Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Let them speak....a primer on good member relations

Sometimes difficult owners are made rather than born. If a member feels that he or she is denied the right to speak at board or membership meetings, the situation becomes a pressure cooker and the top eventually blows off.

In a condominium association, owners are entitled to speak on all items listed on the agenda at board meetings. In a homeowners' association, if 20% of the voting interests petition the board to address an item of business the board must, at its next regular board meeting or at a special board meeting, place the item on the agenda. This meeting must take place no more than 60 days from the date the petition was received.

Think about it. If 20% of your neighbors care enough to force the Board to place an item on the agenda, wouldn't you agree that it is worth talking about? Remember, the statute does NOT require the Board to take action with regard to the issue placed on the agenda but it does require a discussion of the item.

HOA owners have the right by statute to speak for three minutes on any matter placed on the agenda by petition of the voting interests. The Board can, naturally, give them the right to speak on ALL agenda items or an HOA board can deny owners that right and strictly follow the statute to allow discussion of only petitioned items by owners.

Many HOA's do allow full discussion by owners on all agenda items in the interest of fostering communication and encouraging meeting participation even though Chapter 720 does not require it.

Condominium owners are not limited to a certain time to speak by statute but many condominium boards do pass rules governing owner participation at meetings which often set certain parameters including a time limit to discuss agenda items and restrictions on the placement of video or audio equipment so as not to disturb or intimidate the board members or owners in attendance.

I have had the misfortune of attending some board and membership meetings that were 5 minutes away from degenerating into a brawl. I have seen an owner hold an entire meeting hostage while he ranted, swore and spoke about everything except what was on the agenda for that night's meeting. I've also seen board members misquote Roberts Rules of Order and their Bylaws, shut down all discussion (even courteous dialogue) and run the meeting in a fashion that would make many tyrants proud. The most lively meetings I've attended were the ones with open bars before the meetings were called to order!

Fairness, courtesy and common sense should be the guidelines for all concerned when it comes to speaking at association meetings.

No comments:

Post a Comment