Sit Down and Shut Up!
I think it’s safe to say that it’s impossible to truly appreciate the beautiful things in life until you have first experienced a nasty, mud-slinging fight at an HOA meeting. Come on now – you know what I’m talking about. Here’s how this goes:
Pre-Meeting Strategy Session
Prior to the meeting even beginning, we have to meet to plan our attack. Do we all sit together? Do we spread out all over the meeting room? Do we take over the meeting from the board? Who should attack first? Do we play “good cop/bad cop?” Should we send out a one-sided flyer to the homeowners prior to the meeting to get them all revved-up?
Open Forum Extravaganza
YES – this is our chance to really make some points! It’s imperative to monopolize the open forum. Make sure to stand up and yell loudly to ensure everyone hears you. Under no circumstances should you listen to what anyone else has to say. Interrupt and attack people who don’t agree with you.
Conduct During the Meeting
Make sure to cross your arms and stare belligerently at the board and manager. Roll your eyes and editorialize loudly to the person sitting next to you. Interrupt the board deliberations to repeatedly and loudly make your point.
Obviously, these meetings are a nightmare and boards understandably want to yell “sit down and shut up!” Furthermore, the important business of the association never gets accomplished in these settings.
Since the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”) requires that HOA meetings be open, as we fully discussed in Stop the Insanity With Open Meetings, here are some tips to make meetings both interactive and productive:
- Make sure your association has adopted a Conduct of Meetings Policy (one of the required SB 100 policies), read the policy and consistently follow the guidelines. These policies will typically address the right of members to speak at meetings, how open forums will be handled, when and how members will be allowed to speak and procedures the board will follow to handle disruptive and unruly behavior. Post the Conduct of Meetings Policy on your association’s website and distribute it to meeting attendees.
- You might want to distill the provisions of the Conduct of Meetings Policy down into a “Rules of the Road” for meetings. Post the Rules of the Road in the meeting room or distribute to meeting attendees.
- Open Forums: Have a sign-up sheet for folks who wish to speak at open forums, set time limits for each individual to speak, permit an individual to speak only one time at an open forum, and apply the guidelines for the open forum consistently. If you think the open forum is going to get dicey, you may want to have an uninterested individual (preferably a member of the association) handle the timing of the speakers.
- Homeowner Input Prior to a Vote: Allow an equal number of individuals to speak for and against the issue prior to a vote by the board. Set a time limit for each individual to speak and be consistent in enforcing the time limit. Again, it may be smart to have an uninterested individual handle the timing.
- Board members should not engage in arguments with disgruntled homeowners. Instead, board members should listen to what they have to say, thank them for their input and move on. This is a difficult thing to do when you are being personally attacked or treated in an abusive manner. However, remember that a bully wants nothing more than a good fight. Refusing to engage with these people will disarm them.
- If the meeting gets totally out of hand and the board is unable to conduct business, ask the disruptive individuals to leave the meeting and adjourn the meeting if they refuse to leave and the conduct continues.
- Homeowners – don’t be a jerk when attending meetings. If you aren’t constructive in your conduct and approach, the board will tune you out and you won’t make any points.
In order for meetings to be interactive and productive, everyone involved must be constructive and do their part. After all, that’s what the community in "community associations" is all about.