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Subject: Anonymous complaint to one board member
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KatharinaW
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:55


01/14/2020 8:15 AM  
We have a pretty “difficult” person in the board who supposedly keeps getting “anonymous” complaints about mostly two of our other board members. By now the majority of the board feels he is using that “anonymous” tip trick to “annoy” the other two board members.

Is it normal for only one board member to know where a complaint comes from and not share with the entire board?

Also since we do have a property management company I would think EVERYTHING should go through them complaint and request wise for record keeping and documentation purposes. How did you go about establishing this rule?

Looking forward to your input
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/14/2020 9:32 AM  
Ask for specifics, and if the answer is as you stated, tell him you will not listen to that any longer - then ignore the person.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6817


01/14/2020 9:35 AM  
The Board can vote to make a policy that only corroborated complaints can come before the Board. This policy can be general about everything.

Our board has never accepted anonymous complaints.

How does this guy get these on your board agenda??
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


01/14/2020 9:39 AM  
Kath

The question is are the complaints valid and should be looked at? If not, ignore them.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


01/14/2020 10:34 AM  
Our rule of thumb is that complaints must be in writing and must include the writer's name and address. We ask that the person provide evidence if possible, and we ask if the person is willing to testify in court if push comes to shove. Complaints about things that the board can't enforce (such as things that aren't violations of the CC&Rs) receive a written response that this isn't something that the board can address, and it goes no further.

This eliminates a lot of nonsense.


MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:506


01/14/2020 11:06 AM  
Katharina,
What a crazy world we live in these days. People are always looking for ways to take others down (Cancel) them. Don't let it invade your Board it is a disease and it should be treated as such. If someone has facts against someone and wants to speak to the Board welcome it. If it is real they will need to show proof. If the board feels they are telling the truth then the board can ask the members involved to leave the room and the remaining board can decide how they will handle it.

If they are not willing to conform to these rules then it didn't happen. NO Anonymous anything or anybody IMO.
KatharinaW
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:55


01/14/2020 11:07 AM  
Thank you everyone for your input.

Some may be something to look at, more in a grey area, others are about things the HOA is not even remotely connected to.

These things are not on an agenda (which is a total different problem I’ve been trying to solve for a year now) as we don’t have an agenda during meetings. Ugh! I know I know.

He just blurts them out or sends emails to everyone about it.

I will suggest what was written above about how to handle complaints going forward. My hope is that with the upcoming election his seat may go to someone else - but who knows...

It’s creating a very toxic environment within the board and that is not helping anyone at the end of the day.
KatharinaW
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:55


01/14/2020 11:08 AM  
Thank you! I like the idea of offering, with proof, to speak without the board members in the room. And agree with everything else you said.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2882


01/14/2020 11:09 AM  
George, Kerry and Cathy pretty much cover what I'd say.

Regarding your question about everything going through the property manager, I don't think everything needs to go through them. In fact, if you have an issue regarding the property manager, such as not responding to an issue, that should be referred to the board, whereas a common area maintenance request can go to the property manager. In my community, our board has an email account where people can send questions, complaints, suggestions, etc., and all board members can read them and get a response to the person or discuss it at a board meeting (the typical response). If the property manager gets something that should be addressed by the board, it's forwarded to them.

We don't take anonymous complaints on ANYTHING, so if this board member has information the others should be aware of, he/she should share that with the board, along with the contact information of whoever submitted it. Unless and until he does so, remind everyone that the board doesn't take anonymous complaints, so if they want something addressed, they must go through established channels.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/14/2020 11:25 AM  
Ask the members to leave the room?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


01/15/2020 6:15 AM  
Another thought about why the board shouldn't act on anonymous or unsubstantiated complaints:

If you end up in court, the board will need to provide witnesses and/or evidence. Without these, the complaint is considered hearsay and the HOA will lose.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/15/2020 6:43 AM  
Sorry - my note, above was likely too short.

KatharinaW noted, "Thank you! I like the idea of offering, with proof, to speak without the board members in the room. And agree with everything else you said." This was related to what MarkM had posted, "If the board feels they are telling the truth then the board can ask the members involved to leave the room and the remaining board can decide how they will handle it."

I don't understand what is being recommended - I would be careful to understand state law in this regard ... in Florida, I don't think one can parse things this way - everything is open.

Unless state law required otherwise, I would always recommend talking in the open - nothing hidden - no talking behind backs or off the record.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


01/15/2020 7:24 AM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 01/15/2020 6:43 AM
Sorry - my note, above was likely too short.

KatharinaW noted, "Thank you! I like the idea of offering, with proof, to speak without the board members in the room. And agree with everything else you said." This was related to what MarkM had posted, "If the board feels they are telling the truth then the board can ask the members involved to leave the room and the remaining board can decide how they will handle it."

I don't understand what is being recommended - I would be careful to understand state law in this regard ... in Florida, I don't think one can parse things this way - everything is open.

Unless state law required otherwise, I would always recommend talking in the open - nothing hidden - no talking behind backs or off the record.

PA is not an open meeting state. No advance notice required. No invitation to attend required. Associations are on their own to develop their own standard of openness.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


01/15/2020 7:25 AM  
I also do not understand the recommendation.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


01/15/2020 8:45 AM  
Posted By NpS on 01/15/2020 7:25 AM
I also do not understand the recommendation.




If a complaint were made against a board member, then that director would be entitled to a hearing before the remaining directors. However, he'd have to recuse himself from any following discussions and vote - in other words, he doesn't get to have any input because he has a vested interest in the outcome.

We'd had a case a few years ago where a board member was involved in a dispute. She was able to present her case, but the other two board members made the decision on what to do (she was not able to take part in those discussions, per our attorney's advice).
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


01/15/2020 11:13 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 01/15/2020 8:45 AM
Posted By NpS on 01/15/2020 7:25 AM
I also do not understand the recommendation.


If a complaint were made against a board member, then that director would be entitled to a hearing before the remaining directors. However, he'd have to recuse himself from any following discussions and vote - in other words, he doesn't get to have any input because he has a vested interest in the outcome.

We'd had a case a few years ago where a board member was involved in a dispute. She was able to present her case, but the other two board members made the decision on what to do (she was not able to take part in those discussions, per our attorney's advice).

Understood. Thanks.

I have a different take on the situation. The OP expressed frustration because she can't even get the BOD to prepare and work from an agenda. (For you open-meeting state residents, this could never happen - but it can and does in a non-open meeting state.)

If she can't even get an agreement on having an agenda, how is she going to establish a policy on anonymous complaints. Far more complicated an issue. Yet the easy policy (having an agenda) seems to be beyond the OP's reach.

But if the OP is going to try to establish a policy, I don't like the idea of the complaining BOD member staying in the room and the complained about BOD member leaving the room. My recommendation would be to: (1) interrogate the complaining BOD member; (2) send both the complaining BOD member and the complained about BOD member out of the room; and (3) invite them both back and announce the decision.

IMO, that would take away some of the complaining BOD member's unfair advantage that the OP talked about originally. He's got to be out of the room too.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
KatharinaW
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:55


01/15/2020 11:41 AM  
Thanks everyone for your continued input.

Correct, PA is not an open meeting state and therefore as mentioned above meetings can be held as pleased.

There is a lot being handled in a way I do not know, neither understand, from my work (accountant and PM), but it’s hard to get people to change, especially if it’s not required and would involve more work (like keeping an agenda and creating it). Even though we may not have an official agenda most of the times, everyone does keep track on the open discussions and we do have somewhat fruitful meetings. Again a different issue but as for efficiency the problem lays more with the board members that like to gossip rather than discuss and close a topic. But oh well... it’s getting better. So I’m not complaining.

To me a board member with a personal agenda against other board members can cause bigger issues in the long run as decisions could end up being made in a way of one agrees the other disagrees just because. Therefore i would like to put an end to this ASAP and get over it.

Board members don’t have to friends. They just have to work together for the better of the community they volunteer in. If that can’t be done - then that’s a problem.

As the complaints are disguised as anonymous tips and concerns, makes it hard to even have a discussion though, as to me no one knows whether it’s really coming from a neighbor or yet again another personal attack complaint. 99% are not substantiated, 50% of that are topics that are out of the boards control or jurisdiction. The 1% are minor things that may be an issue but then there’s no real rule against them either.

I really appreciate all the input and also the room for me to vent a bit. Thank you all!
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/15/2020 1:40 PM  
I still believe, even given the additional info, that the president should simply note, that without more information the topic brought up by mr anon, is to be ignored.

Play a bit harder ball, but be ready to ignore mr anon.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


01/15/2020 2:15 PM  
I know what many say on anonymous complaints but I say they should be looked at in case they are real. No need to acknowledge it buy do have someone discreetly look at it. It could be real.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/15/2020 2:17 PM  
John,

I would normally agree, but didn’t the OP say this happened a lot with mr anon?
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2882


01/15/2020 2:39 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 01/15/2020 2:15 PM
I know what many say on anonymous complaints but I say they should be looked at in case they are real. No need to acknowledge it but do have someone discreetly look at it. It could be real.




If it's real, the complainer can and should provide contact information and at least explain why they want to remain confidential, and then you can make a decision on how to proceed. In my community, the people who usually want to be anonymous have a dispute with a neighbor and are concerned about retaliation. That's legitimate, which is why they can contact our courtesy officers to discuss the situation. The board and property manager are told as an FYI and the officer will speak to the neighbor without disclosing the complainant. If the issue turns out to be a CCR violation of some sort, the board can intervene.

In my experience, at least half of the anonymous complaints are passing along second, third or fourth hand information with few details, so it's hard to determine where to begin and there's no one you can contact for clarification. I, for one, don't have the time or patience to chase a rumor - if you insist on being anonymous, you better spill your guts until there's nothing left with names, dates, times, locations, etc.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/15/2020 3:32 PM  
I’m thinking this is about mr anon, not real people having real issues ...
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


01/15/2020 6:18 PM  
Posted By KatharinaW on 01/15/2020 11:41 AM
it’s hard to get people to change, especially if it’s not required and would involve more work (like keeping an agenda and creating it). Even though we may not have an official agenda most of the times, everyone does keep track on the open discussions and we do have somewhat fruitful meetings.

...

Board members don’t have to friends. They just have to work together for the better of the community they volunteer in. If that can’t be done - then that’s a problem.

As the complaints are disguised as anonymous tips and concerns, makes it hard to even have a discussion though,

Fully understand what you are saying. There are no State rules to follow - and there's a strong tendency to keep on keepin on. Change is seen as disruptive.

Also, if your BOD is anything like mine (any owner who asks is invited to attend but no one ever asks), a certain filter is missing from the proceedings. BOD members express themselves more freely, and sometimes too freely. Ultimately, we are very productive. IMO, more productive than if someone was always looking over our shoulders.

Our rules are simple. Challenge the idea, not the person. Every voice has a right to be heard equally. Full transparency among BOD members, even though we may not be so transparent with owners. Everyone is given the leeway to have an off night. But no leeway for someone who is going after someone else in the room on a consistent basis. Like you said, we don't have to be friends - But there must be mutual respect.

Mr Anon is not respectful. And he's not anonymous - He's sitting right there in front of you. IMO, his snarky remarks shouldn't be tolerated. In your shoes, I would stop the meeting. Let him know that his snarky comments need to be discussed immediately and in depth. Why does he think it's ok to be disrespectful to others in the room? Did he tell the supposedly anonymous complainer that he or she should come to the meeting and speak to the entire Board? Why not? Is he the anonymous complainer? And on and on. I would not let it go. He needs to understand that the next 20 minutes of the meeting will be spent on this one issue. If he doesn't learn, then maybe as you wish, he'll lose his seat at the next election.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
KatharinaW
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:55


01/15/2020 6:49 PM  
NpS, funny you should say that. The reason I posted this was because of our upcoming meeting. That meeting was tonight.

Well.. needless to say that I did not let it go this time. First he questioned, of course supposedly anonymously, my position on the board again (it was discussed in length with input from the community manager in prior meetings with pointing out the Declaration wording to him multiple times that I am fulfilling someone else’s TERM, not the time to the next meeting!). I stayed quiet about this like before, as I don’t feel it’s my place to discuss ME on the board.

But from there it only went downhill.

I brought up „while at the topic of anonymously“ that I would like to suggest the process for any concerns, complaints or issues to be directed at the Community manager only, in writing, with evidence if possible and if wished anonymous by the homeowners. That it that way would be fully documented and could never turn out to be a hearsay type of problem, if worse comes to worst ever. I did say that it seems like especially one board member seems to be the recipient of anonymous complaints about other board members and that this would also put him at risk in the longer in being the only one bringing these things up without documentation. Needless to say he claims to have documentation and went on to question my storm door alteration requests.. UGH... yeah.. how he go there, no clue. I am the only person with white storm doors, because I am actually one of the few ones who got an alteration request filled out loooong before I was even considering the board. Oh well.. he demanded I send him copies.. SAY WHAT?

So from there I went into my „mutual respect, not friends“ speech and as expected he was not prepared to be confronted about his behavior, nevertheless by a younger woman! The president had my back and chimed in but I don‘t think this is going anywhere...

His seat is up and I hope he won‘t be on the board in a month from now. But if he is, then I am not opposed of bringing the mutual respect topic up again and again until he understands it doesn‘t go anywhere.. It’s very frustrating, given how many ours I put in about the financial situation. I even paid training out of pocket that I took, which no one else was interested in. Oh well.. we shall see what the new board brings...
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


01/15/2020 6:55 PM  
It is now all mixed up.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


01/15/2020 7:10 PM  
One last point. If he is setting himself up as the go-to person for all complaints about the BOD, that has to be stopped.

You need to speak with all the other BOD members about how damaging that can be to the integrity of the BOD.


Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
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