Most associations find committees helpful. Here are some tips to maximize their value to the HOA:
1. Committees can be “ad hoc,” i.e., temporary, or ongoing
Committees typically address a major ongoing area of concern or take on the study of larger or complicated issues.
2. A committee is a group
A committee should have at least 3 or 4 members. When a committee dwindles down to one or two persons, it is no longer a committee and should be restocked with volunteers or disbanded.
3. Appointments in the open
Committee appointments (or removal) should occur in open meetings. Committee members are not “personnel” and so discussions about committee rosters are not eligible for closed session.
4. Committee service not perpetual
Committees normally serve at the pleasure of the board. If a committee is not performing well, committee members can be replaced, and if the committee is not required by the governing documents, it can be disbanded by board vote.
5. Have committee charters
Each committee should have a clear written charter adopted by the board. A clear charter informs the committee (and potential volunteers) what is the committee’s role, helping keep the committee on target. A charter also can indicate the minimum and maximum number of members.
6. No interference with vendors or management
Committees and their chairs often need to be reminded that decisions are made by the board, that committees make recommendations, and that the committees and their chairs are not authorized to instruct management, association vendors, or other residents.
7. Have directors on committees if possible, but not too many
One director on committees helps communication with the board. Three directors, which is a quorum of a 5 member board, is too much because if a quorum of the board attends a committee meeting it becomes a “board meeting” under the Open Meeting Act (Civil Code 4090(a)). Plus, the point of a committee is to spread the work around – if most of the board is involved, why have a committee?
8. Committees recommend and do not act
Except for architectural committees, most committees only make recommendations. Committees sometimes erroneously make association commitments or decisions, which is outside their role.
9. No committee minutes
The product of committees (except for those which have been given authority to make decisions) is the recommendation for board action. Recommendations are communicated to the board in reports. If a committee communicates a recommendation for board action, a committee representative should attend the board meeting in case the board has questions about the recommendation.
10. Require any reports to be written
Oral reports take too long and leave no record of the committee’s recommendations. If the committee has no recommendation for board action, a report is unnecessary.
11. Avoid committee overlaps
Watch for potential conflicts with other committees or the manager. This is often a concern with association budget or finance committees.
12. Committees do not replace experts
When needing legal, engineering, construction, or other specialized advice, associations should hire the appropriate expert. Committee volunteers, even if qualified, may not understand that they are not protected as volunteers if they give expert advice which the HOA relies upon.
13. Committees typically operate less formally
Parliamentary procedure is usually not used in committee meetings due to the smaller size.
14. Committees are a great recruiting tool
The association’s future directors may be identified through their committee service.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.