Stop the Insanity With Open Meetings!

I just heard from Henry that the Happy Hollows HOA Board of Directors held a meeting last night and didn’t tell anyone about it. I bet they couldn’t afford that fancy snow removal service they hired for the winter and are going to cut down on the hours the pool is open to save money. They better not be planning to increase assessments!

Did you hear the Board appointed a committee to look into landscaping issues? I heard the Board President’s brother owns a landscaping company. Do you think this is some sort of scheme to give him a contract? I bet the Board President will get a kick-back on that deal!

 

Like it or not, it’s human nature for folks to think something fishy is going on when they perceive meetings are being held behind closed doors. After all – there’s no reason to keep meetings secret if there is nothing to hide. Right?

When boards and committees tell us they would like to meet in private, it’s rarely for unsavory purposes. Some boards and committees prefer to meet in closed session to get work accomplished without interruptions. In some cases, directors are exhausted by dealing with owners who are disruptive and even rude during meetings. At other times, there is a legal foundation for meeting in a closed executive session.

 

The decision to hold open meetings is ultimately not one that is subject to debate. Instead, the issue is regulated by Colorado law. 

 

Open Meetings and CCIOA

The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”), at C.R.S. 38-33.3-308, addresses a variety of issues relating to association meetings – including requirements for open meetings. Here’s a synopsis of key provisions of the statute:

 

● Board of directors and committee meetings must be open to members of the association or their designated representatives.

Agendas for board meetings must be made reasonably available to members of the association or their designated representatives.

● Prior to a board voting on an issue under discussion, unit owners or their designated representatives are permitted to speak on the issue. If more than one person wishes to speak to the issue and there are opposing points of view, the board may designate a reasonable number of persons to speak on each side of the issue. The board may also place reasonable time restrictions on the individuals wishing to speak.

Boards and committees may convene in a closed executive session for discussion of the following matters:

    ○ Matters pertaining to employees of the association or the managing agent’s contract or involving the employment, promotion, discipline, or dismissal of an officer, agent, or employee of the association;

    ○ Consultation with legal counsel concerning disputes that are the subject of pending or imminent court proceedings or matters that are privileged or confidential between attorney and client;

    ○ Investigative proceedings concerning possible or actual criminal misconduct;

    ○ Matters subject to specific constitutional, statutory, or judicially imposed requirements protecting particular proceedings or matters from public disclosure;

    ○ Any matter the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy;

    ○ Review of or discussion relating to any written or oral communication from legal counsel.

 

While CCIOA does not require associations to provide notice of regular board or committee meetings, we recommend this information be posted on association websites or in other convenient locations when reasonably practical.

 

Transparency and Open Meetings

In addition to open meetings being required under CCIOA, there’s no question that these meetings promote transparent communications between homeowners and the volunteers who govern them. Frankly, there’s no better way to prevent misunderstandings, mistrust and unrest from taking root in communities than by boards and committees openly discussing and taking action on issues. 

 

Had the Happy Hollows Board of Directors followed the requirements of Colorado law and principles of good governance, Henry would have found out the Board of his association actually met to address a water drainage issue. Other members of the community would have learned the Board appointed a Committee to investigate and make a recommendation on planting butterfly friendly vegetation for the kids in the community to enjoy.

 

Keep your eye out for a blog posting later this week that addresses methods to make open meetings both interactive and productive.