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...
What Makes a Director Outstanding [Part 4] – Participation in Board Meetings

What Makes a Director Outstanding [Part 4] – Participation in Board Meetings

Productive and efficient meetings are not happenstance but are the result of committed and prepared volunteers, normally assisted by a great professional manager. To help bring about the best board meetings: Read the agenda packet Come to the meeting prepared, having already read the agenda and the supporting materials. The packet is provided in advance to prepare you to make the decisions presented. Reading it for the first time at the meeting disrespects the other directors, indicates lack of commitment, and delays meetings as one “gets up to speed.” Stay on topic A single director can derail discussions by moving on to a different topic before the current one is concluded. Politely remind colleagues when deliberations stray from the matter at hand. Talk to the board, not the audience Directors attend board meeting to deliberate with board colleagues, not the audience. Grandstanding by speaking to the audience disrespects other directors and encourages raucous meetings. Ask the manager for input on most motions The board’s most frequent protector under the Business Judgment Rule is the manager, so seek the manager’s input. The manager often has years of experience and training; take advantage of that background. If a manager’s input isn’t being sought, why have them in the meeting? Treat open forum as an important event and pay attention California law requires open forum at all membership meetings and open board meetings. That is the time for the board to listen to the community. Take notes and don’t interject or argue. Open forum reminds directors that they are there to serve their community, and often helps the board learn things they...
When the Disruptor is a Director!

When the Disruptor is a Director!

Dear Mr. Richardson, I’m currently on my HOA board. The president is constantly rude, slandering other board members, and basically being disrespectful. I am wondering what course of action a fellow board member has to get him under control. This is really uncomfortable and a hard issue to deal with and he is just being a tyrant. Any advice would be great. J.E, Rancho Cucamonga Dear Kelly, What can be done about a board member who repeatedly shouts down speakers during open forum? R.M., Cardiff By The Sea Dear J.E. and R.M., Directors set an example to the community regarding decorum. Poorly behaved directors not only embarrass themselves (usually without realizing it) but also can create the impression that such boorish behavior in meetings is acceptable and accepted. Mature and civil behavior by members of the board should be expected as a given. However, I have seen very large boards completely stymied by a rude or belligerent director, as the bully wins because the other directors avoid “doing battle”. Unfortunately, this is a battle which is necessary for everyone, including the misbehaving director. When anyone disrupts the meeting, the first step should be a warning from the chair accompanied by a request that the disruptive person exercise some self-control. If that does not work, the next step would be a call from the chair for a motion of censure, in which the board expresses its disapproval of the disruptive behavior and asks the person to restrain themselves so that orderly deliberations can proceed. This motion will of course be reflected in the minutes, notifying the entire community that this...
13 Surefire Steps to Guarantee Board Meetings Will Be Longer [Satire]

13 Surefire Steps to Guarantee Board Meetings Will Be Longer [Satire]

If board service is not difficult enough, you can crank it up a notch by making board meetings much longer. If people aren’t dozing by meeting’s end and if you’re done after 90 minutes you haven’t tried hard enough. Follow these steps to increase your chances: 1. Do not plan ahead Include everything you can think of on the agenda. Make sure you pack multiple major issues in simultaneously – don’t wait for the next meeting. 2. Avoid reading the board packet (if ever) until you arrive at the meeting Ask lots of questions about things that are in the packet or in reports attached to the packets – that way you can prove that you did not prepare and make the whole board wait while you catch up. 3. Open forum remarks should be unlimited Some HOAs have 3 minutes per speaker limits. Let people talk as much as they want (that will give you time to read your board packet). 4. Never use consent calendars Everything must be a separate motion and discussed, no matter how minor, routine, or non-controversial. 5. If other directors disagree with you, keep talking – you might wear them down Sometimes if you drone on long enough, people will occasionally back off their positions and you can delay a board vote… again and again. 6. Repetition is great Repetitious arguments or revisiting previous decisions lengthens meetings. If it’s worth saying once, it might be worth saying many times. If it’s worth saying once, it might be worth saying many times. It it’s worth saying once… 7. Push for unanimous votes and complete...