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...
Your Meetings Are Raucous? YOU Might Be the Problem

Your Meetings Are Raucous? YOU Might Be the Problem

Board meetings should be efficient and business-like events, but can unfortunately often be tumultuous and disorganized. Ineffective meetings frustrate directors, managers, and even the audience. The directors set the tone for the meeting, and there are ways in which the HOA board can contribute to (or prevent) a chaotic meeting environment. Room configuration How is the board seated? If the directors are all seated in a line facing the audience, a subtle message is conveyed: The board is talking to the audience. It is not surprising that in such a seating configuration the audience believes it is their right to talk to the board in return. If the board sits more in a semi-circle, the directors can face each other, while the audience is able to listen to the board deliberate. Talking to the audience Some directors cannot resist “playing to the crowd” and speaking to the audience. This completely disrespects the other directors, and also can lead to raucous response from the audience. Directors should never grandstand to the audience and should confine their remarks to their board colleagues. No rules Very few associations have meeting conduct rules. Such rules can prohibit certain intolerable behaviors, such as shouting, physical intimidation, and profanity or hate speech. All members should be able to feel safe as they attend meetings. Should anyone disrupt the meeting, rules would empower the board to impose discipline. Meeting rules can also contain open forum guidelines, disciplinary hearing procedures, and other helpful information explaining the various meeting procedures. Undisciplined deliberation A disciplined board stays on the agenda item at hand and avoids straying into other side...

Ten Tips For Shorter Meetings

Board meetings require balance. While nobody appreciates a meeting in which brevity is the only value, unduly lengthy meetings discourage and exhaust everybody – directors, audience and manager. After about 3 hours, good concentration and judgment is hard to come by. A length of 60-90 minutes is a very reasonable and achievable goal for most board meetings. Try these tips to get there. 1. Come prepared Good managers provide boards with “board packets” in advance, helping directors come to the meeting prepared, avoiding time wasted as directors “get up to speed” about items set forth in the packet. Prepared directors are more efficient – read your packet. 2. Avoid overly ambitious agendas Watch out for the overly loaded agenda. Some issues can dominate a meeting, requiring thirty minutes or more. Try to handle only one such issue per meeting, if you can. Sometimes a board needs to meet more frequently, as there is too much to be done in one meeting. 3. Set the room up for a board meeting (not a town hall meeting) A board which sits facing the audience (and not each other) invites audience participation, but the audience was not elected to serve. The semicircle is the best shape, so the audience can hear as the directors talk – to the other directors. 4. Use open forum properly Many meetings are too long because both board and audience fail to respect open forum. During open forum the board should not interrupt, and during the rest of the meeting the audience should not interrupt. 5. Use consent calendars Most routine decisions should be handled via consent...

Bad Board Meetings, Settling the Debt

Mr. Richardson, There are Board meetings taking place with little or no advance notice to anyone other than the Board Members. We never have a formal agenda published and minutes of these meetings are not properly documented for circulation to the homeowners. No open forum time is allowed for homeowners to voice their concerns. My question is, what course of action may we take as individual homeowners to insure our Board is following the protocols required by the laws applied to homeowners associations in the State of California? Any input or direction from you is appreciated. Cordially, J.E., Blyth Dear J.E., Boards ignoring the Open Meeting Act (Civil Code 1363.05) are at peril in many respects. Perhaps most important is the failure to respect neighbors, and to lose their trust. Such associations are fraught with conflict, and prone to a poor relationship between board and community. If proper corporate process, including that required by the Open Meeting Act, is ignored, then the decisions of the association might even be set aside by a court. Some would advocate legal action, but frankly, in poorly run associations this rarely accomplishes permanent change. Instead, consider mobilizing your neighbors and elect a new group of volunteers who will respect the process and the community. Perhaps also join CAI. Failures of transparency can take many forms: Failing to publish agendas in advance, abusing closed session, not keeping minutes, or deliberating outside of board meetings. Such failures are all bad for the HOA, and bad for the board. Good luck,Kelly Hello Kelly, I have a question regarding past HOA dues. I have successfully modified my mortgage and am now in...