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Subject: Is having homeowners at board meetings a turnoff for directors?
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HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:55


09/11/2021 7:44 AM  
Question.

Here a lot of people suggest having open meetings with an audience of homeowners listening to directors make decisions and have conversations about the community. Personally, as a volunteer director, I would much rather not have homeowners at board meetings. There are a couple reasons why:

1. We would have to meet (when we have in person meetings) at a fire station or library rather than a board member's dining room which would require more driving and more time. As a volunteer, hours spent on HOA activities are limited.

2. I might say something that offends somebody and thus makes it way to Facebook. I would not think an average homeowner would think that it's fun to be a director if comments made during board meetings made their way to Facebook.

3. Some homeowners enjoy drinking beer or wine during the evening, and enjoy drinking during board meetings. They probably would not feel that they should if homeowners are present, and thus, may be less likely to attend board meetings. (I am not one of these people, but it has been my observation that there is usually at least one director who enjoys drinking during board meetings, prior to me becoming president. I do not not allow drinking during meetings under my watch.)

4. In general, it would seem that having homeowners present would make for a less comfortable board meetings.

The reason why I ask is we have few people who want to be directors in our community in the first place, and therefore, having open meetings with homeowners present would further decrease the pool of people who want to be directors.

Is it a turnoff to directors to have homeowners present at meetings?
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11421


09/11/2021 9:21 AM  
Henry

A good question. I believe a BOD can be more efficient without owners in attendance. I believe owners have a right to know everything that is going on. Talk about between a rock and a hard spot. States that prohibit discussions/communications between BOD Members outside formal meeting (notice I did not say voting) make it difficult for a BOD to efficiently operate.

Fortunately SC is the opposite, so it is much easier for a BOD to conduct business.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2393


09/11/2021 9:23 AM  
I'm sure it can be, and I'm sure homeowners' presence can affect the quality of discussion and decision making. But board members have to be prepared to deal with this.

Beer??!! This is a business meeting, not a social hour - no wonder you're having problems since you're not setting proper expectations. The board should adopt a code of conduct that will be observed by everyone, publicized, and enforced if necessary. Holding meetings via Zoom can help you deal with unruly attendees, including the board, since you can mute anyone not actively participating in the discussion.

The bottom line is what your state laws and bylaws require. If you're in an open meeting state, it doesn't matter what you or anyone else thinks, homeowners must be allowed to attend. So you develop a thick skin, brush up on your meeting skills, and get on with it.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10461


09/11/2021 9:45 AM  
Our meetings were always held in front of the homeowners who wanted to attend. People tend to forget that the board members are to be voted into office because they promise to represent their needs. So you vote for a person to be on the board to reflect what you and your neighbors want. Not seeing this is being done leads to a lot of misconceptions and lack of trust.

Now mind you homeowners are invited to be there but doesn't mean they sit at the table. Just the room. It's like they have the "kid's table" and the board is on the "adult's table". You can be seen and sometimes heard but the decisions on who pulls the Turkey wishbone is still the adults.

I found having homeowners in the meeting helped direct more of what the people wanted. Otherwise your going to allow people whom have their own personal agendas on the board. That's not a HOA is about. The agenda is the what the owners want.

Is it comfortable to have members in the meetings? No. It is not. Is it their right? Yes in many states/HOA's it is. Did I always like it? No. However, my job was to make sure to LISTEN to the needs of the owners.

Former HOA President
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4175


09/11/2021 9:58 AM  
One person's comments:

first, I would hope there are other places you could meet if you don't have a clubhouse. Has anyone bothered to look? Maybe you could try a local church and budget for a small donation to pay for the space. Right now, I don't think in person meetings should be a problem because COVID is preventing a lot of that, do you ca use zoom, GoToMeeting, or something else. Those programs also allow the administrator to mute people if they get too rowdy.

Next, thus is A BUSINESS meeting, as Cathy said, so you don't have to cater to anyone who can't or refuses to behave, whether they watch and drink beer, smoke OG Kush (a variety of weed), chomp down Tide pods for whatever reason or anything else. Are you not capable of telling people they're welcome to listen, but no questions or comments will be allowed so the board can address everything on the agenda?

You're the board president, as I recall from previous posts - do your job and preside. Your colleagues should also back you up in this regard.

If a board member can't do the job with people watching, what is he or she doing there? I WANT homeowners to listen to the proceedings so they can see for themselves how and why the association is where it is. They don't have to agree with everything and if they don't, we can an intelligent conversation on the issue because it's based on what they heard as opposed to rumor

I think your meeting may benefit from adding a resident forum to the agenda. There are other conversations on this website on how you can add them and how yo run them. I a,do think you and your board can benefit from some trading on how to be effective board members and it run scared if the people who elected you to do a job. Check out the CAI website to get information on lots of HOA issues

TV
(Washington)

Posts:77


09/11/2021 10:53 AM  
hell yes
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11421


09/11/2021 11:03 AM  
Shelia raises some good points especially about controlling the meeting. Owners should be allowed to speak but at a defined time, for set time, and limited to specific subjects. They should not be allowed to speak out any time they feel like it.

As to when they can speak it can be on a subject after the BOD has discussed the subject. Prior to a vote being taken on a subject. At the end of the meeting. Pick your poison.

You have to control when people speak it or it becomes a shouting match.
MaxB4


Posts:1210


09/11/2021 11:08 AM  
If we followed Melissa's advice that a board is there to serve the needs and wants of the homeowners, why would there ever be a shouting match?
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:558


09/11/2021 1:37 PM  
Several states require homeowners to be allowed to attend and observe, and they manage to overcome all those obstacles. You can too.

Boards should not meet in secret. It’s inappropriate.
HenryS7
(Arizona)

Posts:5


09/11/2021 2:51 PM  
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:729


09/11/2021 2:57 PM  
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.





If they are scared of attending open meetings I wouldn't want them on the board. Having a backbone is paramount and like it or not they need to know how to deal with people regardless of if you have an open meeting or not.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1003


09/11/2021 4:27 PM  
You make some valid points about comfort but anyone who does not feel comfortable having members view their actions at meetings probably should not be a director. I understand why many would not run for director. Members attending meetings is a good thing. Even on the few occasions when they show up with torches and pitch forks because they are angry, I always thank them for coming and for being involved.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1003


09/11/2021 4:38 PM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 09/11/2021 9:23 AM
I'm sure it can be, and I'm sure homeowners' presence can affect the quality of discussion and decision making. But board members have to be prepared to deal with this.

Beer??!! This is a business meeting, not a social hour - no wonder you're having problems since you're not setting proper expectations. The board should adopt a code of conduct that will be observed by everyone, publicized, and enforced if necessary. Holding meetings via Zoom can help you deal with unruly attendees, including the board, since you can mute anyone not actively participating in the discussion.



I agree. If you have to have alcohol put it in a brown paper bag or a travel mug like the rest of us.
AugustinD


Posts:1585


09/11/2021 7:40 PM  
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.
HenryS7, look: The premise of your query is that ignoring the Arizona HOA statute section on open board meetings is acceptable practice in some circumstances.

But violating the Arizona HOA statute section on open meetings is never acceptable practice.

I think you ought to consider getting coaching in how to run a meeting. I think you should start a thread on this topic.

A few suggestions:
Owners should be able to speak (as required by Az statute), but only pursuant to reasonable rules that you set as president.

For the greater part, the board's only response to nonsense or anything else from any owner should be simply, "Thank you for your input." Then move onto the next owner's comment.

If you have unruly owners, people here at hoatalk can address exactly how to respond to them.

If you think you are incapable of improving your skills in presiding over board meetings, then it may be time to step down.

If no one steps up to be president, then it's time for a receiver to take charge.
DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1670


09/11/2021 7:44 PM  
Posted By JohnT38 on 09/11/2021 2:57 PM
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.





If they are scared of attending open meetings I wouldn't want them on the board. Having a backbone is paramount and like it or not they need to know how to deal with people regardless of if you have an open meeting or not.


Agree 100%

Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:558


09/11/2021 8:36 PM  
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.




Recruit adults then, who are capable of not drinking for 90 minutes and don't have something to hide.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2393


09/12/2021 4:38 AM  
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.



Yes, open meetings will discourage the introverts and shy folks from serving, and these folks will burn out faster since interacting with other people (even nice ones) wears them out. Personal experience here, but that's life, eh?

If you haven't had open meetings in the past, you need to set proper expectations from the start. This includes business-like, professional conduct; no speaking out of turn (which means homeowners need to zip it until the Homeowner Forum part of the meeting); and leave the booze/recreational substances at home. I have no problem with alcohol in the proper setting, but a business meeting isn't one of them (you don't drink at work, do you?).

Published agendas can be your friend, especially if your state requires them and prohibits discussion of any topics not on the agenda (except for emergencies). This will derail the folks who have a particular axe to grind and who will rant about it whenever they can. Zoom also can be your friend since it can allow for open meetings but under controlled circumstances (the meeting "host" can mute the homeowners until it's their turn to speak). Both of these things can get you started on the right foot and will make things easier in the future.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1003


09/12/2021 5:27 AM  
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.


It is an interesting hypothetical but the reality is that there are minimum requirements for meetings and being a director. Yes, if you make the job easier, you will get more candidates but those are not the people you want.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8525


09/22/2021 5:30 PM  
Agree with so many others, Henry.

1. Your state, Arizona, requires open board meetings. Many states do. We hold them at least once a month. there are two open forums for owners. Our PM puts together the agenda and report for each director to have a few days before these meetings.

2. When owners see and hear the deliberative process--the HOW it is the board makes decisions-- trust is built due to nothing being hidden from them.

3. Open board meetings allow Owners to see the performance or NON-performance of each director. They can see who understands the agenda and contributes, and who's an idiot or a one-trick pony who only focuses on one sole "issue." This will HELP gain good board candidates, not deter them.

4. Hearing Owners, when it's their turn to speak, can give the Board good ideas and insights to HELP them do their jobs.

5. Conducting most board business AT meetings can cut WAAAAAY down on the email back & forths that plague your board and you, Henry.

How to: You need a tight, well organized agenda that the presider makes sure directors stick to.

You need a polite set of conduct guidelines for Owners AND directors.

I do suspect that Henry's reluctance to hold open Board meetings, as legally required in AZ, might be due to his shyness to which he's referred elsewhere, and to lack of experience actually chairing and conducting meetings. I think you're entirely sincere at wanting to do right for your HOA, Henry, but I do think you need to educate yourself about HOA board meetings and NOT avoid them. As Shelia so often recommends, visit the CAI.org website for literature about successful productive board meetings.

Question: How many open board meetings has your HOA held this year, Henry?








MaxB4


Posts:1210


09/22/2021 7:23 PM  
Henry,

I managed 50 associations in California, which an Open Meeting state and pretty HOA regulated. 15 of the association are "full" service, with the other 35 financial only. We will conduct the 15 full service, prepare the agenda and take minutes. The other 35 will prepare their own agenda and take their own minutes. They will forward both the agenda and the minutes (once approved) to post on their web portal.

Of the 50 I manage, only one has a clubhouse for meetings. When they met in person, it would be in garages, living rooms, dining rooms, or kitchen. One met at a restaurant, which has since closed because of the pandemic. They would get sporadic attendance at best when held in person, and even less during virtual meetings. You would be surprised at how many people don't like having owners in attendance, as they don't like the idea of being potentially confrontational. It is also more of a problem when having the meeting in another director's home, that is uncomfortable for many, but sometimes, that is the only affordable option.

Being in California, we have to conduct open meetings by law. There are a number of legal processes that have to be approved in an open meeting to become enforceable. I conduct the meetings I attend, because no one else will. In 13 years, I have only had one bad meeting. Rarely do we have drawn out discussion on topics, so I can't comment on owners judging board members for their performance or nonperformance at said meeting. I do have a rule, no cell phones or texting during meeting, and absolutely no booze.

If I have a big project coming up, I will generally host a town hall meeting, usually on a late Saturday morning. It's less formal and people feel more at ease. In my meetings, there ain't a lot of discussions, it's mainly making a motion, second and vote. In one association, meetings are held monthly via Zoom. In the eight held this year, one owner showed up, total. So 1/8 average for the first eight months. If the Board gets their packet ahead of time, people take action instead of listening to themselves talk.

In California, we have over 55,000 HOA's, the majority small and self-managed. Most of them have no clue that there are state statues, corporation codes, or even the Davis-Stirling Act. All they know is their governing docs, which may or may not be complete.

Henry, you might consider the possibility of having your PM run the meeting, if that would make people feel comfortable.
HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:55


09/23/2021 6:57 AM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 09/22/2021 7:23 PM
Henry,

Of the 50 I manage, only one has a clubhouse for meetings. When they met in person, it would be in garages, living rooms, dining rooms, or kitchen. One met at a restaurant, which has since closed because of the pandemic. They would get sporadic attendance at best when held in person, and even less during virtual meetings. You would be surprised at how many people don't like having owners in attendance, as they don't like the idea of being potentially confrontational. It is also more of a problem when having the meeting in another director's home, that is uncomfortable for many, but sometimes, that is the only affordable option.




Max,

Thanks for your comments. Let me ask a follow on question to this paragraph of your response.

You say that you met in garages, living rooms, dining rooms, or kitchens. Do non-board owners attend these meetings? This makes me real uncomfortable, so it drives us to meeting offsite at a library which is pain. The more pain we make meetings, the less likely we have owners willing to serve at board meetings. I don't mind opening my house to board members but cannot invite non-board owners to my house as an open meeting.


MaxB4


Posts:1210


09/23/2021 10:48 AM  
Henry

The answer to your question, owners are invited to a resident's house, whether it's a board member's home or non-board member, if the meeting being held is the Open Meeting part. Executive Session, no. Some people are uncomfortable, whether a board member or a resident, meeting in someone's home for various reason.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in an ivory tower with all the amenities, paying an onsite manager $150K+ to cater to their every needs. As I mentioned, only one has a clubhouse for meetings. It would be nice if a requirement for building a Condo or HOA is that all have a clubhouse or meeting room that is set aside for conducting the business of running the corporation.

Outside of meetings, to me, making sure an HOA is transparent with their documents is paramount. If I feel they are hiding anything, I will not manage them. All of my HOA's have web portals, and the first of the year will be converting to websites. If a homeowner either emails or call for information that I know is on the web portal, I will direct them there first, to get them accustomed to using the site, if in a hurry, then I will email them the information. By having this policy, it keeps owners from wanting to sue, and more importantly, I don't have to waste time reading case law every moment of the day and spend that extra time with my grandkids.

BillD16
(Texas)

Posts:21


09/23/2021 1:31 PM  
Posted By BarbaraT1 on 09/11/2021 8:36 PM


Recruit adults then, who are capable of not drinking for 90 minutes and don't have something to hide.




1. BarbaraT1: you consistently offer great advice here. Do you have a fan club? I want to join!

2. I used to belong to an organization called BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse). We’d routinely meet in bars and the proceedings could be “colorful”.

3. My HOA is still using online meetings; we’ve got an Open Meeting at the end of the month and from experience, we expect better attendance than we got pre-COVID with live meetings. It’s also cheaper and easier to set up online meetings. I guess some people might make the argument that we’re excluding people based on their income level, ie, not everyone can afford a computer. But a) here in Austin, TX, no one will buy that, and b) our online meetings always have a telephone dial-in component, so even some hypothetical person who’s been renting a
Bakelite rotary landline phone from AT&T for the past 50 years can attend. I’m not entirely certain what your point is in asking about this stuff, HenryS6, but you can have a bit more control over the audience with an online meeting: if someone is being obnoxious, talking out of turn and interrupting, you can mute them, for example.

BillD
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11421


09/23/2021 1:37 PM  
Posted By JohnT38 on 09/11/2021 2:57 PM
Posted By HenryS7 on 09/11/2021 2:51 PM
I think you are missing my point. I'm not asking if we should have or should not have homeowners at our meetings.

I'm wondering if that will make the position of Director to be even less popular among homeowners and therefore make recruiting new directors to replace those that depart to be more difficult.

We don't have many people that want to be directors in the first place, and I am concerned that fewer still will want to be directors if homeowners start attending Board meetings.





If they are scared of attending open meetings I wouldn't want them on the board. Having a backbone is paramount and like it or not they need to know how to deal with people regardless of if you have an open meeting or not.



Well said.
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