Many homeowners associations have a board of directors that, as a practical matter, is controlled by one person and not the association’s board of directors. This typically occurs in smaller associations where it is more difficult to cultivate new members for the association’s board. As a result, a small number of individuals find themselves serving as a director year after year. Over time, they become more familiar with the various issues that the association deals with and they exercise more control over the decision making process.
While new board members may be elected from time to time, they frequently do not have the support to challenge the actions of the one or two members that have been controlling the association’s board of directors for a number of years. As a result, the association ends up being run by a “sheriff” and not a board of directors. Often times, the sheriff takes action that is based more on his or her personal agenda as opposed to the needs and priorities of the homeowners association and the will of the association’s board of directors.
An association is required to act through its board of directors, who may delegate certain responsibilities to agents such as lawyers, accountants, and property managers but the actions of those agents must be approved or ratified by the board of directors. An association’s board of directors typically makes its decisions by following recognized procedures, such as Robert’s Rules of Order. Issues and topics of business are placed on agendas that are set for regular or special meetings at which a quorum is present. Decisions are typically made through motions that seconded, discussed, and voted upon. The decisions of the board must be the collective judgment of the majority of the board and not the will of one person. If the requisite number of directors cannot be assembled for a meeting, the contemplated action must be postponed until a future date when a quorum of directors is available to meet.
People view issues differently and it is common for members of an association’s board of directors to disagree on issues. Notwithstanding same, once the board of directors makes a decision, every board member should support that decision regardless of their personal preference. They should not badmouth the will of the board and challenge the actions of the board unless those actions have been irregular and are in conflict with the association’s governing documents.
Being on the board of directors of a homeowners association is not about being right all the time. It’s about being able to work with others to do what is best for the association. Differing opinions, debates and conflicts are a normal part of the process, but in the end the majority needs to rule. Members of homeowners associations who are not able to be open-minded and who can’t support the collective judgment of the association’s board of directors should not be serving on the association’s board.