The rules pertaining to a homeowner association member’s rights to speak at meetings of the association’s board of directors are defined by the laws of the state where the association is located and the provisions contained in the association’s governing documents (generally the bylaws, but there may also be provisions specified in CC&Rs and/or rules).
State laws that do exist on a subject will usually state whether or not an association’s governing documents may have more restrictive provisions than those that are specified in the particular statute. Association members should understand the laws of their state and the content of their association’s governing documents on the rights of members to speak at meetings of the board of directors. Understanding these rights in advance of a meeting will keep the meeting on track and minimize acrimony between the board and members in attendance when issues pertaining to member rights to speak at a meeting come up.
In general, association members (this does not include tenants of members) have a right to attend all meetings of their association’s board of directors — with the exception of meetings that are conducted in “executive session.” To preserve members’ attendance rights, the circumstances under which an association’s board of directors may meet and take action in “executive session” are specified by state statutes. Additionally, the board of directors must allow members to speak at meetings that are not conducted in executive session.
To enable association boards to efficiently conduct their business, the association should have established rules regarding member rights to speak at meetings of the association’s board of directors. Applicable state statutes may specify some limitations such as the maximum amount of time that a member is entitled to speak and the scope of the items that may be addressed by homeowners (the right to speak on issues that are not on the board’s agenda for the meeting). Frequently, an association will schedule a specific time frame on the agenda for a board meeting for communications or statements from members. Typical provisions that should be contained in an association’s rules regarding member rights to speak at meetings of the board of directors should include:
- Established time limit for discussion on a particular topic;
- Established time limit for comments by an individual member;
- The exclusion of persons who willfully disrupt the meeting in a manner that prevents the board from conducting its business;
- Requirements for members to indicate on sign-in sheets if they would like to speak;
- Requirements for members to raise his or her hand and be recognized by the chairperson before speaking;
- Requirements prohibiting the interruption of other members that are speaking;
- Discussion should be limited to the specific matter being considered at that particular time (a separate discussion topic could be for “other” items);
- Requirement for a member to state their name before they express their comments;
- Prohibitions relative to video and audio recording of meetings.
An association’s rules pertaining to member rights relative to speaking at board meetings should be contained in a writing that has been adopted by a resolution of the association’s board of directions and which is circulated to all association members with other rules that have been adopted by the association. These types of speaking rules will help insure order in the association’s board meetings, keep the meetings on the agenda and keep the meetings’ start and finish times within a reasonable time period.
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