Does your Board record its meetings, either with audio recordings or video recordings? Do you allow members who are present to record meetings? Do you know? Do you care?
With all the discussion and action in recent years focused on transparency of association operations, it might seem like recording meetings, or allowing them to be recorded is consistent with notions of transparency. However, that is often not the case. When your association has not thought about this topic, too often the result, when the Board discovers that a member is recording the meetings, is uncertainty, and then the call to the association’s lawyer’s office to find out what is allowed, not allowed, and what can be done
Most of the time, for good reason, boards do not want to permit either the audio or video recording of their meetings. Recording meetings can be disruptive and impede free discussion. One of the purposes of board meetings is to encourage the free exchange of ideas, without fear of retribution. However, recorded meetings tend to chill the exchange of ideas. If they are being recorded, people tend to be much more cautious about what they say, and will often not say anything at all. This clearly does not promote transparency or the free exchange of ideas.
It also seems that the reason members want to record meetings is to have "proof" of what was said or occurred at a meeting. Unfortunately, recordings are too often used to focus on minutiae, or to take statements out of context. Allowing a member to use recordings for this purpose requires the Board to spend endless hours listening to or viewing the recordings to be able to rebut charges made or to put statements back in context. This is valuable time that could otherwise be used in attending to the Association’s more important issues.
Rather than having to defend everything said or done during a multi-hour meeting, the board’s actions should be memorialized in the minutes of the meeting, and left at that. The board may want to carve out an exception for an official record-keeper (e.g., the association’s secretary) to audio or video record the proceedings for record-keeping purposes, or simply to assist with the preparation of meeting minutes. If the Board decides to regularly tape record the meetings for record-keeping purposes, it should also implement a record retention policy by which the tapes are destroyed after the decisions made have been committed to writing in the form of meeting minutes. In such a case, the Board may need to permit member access to the tapes during the time between the meeting and the tapes’ destruction.
So how do you regulate the use of recordings? As you know, one of the mandatory responsible governance policies required by CCIOA is a conduct of meetings policy. That policy should address whether recording of meetings is permitted, and if so, to what extent. Further, if you do allow meetings to be recorded, your records retention policy should then address when those recordings are disposed of. This, of course, doesn’t regulate how long an owner can keep a recording. So give careful thought to whether you want to allow members to record meetings – doing so does nothing to promote open discussion or transparency.