QUESTION: Board members can’t discuss HOA business outside a meeting unless it’s among less than a majority. Our board meets monthly and it is not enough time to discuss everything in our board packet. We have five board members, can I speak to one or two directors one day and the other one or two another day?
ANSWER: Not really. What you describe is known as a “hub & spokes” board meeting with you at the hub. This type of meeting is not directly addressed by the Davis-Stirling Act. Because it is a gray area, we can turn to the Brown Act for guidance. The Brown Act regulates the meetings of public legislative bodies and local public agencies and was used as a model for the Davis-Stirling Open Meeting Act.
Chain Meetings. The Brown Act prohibits such communications, whether direct, by intermediaries or electronically. Gov. Code §54952.2(b). In a chain meeting, also called a serial meeting, “A” talks to “B” who talks to “C” who, in turn, talks to “D.” In a wheel hub, directors are spokes with “A” at the center–the directors never talk to each other, they all talk individually to A. When deliberations and decisions are made through chain communications or via wheel hubs, they deprive members of their right to see how board decisions are made. If a board were sued under the Davis-Stirling Act for a wheel hub or chain meeting, I suspect the courts would interpret Davis-Stirling using the same principles found in the Brown Act.
RECOMMENDATION. Directors should not discuss board business outside of noticed meetings. I know it puts a significant burden on directors who already have busy home and work schedules. To compensate for the restriction, many boards rely more heavily on their managers to handle day-to-day operations and they schedule more “quickie” board meetings between regular meetings, i.e., short meetings to address one or two issues (following proper notice to the membership).
QUESTION: To approve special assessments, our CC&Rs require a majority of homeowners. Our bylaws require 75% to approve same. Does one supersede the other?
ANSWER: Both are superseded by the Davis-Stirling Act. The Act states that a majority of a quorum is sufficient to approve a special assessment. If the law had not addressed special assessments, then your CC&Rs would have trumped your bylaws. This hierarchy of authority was not previously spelled out anywhere. However the Davis-Stirling rewrite (effective January 1, 2014), states that any inconsistencies between governing documents and the law or between governing documents are resolved in the following order of authority: the law, the CC&Rs, articles of incorporation, bylaws and operating rules. (New Civil Code §4205.)
QUESTION: In the event an annual meeting must be postponed on the day of the meeting, what is the procedure to postpone the meeting? And are mailed-in ballots still valid?
ANSWER: The meeting is simply adjourned to a later date by those in attendance at the meeting. Language to that effect is often found in most bylaws. In addition, it is covered by Robert’s Rules of Order:
… in the absence of a quorum, the assembly may fix the time to which to adjourn, adjourn, recess, or take measures to obtain a quorum.
… If there is important business that should not be delayed until the next regular meeting, the assembly should fix the time for an adjourned meeting and then adjourn.
… the chair calls the meeting to order, announces the absence of a quorum, and entertains a motion to adjourn [to a later date]. (Robert’s Rules, 11th ed., pp. 347-349.)
If a date was not selected and announced when the meeting adjourned to a later date, the board sets the date (which usually requires coordination with the Inspector of Elections) and gives notice to the membership. As long as the ballots were not opened, they remain valid and are brought to the adjourned meeting by the Inspector. Once quorum has been achieved, the ballots are opened and counted.
RECOMMENDATION: If your governing documents are silent, you may want to amend them to address this and other election issues.
The City of San Rafael, a suburb of San Francisco, passed an ordinance this week banning smoking in condominiums. They become the ninth city to ban smoking in multi-unit housing (which includes condominiums).
I believe this trend is irreversible and may accelerate. In addition, we will likely see associations amending their CC&Rs to ban smoking throughout their developments (including inside units). If readers are aware of condo associations that have already done so, please let me know. I would like to monitor the trend. -Adrian Adams
QUESTION: Does the Davis-Stirling Act preclude our association from using member email addresses to invite members to an association organized neighborhood BBQ?
ANSWER:Yes, you can use emails to send invitations. Limitations on electronic notifications are on official notices and disclosures, i.e., those mandated by statute. The most common official notifications are notice of board meetings. Such notices cannot be given electronically unless members execute an “unrevoked consent” giving the association permission to give notice by email.
Relevant. Excellent newsletter. Hit some very relevant points. -Donald A.
Term Limits #1. Thank you for your newsletter. I continue to pass it along to my entire condo association so they can stay abreast of things. Meanwhile, the question about term limits is a good one. I’ve been president most of the last 25+ years. I would love term limits. I tried to resign but no one else wants the job. -Esme G.
Term Limits #2. Thank you for the article. I’ve been been on the board now for over 10 years. Every year elections come up and no one ever sends back their ballots, so the board remains the same. No one wants to take the extra time and energy to take care of problems and resolve issues that arise in the complex. It takes a lot of time and energy to do walk-thrus, get bids, watch the finances, etc. The homeowners never come to monthly meetings either, it’s always just the board. -Barbara K.
Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
Adams Kessler PLC
“Legal solutions through knowledge, insight and experience.” When your association needs legal assistance, contact us at (800) 464-2817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.