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
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 particular person has been disruptive. Should the disruptive and belligerent behavior continue, the next step would be a motion to eject the person from the board meeting. This motion also will be recorded in the minutes and will document why the person was asked to leave the meeting. Should the member refuse to leave the meeting, the Chair should declare the meeting in recess (NOT adjourned), so that law enforcement may be called. At that point, the member is disturbing the peace and creating a risk of violent confrontation and law enforcement intervention is appropriate.
Directors should not interject, answer or otherwise speak during open forum. Let the members have their allotted time – interjecting directors are stealing time from the speakers. Announce to the attending members that directors will not respond or otherwise interrupt until after open forum, because open forum is their time and not the board’s time. Then, isn’t it fair to expect and ask that the members not speak or interject during the board deliberations?
Another critical technique to reduce disorderly and non-neighborly conduct is to adopt meeting conduct rules. Such rules can and should explain open forum, as well as closed session and disciplinary hearings. Meeting rules set the bar for an expectation of civil and neighborly conduct at HOA board meetings. Insist that the directors also behave appropriately as they serve the community.
As for a president who just can’t treat people decently, the board can replace officers at any time without cause. Have the “review of officer positions” on an open meeting agenda and elect a more respectful person as president.
Thanks for your questions,
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®.