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Subject: BOD President weaponizing the association newsletter to endorse BOD candidate, is this legal or ethical?
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JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/01/2019 2:41 PM  
We have an upcoming association election with 2 BOD positions up for election. We have the 2 incumbents of these seats running for re-election and 2 challengers to these seats.

The BOD President, in my opinion weaponized the association newsletter by writing a glowing endorsement of the 2 incumbents of these BOD seats and encouraged the association members to choose wisely and vote to re-elect the 2 incumbents and failed to mention the challengers. This newsletter was printed on association letterhead and distributed using association funds.

This seems highly unethical and has certainly tainted the election process. Is this legal? What if any recourse do we have? The 2 challengers do not have the member mailing lists and have no way to rebut this other than our association chat page which many members don’t belong to.

Thanks
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/01/2019 2:42 PM  
Posted By JohnC73 on 09/01/2019 2:41 PM
We have an upcoming association election with 2 BOD positions up for election. We have the 2 incumbents of these seats running for re-election and 2 challengers to these seats.

The BOD President, in my opinion weaponized the association newsletter by writing a glowing endorsement of the 2 incumbents of these BOD seats and encouraged the association members to choose wisely and vote to re-elect the 2 incumbents and failed to mention the challengers. This newsletter was printed on association letterhead and distributed using association funds.

This seems highly unethical and has certainly tainted the election process. Is this legal? What if any recourse do we have? The 2 challengers do not have the member mailing lists and have no way to rebut this other than our association chat page which many members don’t belong to.

Thanks




It's sleazy, but not illegal.

The challengers should be entitled (likely under state law or the HOA's governing documents) to get a list of owners. They should do that.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/01/2019 2:51 PM  
To add:

1. You can do a US mail mailing to people.
2. You can find members of the HOA on social media and connect with them that way.
3. You can do a "meet and greet".
4. There are other ways to connect with neighbors and get the new people elected.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:402


09/01/2019 2:58 PM  
John,
I thing that Most states I believe have Equal Time rules in place for Elections. If the new candidates feel like they are not represented they can demand that they have a mailer sent to the same HO list.

I put in place in my Ca. association a "Meet the Candidates" night where all candidates are given a night where the curious HOs can fill out questions in advance and ask a volunteer to moderate the meeting so that it is fair for all. It gives everyone a chance to see how the candidates handle tuff situations and what their feelings are when they get challenged. Being on a Board is not for everyone.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/01/2019 3:28 PM  
Thanks for the responses, very interesting.

I would have thought it would be illegal to use association letter head, funds and resources to stump for one candidate over another.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/01/2019 3:30 PM  
The President did this 3 weeks prior to the election and puts the challengers at an incredible disadvantage. The BOD also holds the email list and may balk at allowing the challengers to use this.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/01/2019 3:35 PM  
Posted By JohnC73 on 09/01/2019 3:30 PM
The President did this 3 weeks prior to the election and puts the challengers at an incredible disadvantage. The BOD also holds the email list and may balk at allowing the challengers to use this.




Then bypass them. Social media and door-to-door campaigning can be more effective than a HOA newsletter anyway.

Set up your own email list.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/01/2019 8:23 PM  
In CA, candidates get to all use the same resources as any other candidates. So, the two challengers would also be able to use the HOA newsletter and staff to plead their case or to do so as a slate. Neither the prez nor the board nor anyone can prevent them to having access to all HOA resources. so it would be illegal in Ca.


The Question is, what about MA?? You need to look into into. There is a Steve from MA who posts fairly regularly and he might know. And sometimes a kindly poster will look things up for you. But, maybe not. It also is very likely they board must give a copy of the address list of all owners to any owners who asks. In CA, it'd be (I think) a $500 fine to the HOA if the board refuses.

There also MIGHT be something in your own bylaws about this. You need to move fast.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 1:08 AM  
Thanks, I should clarify. I live in Mass, but the HOA association is in New Hampshire. It is a seasonal HOA association.

Thanks to everyone, this is a great website.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/02/2019 8:10 AM  
Then, John, see what you can find in NH statutes.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/02/2019 8:11 AM  
Then, John, see what you can find in NH statutes.
ChadH3
(Alabama)

Posts:12


09/02/2019 8:34 AM  
I would definitely say it’s unethical. Not illegal though. Some of the posts above that mention election laws only apply to elections for public office. Elections for organizations including HOAs would not be covered by those laws. The only way it would be illegal is if it were specifically mentioned in your By-Laws.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/02/2019 8:54 AM  
States vary, Chad. In all CA homeowner associations, it is as I wrote above. The questions is: What about NH? The OP also should read his HOA's bylaws....just in case.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 9:42 AM  
Thanks again,

We are organizing a pre-annual meeting information session, but many members can't make it on short notice and summer is over, so not as many folks visit the seasonal park.

Is it ok to use a conference call session to broadcast this meeting for people that are remote? The idea being candidates or members can listen and participate remotely and buzz in with questions. Seems trivial to me, but wondering if I might meet some resistance from the establishment. The BOD incumbents running for re-election have already stated they can't attend in person. I would like to surprise them with a call in option.

Thanks
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/02/2019 9:57 AM  
Posted By JohnC73 on 09/02/2019 9:42 AM
wondering if I might meet some resistance from the establishment




You will but who cares? Please proceed with the conference call option; there's nothing stopping you, legally.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/02/2019 10:39 AM  
So, John, this is an event organized by homeowners, right? How will you get access to the remote system so that those attending can hear these calling in? I'm no techie and love your idea, but how does it work? wait....are you on the board?

If the equipment belongs to the HOA, I don't believe they must let you use it. If the room belongs to the HOA they probably must let you use it and in CA they'd be required by laws to let you use it for free w/out a cleaning/security deposit because it's HOA business.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/02/2019 10:50 AM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 09/02/2019 10:39 AM
How will you get access to the remote system so that those attending can hear these calling in?




Use an iPhone and add a speaker to it if needed.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 10:59 AM  
Exactly, on short notice I was just thinking something simple like an iPhone with speaker.

The association used to hold an information session prior to the annual meeting, but somewhere along the line that stopped. This years candidates and petition sponsors are organizing this event. The event is planned an approved, but I wanted to add the conference call option as many can't attend.

Thanks
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8647


09/02/2019 12:29 PM  
John

In many states those running for the BOD get access to mailing lists. Names and addresses only. I would fight for this and have the candidates you favor do a direct mailing.

Also have you considered collecting Proxies?

KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/02/2019 12:35 PM  
Sounds good, JohnC73. And as both Paul & JonC noted, they, as owners, most likely have access to the address list of owners per your documents or state law.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:402


09/02/2019 12:51 PM  
JohnC,
One thing that needs to be considered here. It is very unlikely that many or anyone other than a few in your HOA care about this nearly as much as you do. Apathy runs rampant in HOAs and unless the existing board is caught stealing or is raising the dues a large amount HOs usually could care less.

I am one of the few that lets this stuff "Rent Space in My Head" don't be surprised or upset if you do not get the reaction you are hoping to get. It is hard to make changes in HOAs.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 1:54 PM  
Oh don't I know it that apathy runs rampant, in fact I was one of those until recently and the President's candidate endorsement in the associations newsletter was the icing on the cake that made me speak up.

We do have a facebook chat group, but most of the association members remain quiet as they are afraid to get attacked online. I posted how I felt the President's use the associations funds to favor a candidate was very unethical and several have chimed in and agreed. The only folks that saw nothing wrong was the BOD president. He said he has every right to support a candidate. I responded, yes you do, but not on the associations dime. He actually used association dues paid by the 2 challengers to give an glowing endorsement to their opponents. What a country.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8497


09/02/2019 2:24 PM  
Question? How exactly did the president use the HOA's dime by having an article in an already provided resource? It's not like he used ad space. It was space in a newsletter which many Presidents can have a "President's corner" so to speak. Don't see any real benefit. Those people are already incumbents. The members in the HOA should already know the job those people do. So if you think the President's opinion of them is crap, then don't vote for them. Have the other people who want to run advertise their worth/interest.

Your assigning reasons people aren't posting on the facebook page. It could well be apathy or not wanting to be involved in the discussions. Again another ASSUMPTION on your part. I wouldn't post on a HOA facebook page cause think those pages can just be problematic. Even on my own Facebook page I've had people take it "off line" inappropriately. The laws get blurred once that happens.

Former HOA President
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 3:06 PM  
Thanks, perhaps I'm overthinking it. And I totally get the chat group issues.

The president leveraged a resource that only he has access to publicly promote the 2 BOD members that are running for re-election. A glowing endorsement at that " use your vote wisely and vote for x an y". And it turns out that one of the BOD members running for re-election is the newsletter editor, so he had his hand in it also. He was able to send this communication to each and every member of the association. The challengers don't have that luxury and as member of the association their dues helped pay for the opponents message.

I did some online research and this is illegal in FLA I believe, but may not be in other states.

What other reason than to sway the election would he have for the endorsement?

Seems unfair to me, but perhaps this is politics.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 3:11 PM  
This newsletter was published 3 weeks before the election and this is a seasonal campground and many have already left for the season. Puts the challengers in a difficult position.

As a former HOA president you really feel this is ethical? Not accusing, just curious to see your rationalization.

Thanks
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/02/2019 3:33 PM  
Posted By JohnC73 on 09/02/2019 3:11 PM
This newsletter was published 3 weeks before the election and this is a seasonal campground and many have already left for the season. Puts the challengers in a difficult position.

As a former HOA president you really feel this is ethical? Not accusing, just curious to see your rationalization.

Thanks




Pointing this out will win votes.

If the HOA has cumulative voting it’ll be easier to knock at least one of them off of the board.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/02/2019 6:05 PM  
I agree that pointing this out will win votes and several of us are beating this point home.

Still interested in the perspective of the former HOA president that posted. Curious why he thinks there is nothing wrong with this. It is sort of a reflection of what I am seeing in our association, the members think it is wrong, but the president is standing behind it.

Thanks again
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8497


09/02/2019 6:26 PM  
My opinion why not wrong is not because it's "Illegal". Also don't think putting it in a HOA newsletter is unfair to other candidates. It's the opinion of the President that his essential current "co-workers/Board members" are worthy of consideration of a vote. Were they supposed to put in the newsletter? Do we know if the others who are running were denied the ability to post something in the newsletter?

Considering when you are on the HOA board you should represent the HOA on the whole as a cohesive team. I don't see why any board member or officer would post anything that wasn't supportive. They have the power to remove bad members.

For me you come across as someone who is seeing their side and going to put it on others. What you think of me isn't what I think of me. Don't see why these candidates can't also post in the newsletter or on facebook forum to use it as their platform. The only difference is the President said good things in a newsletter. The candidates should have used the same forum as it was available to them at the same time was it not?

Former HOA President
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:402


09/02/2019 6:26 PM  
JohnC,
As a President of 2 HOAs over the last 9 1/2 years. I find it very unethical and highly inappropriate. It seems like your HOA is on the same side and being seasonal adds another layer to this issue.

I have to admit that as a president I did continually seek out people in my HOA that I thought would be a good fit for future positions. That does not mean they think exactly like I did as that does not make for a good board. I looked for members that could fill gaps in either talent or time to volunteer which is a key part of what makes a good board member. If I had someone that I really liked for the above reasons I would certainly lobby for them with friends in the community. If anyone asked I would surely tell them my feelings about who I think is the best fit. I think this is normal as I have mentioned many pay no attention and if they asked I would tell them my opinion. Your President just decided to do it using HOA resources and he needs to be called out for it. If quorum is not reached you certainly have time for a revote.

When I was first elected to my Ca. board I uncovered some serious abuse of power and ethical issues. I sent 2 letters to the community which I paid for out of my own pocket which cost over $1,000. Typically a mailer is about a dollar a door and the list should be provided by your management company. I am not sure if you are a managed community so are you? They should keep your president in place if they are in control.
RichardP13


Posts:0


09/02/2019 7:00 PM  
In California, that would be "illegal":

Civil Code §5135. Association Funds in Campaigns.

(a) Association funds shall not be used for campaign purposes in connection with any association board election. Funds of the association shall not be used for campaign purposes in connection with any other association election except to the extent necessary to comply with duties of the association imposed by law.

(b) For the purposes of this section, “campaign purposes” includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(1) Expressly advocating the election or defeat of any candidate that is on the association election ballot.

(2) Including the photograph or prominently featuring the name of any candidate on a communication from the association or its board, excepting the ballot, ballot materials, or a communication that is legally required, within 30 days of an election. This is not a campaign purpose if the communication is one for which subdivision (a) of Section 5105 requires that equal access be provided to another candidate or advocate.
ChadH3
(Alabama)

Posts:12


09/02/2019 8:35 PM  
Posted By RichardP13 on 09/02/2019 7:00 PM
In California, that would be "illegal":

Civil Code §5135. Association Funds in Campaigns.

(a) Association funds shall not be used for campaign purposes in connection with any association board election. Funds of the association shall not be used for campaign purposes in connection with any other association election except to the extent necessary to comply with duties of the association imposed by law.

(b) For the purposes of this section, “campaign purposes” includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(1) Expressly advocating the election or defeat of any candidate that is on the association election ballot.

(2) Including the photograph or prominently featuring the name of any candidate on a communication from the association or its board, excepting the ballot, ballot materials, or a communication that is legally required, within 30 days of an election. This is not a campaign purpose if the communication is one for which subdivision (a) of Section 5105 requires that equal access be provided to another candidate or advocate.

Wow. California leaves no stone unturned in their state law! Haha
AugustinD


Posts:1898


09/02/2019 9:51 PM  
Of course using HOA resources to campaign for specific candidates is illegal. For starters, it is self-dealing on the part of the incumbents and their cronies and so a violation of their fiduciary duty. The problem is that going to court is probably more expensive than doing one's own separate emailing or mass snail mail.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/02/2019 10:28 PM  
Good to hear form you, Augustin.

Thanks for exact CA citation, Richard. So, JohnC73, what about NH? Anything?
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/03/2019 3:06 AM  
Thanks Mark, You nailed it, that is exactly how I feel.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/03/2019 3:10 AM  
Thanks, Kerry,

Still looking into NH, this is all new to me and I am happy I found this site and all the members that contribute.

I would think that if it is illegal in some states that at the very minimum it would be a red flag item to avoid.
JohnC73
(Massachusetts)

Posts:13


09/03/2019 6:51 AM  
Well have a long exchange with the President on our HOA chat page and with the help of this site I was able to get a public apology out of the President, but he said it was his action along, even know one of the BOD candidates is the newsletter editor and sends it out. Thanks for all the help.

I still feel the election is tainted as there is not enough time to get the apology out to everyone. Many of the older condo owners don't use chat and rely on the newsletter mailing.

Is it possible to request that the BOD election be delayed on held with a special election? Perhaps with mail in votes? The proxy voting system is annoying as many have their pockets filled with blank ballots and essentially have multiple votes.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:259


09/03/2019 6:53 AM  
Posted By JohnC73 on 09/03/2019 6:51 AM
Well have a long exchange with the President on our HOA chat page and with the help of this site I was able to get a public apology out of the President, but he said it was his action along, even know one of the BOD candidates is the newsletter editor and sends it out. Thanks for all the help.

I still feel the election is tainted as there is not enough time to get the apology out to everyone. Many of the older condo owners don't use chat and rely on the newsletter mailing.

Is it possible to request that the BOD election be delayed on held with a special election? Perhaps with mail in votes? The proxy voting system is annoying as many have their pockets filled with blank ballots and essentially have multiple votes.




Check your governing documents’ election procedures. If they are being violated, the election might need to be postponed. I’ve seen that happen.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6606


09/03/2019 7:51 AM  
With Paul, check your gov. docs, most likely you bylaws. Also check NH corporations codes, if you're incorporated, and most HOAs are
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