The recent violence in Arizona and the convention of the 112th Congress have brought thoughts of civility to the front of many of our minds. Even in Colorado, legislators bicker over whether to adopt a civility pledge.
People have differences of opinion at all levels of governance – homeowners and condominium associations included. Sometimes these differences are based in a genuine disagreement over what is best for the community. Other times, the disputes arise out of personal feelings, partisanship, and even the desire to cause discord.
If your association is embroiled in discord that makes operations painful or even impossible, we suggest you take the following steps:
Listen to the individual. It can be easy to disregard the concerns of someone who has caused disruption in the past, but ignoring a problem does not make it go away.
Determine the root of the disagreement. Knowing the root cause – whether it is a personality conflict or a genuine difference of opinion – can help Board members remain objective.
Allow a voice. Homeowners in the minority on an issue often feel ignored and marginalized. As a result, they may become more vocal, often at inappropriate times and locations. To address this, tell the homeowner he or she is welcome to speak at the next Board meeting. Make sure your community’s policy regarding meeting conduct permits homeowner input, and provides a procedure to keep things from getting out of hand.
Keep it open. Board discussion should be open to the public. While some discussion and business is of a nature that necessarily requires action prior to a formal meeting, boards should strive to decrease discord by increasing transparency. In addition, non-verbal communication can lead to less civility than a person would typically show in a face-to-face meeting.
Follow your policy. Under Colorado law, your association must have a policy that addresses the conduct of meetings. Your association may also consider adopting policies that specify procedures for discussion and civility outside of meetings. If your association does not currently have a meeting policy, or if you want further guidance or an additional policy regarding civility, contact us to prepare a policy that fits your needs.