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Subject:  Buying flowers for deceased
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JamesB20
(Colorado)

Posts:2


09/02/2012 10:41 PM  
I am the treasurer and board member for our HOA and was directed by a board member via email to go buy flowers for the family of an HOA member who recently passed. The email was seconded by a second board member but not by a plurality. I have a problem with this for a number of reasons.
1. Such activity is not in the budget.
2. We have not done this for other community members.
3. The covenants are mute on this activity.

These individuals are pretty insistent that this be done, and I wonder what to do when they present me with a bill for flowers. (I may personally throw in $10, if I have not already given something in another manner.) I did suggest that the board create some sort of policy and budget for this activity if they wanted to do this in the future. (I would be opposed to this, and the budget would not be approved until months from now at our annual meeting.)

My two questions are:
1. Should I dig in my heels and refuse to reimburse out of HOA funds based on on no budget, even if they do get a plurality?
2. Are their other HOAs that do acknowledge deaths (other than a note in the newsletter at the bereaved's consent) and what are their policies?

Thanks for your feedback.

MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8281


09/02/2012 10:53 PM  
I had this issue before but it involved some wanting to "forgive" that month's dues on the deceased members home. A BIG no-no even though it's a nice gesture. Eventually the HOA will have to put a lien on that property while waiting to process through probate court if the home isn't picked up by a family member. So things can get kind of sticky in this situation...

As for your flowers...I would remind them that NOT all the members would agree to buy flowers. The budget of the HOA comes from ALL the members. Instead I would suggest instead of taking it from the HOA budget, that each individual contribute from their own person. That the board members could do this as a personal gesture amongst themselves. I would then caution putting the HOA's name on it. Remember the HOA board is elected from the GENERAL membership to represent the HOA as a whole. I don't think the whole would agree to purchase flowers unless it's a very small HOA.


Former HOA President
CynthiaL3


Posts:0


09/03/2012 2:17 AM  
It seems there are many different attitudes towards a member in one's community passing. Two weeks ago we had a previous board member pass away. The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to another civic organization. We did send a small remembrance to the specified group. The remembrance will be from the board and the community we live in, and I'm pleased to endorse such a gesture to his family.

This is a common practice, and much appreciated by the living family members. The small HOA I'm affiliated with, has a very small budget, no matter how small our budget may be, we could afford the nominal amount of $50.00 for this gift, and it was approved by the board. I'd rather not get caught up in the minutia or mean spirited excuses, that I hear from others about this well intended small gesture of remembrance. Do I care if it's in our yearly budget or the CC&R's, absolutely NOT.....do I care if the entire group of members voted/approved of this gesture, absolutely NOT, the board approved it. It was, and is the right thing to do, for the deceased's family, period.

Having stated my very strong opinion on this matter, let me also say, there is a big difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, in any parliamentary circle. To give up my humanness to spite others, is not an option for me, to hide behind the written word/law as stated, to use as a hammer over others, is again, NOT an option for me. There are exceptions to enforcement and structure, death of a community member is one of those exceptions in my book.
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2535


09/03/2012 4:33 AM  
Posted By JamesB20 on 09/02/2012 10:41 PM

My two questions are:
1. Should I dig in my heels and refuse to reimburse out of HOA funds based on on no budget, even if they do get a plurality?
2. Are their other HOAs that do acknowledge deaths (other than a note in the newsletter at the bereaved's consent) and what are their policies?


1. If the majority of the board votes to purchase flowers, you, as treasurer, must abide by the wishes of the board. The board has the final say, not any one individual. You cannot expend HOA funds on the say-so of only one or two board members, unless they represent a majority. However, it still should be by a vote, duly recorded in the minutes.

If the flowers must be purchased prior to when a vote can be held, the two board members should do so with their own funds and then make a motion at the next board meeting to be reimbursed. If the board so votes, then fine. However, they should understand that if the board does not vote to reimburse them the cost of the flowers, they should be content with having made a donation for their purchase.

2. We have several unofficial committees, made up of community volunteers, who have nothing to do with the official business of running the HOA. They do not have access to HOA funds for any of their activities, but rely on donations from community members for funds. Some of the activities are a on a "pay to participate" basis. One of the committees is an "Outreach Committee." This committee sends out get well and condolence cards, helps neighbors who may be ill, provides transportation for those needing rides for doctor and clinic visits, and would be the committee that would send flowers on certain occasions. None of this is done with HOA funds.
JeanneK3
(Maryland)

Posts:562


09/03/2012 5:07 AM  
I agree with Bruce. The key thing to your question is only 2 members of the Board told you to do this. You need a board vote with a majority of the board saying yes before you can use community funds for anything.

However, this brings up another point. Do you as treasurer have complete control of association funds? Don't you have another board member co-sign all checks? If not, so that you are not accused of misusing funds, you need to get a co-signer.
Jeanne
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16379


09/03/2012 6:27 AM  
Typically, an action without a meeting requires 100% approval of all Board members.


Our Association, as an Association, has never acknowledged any deaths within the development. Individual board members may do as they see fit.

If presented with a bill, I would suggest to calmly give it back to them and say that they may bring up the expense at the next board meeting. If approved, you will issue a check that night.

SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3263


09/03/2012 7:13 AM  
Tell them it would not be a good idea to use HOA funds for non HOA expenses such as flowers. However, if they want to pitch in their own money you will gladly go to the store to buy flowers.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3263


09/03/2012 7:16 AM  
Basically, the HOA is not their personal piggy bank. They are simply a board member. If they want to buy things such as flowers, they are free to do so....... with their own money. NOT the members money.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8419


09/03/2012 7:32 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 09/03/2012 7:16 AM
Basically, the HOA is not their personal piggy bank. They are simply a board member. If they want to buy things such as flowers, they are free to do so....... with their own money. NOT the members money.





I agree.
JonD1


Posts:0


09/03/2012 9:16 AM  
I would like to know more about this situation. WHY do these Board members wish to send flowers? Why now and not in the past?

IF they think the HOAs money should pay to send their representaions to the family that IMO would be wrong.

IF on the other hand they think this might be a gesture from the entire community then perhaps it should be considered.

The entire Board should weigh in on his. And the Treasurer should no take direction from two members without consulting the other members.

I also feel the Treasurer does not have the authority to use funds as they see fit alone. It is NOT heir money either.

Gestures and efforts to offer those who have suffered a loss can be a positive thing. But those efforts have to be decided on by the Board and the expense however limited justified as an expense of the property not two individual Board members.
CarolR11


Posts:0


09/03/2012 11:27 AM  
With Bruce & Jeanne, I agree that no two Board members have the authority to order the treasurer or any other director to do anything unless they are a majority, and the directions were given at a duly noticed meeting. Motions and seconds cannot be made via email and even if your state permits it, all directors must approve the purchase in order to tkae action without a meeting. (Such action is no longer legal in CA except in cases of emergency.)

Those two directors should have purchased the flowers themselves and sought reimbursement at a meeting as Tim suggests.
JamesB20
(Colorado)

Posts:2


09/03/2012 1:38 PM  
Thank you for all the feed back on this. The funny thing is that I have as of yet not seen any other board members weigh in on this situation.

In regards to some of your comments/questions.
MelissaP1: I am completely in agreement regarding forgiveness of dues. We have a hard enough time collecting dues as it is. And for other members of the HOA which we have about 70 lots, I know some would complain. Some were complaining that we had an HOA BBQ which was approved and budgeted at the annual voters meeting. I also did suggest that we could each donate some personal money towards something, after I had already sent something personally.

CynthiaL3: I understand where you are coming from, but I would argue that the HOA should be fair in sending gifts, and not just because one nice but vocal member made a point of telling us about this death and asking if the HOA was going to do anything for the bereaved. There have been previous deaths in our community and the HOA didn't do anything for them. I would also argue that once we start stepping out of our duties that those step outs will continue to get larger and more frequent. I guess I'm being heartless, but I feel I should be following the rules that were set out before me by the CCRs and budget.

BruceF1: I agree with you about reimbursing based on a vote at the next board meeting, even if such activity was not budgeted for. (We do not have a discretionary budget category.) I really like your "Outreach Committee" idea. Unfortunately we can't seem to get a volunteer coordinator, or a neighborhood watch person. Maybe they would like to take on this sort of activity.

JeanneK3: Our funds are in fact controlled by a single signature and a monthly treasurer report. I and the Secretary can access the account. When we talked to the banker about doing dual signatures, he said that it wouldn't affect the security of the transactions, and we believed him. (Another banker had provided me with a similar statement from a different bank for cub scouts.) The unfortunate reality is if our former treasurer had kept some blank checks he could write checks and we would be responsible for tracking him down. (He is an honest guy and wouldn't do that, but make sure you know your treasurer, look over the bank statements and demand the reports.) Finally, this is one more reason that if it isn't in the budget I don't want to write a check for it.

TimB4, SteveM9, JohnC46: I agree with you. It seemed I was being perceived by them as being a cheap curmudgeon, and I wanted second opinion. I won't be second guessing myself regarding this after this discussion.

JonD1: The reason the original member of the board wanted to send flowers was that a nice and outgoing individual made a point of telling the board member that the person had passed away and wanted to know what the HOA was going to do about it. He had already approached me about the death and I had told him that I was not aware that any of the previous deaths had been acknowledged by the HOA, but that I would express my personal condolences (which I did), and let the board know about the death. The funny thing is the board member who wanted the flowers obviously didn't even know the name of the bereaved or the deceased. I'm sure the two board members feel that this would be a gesture that would be representative of the whole community, and maybe feel the HOA was derelict in not acknowledging past deaths. They definitely were not standing to benefit from the purchase. I as Treasurer see it as my duty to carry out the wishes of the community based on what I was given. (A fairly well defined budget, with no discretionary account.) I understand an emergency may happen and when that happens we will cross that bridge at that time. I may also propose that the board be given a modest discretionary account subject to the approval of at least the majority of the board, so that I would not feel conflicted even if the board were to approve of an expense outside the rest of the budget. I don't want to come off as hard nosed, but I do want to make sure I fulfill my fiduciary responsibility; and I have written checks for expenses I feel are unnecessary, but were within the budget and approved by the board.

CarolR11: Our board, rightly or wrongly, has in the past approved of actions to be taken at a meeting, subject to discussions usually via email when incomplete information was available at the meeting and we wanted to move forward with something. I am not keen on such decision making, but we only meet once a month. For example, we agreed to contract a service before the next board meeting, if we could get them to agree to certain terms and under a certain price.

Thank you all for your feedback.



KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1387


09/03/2012 2:08 PM  
Bruce is correct. The board can vote to spend money as it pleases, but flower purchases are inappropriate given the HOA's mandate. It's best to pass the hat among the concerned parties and have flowers delivered without using dues revenue.
LawrenceC1
(Georgia)

Posts:480


09/03/2012 4:09 PM  
Posted By JamesB20 on 09/03/2012 1:38 PM
[...] Our funds are in fact controlled by a single signature and a monthly treasurer report. I and the Secretary can access the account. When we talked to the banker about doing dual signatures, he said that it wouldn't affect the security of the transactions, and we believed him. [...]

James,

The banker is right. No bank that I know of enforces a "two signature" requirement. Few banks even check one signature for a match against the signature card.

But a "two signature" rule is not for the bank -- it is for your protection as Treasurer and the protection of the membership as a whole. The Board can require two signatures on each check, and regardless of how the bank processes your checks, any check without 2 signatures can be treated as an unauthorized expenditure by the HOA. You as Treasurer do not bear sole liability for payments (like reimbursing for flowers). And it is much harder for a rogue treasurer to abuse access to the check stock, since any board member can view check images online and verify that they all are counter-signed, and confirm with the co-signer that his or her signature has not been forged.

A "two signature" rule is a very good idea no matter how your bank processes your checks.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3263


09/03/2012 6:35 PM  

A "two signature" rule is a very good idea no matter how your bank processes your checks.


Who writes checks anymore? LOL. Without online banking, I'd just quit. I issue checks right from the bank's website, dollar amount is immediately deducted, they print them and mail them to the person. No need to reconcile check book.
LawrenceC1
(Georgia)

Posts:480


09/03/2012 6:47 PM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 09/03/2012 6:35 PM
I issue checks right from the bank's website, dollar amount is immediately deducted, ...


Steve,

Precisely because online banking is so easy, we have prohibited its use in our HOA.

We print checks using QuickBooks, staple the supporting documentation (invoices, receipts, packing slips, etc.) to the second stub, and have a board member other than the Treasurer counter sign the check after verifying all the paperwork. The paperwork is filed away for 7 years as backup to the financial statements, which are created quarterly and uploaded to our secure web site. The extra process and complexity is to ensure that money is not being misappropriated.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3263


09/04/2012 7:56 AM  
The extra process and complexity is to ensure that money is not being misappropriated.


Why not just have a form that must be authorized by two people instead of the actual check? It would be the same process and would allow for online banking.

A bank will cash a two signature check with one signature, so in either case you wouldn't find out about it until after it occurred.
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