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Association board's bad behavior makes a mockery of the law

After the president kicks out homeowners, the directors and property manager turn the board meeting into a party and pass rules that are unfavorable to owners, a director writes. What to do?

March 18, 2012|By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian

Question: I'm a board director at my homeowners association. Under the Open Meeting Act, owners are allowed to speak during the first 30 minutes of our monthly board meetings. When 30 minutes is up, the president thanks the owners for coming and tells them they can no longer speak at the meeting and that they must leave. The president and other directors do not want owners to stay for the remainder of the meeting because they don't want owners to know what they're doing.

When all owners leave, the other directors kick back and relax, the property manager brings out party snacks, and they discuss things in a manner they would never do if owners were present. Those snacks have now evolved into full-course meals. The other directors talk about owners in a derogatory manner and pass rules they wouldn't pass if owners were present. Our manager freely admits to manipulating owners, and they all have a good laugh. Board directors are extremely uncomfortable when any owner insists on remaining for the entire meeting.

If homeowners would attend these meetings, take notes and pay attention, be the watchdogs of the board, life would be a lot better for them. How can I get owners to attend meetings and stay, without jeopardizing my position as a minority director? How do I get the association to stop paying for the board's private parties at association meetings?

Answer: Owners have the absolute right to attend the entire board meeting, except for executive sessions, and may not be barred by board members. Turning statutory board meetings into a party, at the expense of owners, makes a mockery of the law and the seriousness of directorships.

Although each board director must take steps necessary to properly manage association assets, board actions can also subject individual owners' assets to risk. Titleholders can protect their own property only by vigilantly observing board actions, attending board meetings, inspecting association records and keeping the lines of communication open between themselves and all board directors.

Your duties and obligations as a director started the moment you were elected. Insist that meetings be conducted in accordance with some form of parliamentary procedure, as required by Civil Code Section 1363(d). For example, that means calling the meeting to order and then approving the prior minutes. Demand that meeting minutes be available for review within the 30-day limit set out in Civil Code Section 1363.05(d).

Regardless of why the owners voted for these directors, each was elected because those owners trusted that each director would vigorously represent their interests. All directors have a duty to be independent thinkers, perform due diligence and share individual findings with the other board directors.

Every owner in a common interest development has the obligation to participate in the association's governance. Owners who sit back, pay their monthly assessments and let others control their personal assets may unwittingly spark the beginning of a community disaster.

Glassman is an attorney specializing in corporate and business law. Vanitzian is an arbitrator and mediator. Send questions to P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or email noexit@mindspring.com.

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