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...
Recording Meetings, Secret Budget Talks, and a Dictator President

Recording Meetings, Secret Budget Talks, and a Dictator President

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?  Thank you, N.D., Rancho Santa Fe Dear N.D., 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. Best,Kelly 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 Dear M.L., 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...
We Have Unwritten Rules

We Have Unwritten Rules

Dear Mr. Richardson, Our board frequently adopts new rules, generally following the required process of providing 30-day notice to homeowners prior to voting at an open board meeting. The new rules are documented only in the board meeting minutes. Consequently, many of these rules have been “lost” throughout the years as homeowners come and go and memories fade. New homeowners moving in have no knowledge of these undocumented rules and naturally they are upset when the board enforces them. So, where should new and/or modified rules be documented? D.W., Cerritos Dear D.W., If the rule change is not published in writing, it is not a rule, per Civil Code 4350(a). Once the board has completed the rule-making process, the final steps are sending notice of adoption of the change and amending the rules document to include the change. If a new owner is not provided a copy of the rule, it might not be enforceable against that owner. Also, per Civil Code 4525(a)(1), all governing documents are to be provided to a member upon request so that they can be given to a prospective buyer. Rules are part of the association governing documents, per Civil Code 4150. Hoping this is helpful,Kelly Dear Kelly, I showed our president your article which said Civil 5850 requires associations to have a list of fines and that the list is part of the Annual Policy Statement packet. He said that there is no annual list of fines as we have an Assessment and Collection policy in place, and that the board is not empowered to change it. Our C.C.& R’s on two pages mentions...