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Subject: Unethical Behavior of a Board Member
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10/29/2006 12:12 AM  
Recently our board met in a closed meeting to discuss the possible termination of an employee.This was a closed meeting without the presence of the employee to which I am refering. There was not a majority of votes to terminate. After the vote, the employee's job was secure...End of discussion until a future incident causes us to revisit this topic again.
The employee was scheduled to meet with the board after the closed session at which time we asked questions about the practices and judgment used to complete assigned tasks. Nothing was said in the meeting with the employee that there had been talk of termination.

The following day, another employee, who had no knowledge of what our meeting was about, notified some of the board members that she was told by the employee, that a board member had called immediately after the meetings of the previous night and gave descriptive details of the termination meeting right down to the way the votes were cast. This, to me, is unexceptable behavior on the part of the board member, and raises these questions; How is this board member to be trusted with confidential information? What good could be served by telling the employee such things...I suspect personal gain at the emotional expense of that employee. I feel the board member is befriending this employee to gain information about possible land deals, and by befriending and making the rest of the board members seem like the enemy,win the employee's confidence and loyalty for personal gain. Telling the employee was a hurtful, callous thing to do, and in an effort to share that pain, the employee is now telling members of the community, and anyone who will listen, how badly the board's treatment is. It's not the board as a whole or even those that voted to terminate that are treating her badly. It's only one that is responsible for delivering a blow to cause pain. The rest of us, whether we voted to terminate or not, are content with the democratic outcome of the vote.
This lack of sound judgement on the part of the board member will divide our board, and drive a wedge of mistrust, further dividing our community which had made positive steps to bridge that division following a scandal that deeply hurt this community and from which we are still healing.
Shall we ask this board member to resign, and if that is not an option they want to take, do we then have the duty to bring her lack of sound judgement before the community members in open session?


10/29/2006 5:51 AM  
According to Roberts Rules of Order "A member can be punished under disciplinary procedure (61) if he violates the secrecy of an executive session."

Read Section 61 in Chapter XX of RONR 10th edition, and follow the procedures detailed there regarding discipling a member (in this case a member of the board).

All organized assemblies such as your board of directors are presumed to operate under parliamentary law procedures. Whether or not your HOA has designated RONR as the official parliamentary source is not that important because all the sources are "basicly" the same. RONR is the most widely used.



10/29/2006 8:06 AM  
It's unfortunate this gossip took place! Have you already discussed this with other board members? or at this point is it still just personal knowledge?

If it was me (I'm chairman of a 7 person board) I would first go to that person who suppossedly did it and ask their side of the story. Then, I would tell them what I heard and how difficult it makes the situation for yourself and the rest of you (ie. integrity, gossip, trust, etc.) Then let that person know you will need to bring up the situation with the rest of the board members (to make sure it never happens again) but you will/may not mention names. Work it out with your board member first. More than likely, he/she will comply and agree that it's best to handle it in-house first.

To ask her/him to resign OR to bring her/him before the jury (HOA in open session) would be a waste of time on everyone's part and drive a further wedge. The reason: because then you are showing anyone else that if you make a mistake here is how this board will handle it. I don't think that's a message you want to send to your neighbors.

People make mistakes....maybe consider this a warning for him/her and then all other board members to learn from and advise that it shouldn't happen again and IF it happened again then how would the board like to handle it? I think if you are open and honest in the group you will get a better handle on the situation (include the offending board member too in the discussion and it works better).

This happened to me this past summer. I spoke with our board member about how she handled herself, then I spoke with the group about how we should handle ourselves. Then I gently reminded everyone of our integrity and trust, etc. We haven't had a problem since and so far every board member is backing each other up, etc. That's what you want.

Sorry so long...but the Robert's Rules is just a guideline and not necessarily the best choice!

Good luck!


10/29/2006 9:30 AM  
Thank you MichelleD for your reply. I have personal knowledge that at least 4 board members know of this incident, but I suspect that the "grapevine" has wound it's way through the entire board. Ironically, one of the reasons given for termination of the employee, was the inability to maintain confidentiality about other people in the community,contractors, fellow employee and information from the board that was shared with her so she could effectively and efficiently carry out her tasks. Both the employee and the board member have been counceled in the past that it is not exceptable to meet behind closed doors to discuss matters that negatively affect relationships with other employees, and board members, and the board member was, (for a lack of a better word) "banned" from the office, in fear that their behavior would bring a charge of harrassment against the association because of statements said and attitudes shown towards other employees. Statements said to an employee that was rightfully carrying out the duties as instructed by the board, like, "Anybody that is a pain in the a.. and causing all the problems in this office is going to find themselves fired." This was said to one un-offending employee in the presence of another board member, who confirmed it was indeed said after I asked.
This was not just simply a mistake, it is a constant pattern of behavior that is causing undue stress to our employees and fellow board members and is a contributing factor to the poor attitude and lack of respect shown to fellow employees and select board members by the employee that was considered for termination.
We do plan to meet with the offending board member in the near future in closed session to address this particular situation, and again it will be documented. I can only hope that we have the successful outcome that you had with your board.


10/29/2006 12:39 PM  
Bea - this is a common problem in HOAs and is simply due to lay volunteers taking on responsibilities and duties they have no background or training for. (Isn't that frightening when you think about it?) If this had happened in the corporate world, the gossiper would surely be out on the street so fast....certainly not left in any position to get confidential information again. Your situation should flatly not be tolerated. Harold
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