meetings, or from receiving executive session material or both....
Your Meetings Are Raucous? YOU Might Be the Problem

Your Meetings Are Raucous? YOU Might Be the Problem

Board meetings should be efficient and business-like events, but can unfortunately often be tumultuous and disorganized. Ineffective meetings frustrate directors, managers, and even the audience. The directors set the tone for the meeting, and there are ways in which the HOA board can contribute to (or prevent) a chaotic meeting environment. Room configuration How is the board seated? If the directors are all seated in a line facing the audience, a subtle message is conveyed: The board is talking to the audience. It is not surprising that in such a seating configuration the audience believes it is their right to talk to the board in return. If the board sits more in a semi-circle, the directors can face each other, while the audience is able to listen to the board deliberate. Talking to the audience Some directors cannot resist “playing to the crowd” and speaking to the audience. This completely disrespects the other directors, and also can lead to raucous response from the audience. Directors should never grandstand to the audience and should confine their remarks to their board colleagues. No rules Very few associations have meeting conduct rules. Such rules can prohibit certain intolerable behaviors, such as shouting, physical intimidation, and profanity or hate speech. All members should be able to feel safe as they attend meetings. Should anyone disrupt the meeting, rules would empower the board to impose discipline. Meeting rules can also contain open forum guidelines, disciplinary hearing procedures, and other helpful information explaining the various meeting procedures. Undisciplined deliberation A disciplined board stays on the agenda item at hand and avoids straying into other side...

Ten Tips For Shorter Meetings

Board meetings require balance. While nobody appreciates a meeting in which brevity is the only value, unduly lengthy meetings discourage and exhaust everybody – directors, audience and manager. After about 3 hours, good concentration and judgment is hard to come by. A length of 60-90 minutes is a very reasonable and achievable goal for most board meetings. Try these tips to get there. 1. Come prepared Good managers provide boards with “board packets” in advance, helping directors come to the meeting prepared, avoiding time wasted as directors “get up to speed” about items set forth in the packet. Prepared directors are more efficient – read your packet. 2. Avoid overly ambitious agendas Watch out for the overly loaded agenda. Some issues can dominate a meeting, requiring thirty minutes or more. Try to handle only one such issue per meeting, if you can. Sometimes a board needs to meet more frequently, as there is too much to be done in one meeting. 3. Set the room up for a board meeting (not a town hall meeting) A board which sits facing the audience (and not each other) invites audience participation, but the audience was not elected to serve. The semicircle is the best shape, so the audience can hear as the directors talk – to the other directors. 4. Use open forum properly Many meetings are too long because both board and audience fail to respect open forum. During open forum the board should not interrupt, and during the rest of the meeting the audience should not interrupt. 5. Use consent calendars Most routine decisions should be handled via consent...