Page 8 - New England Condominium February 2019
P. 8

8 NEW ENGLAND CONDOMINIUM   - FEBRUARY 2019   NEWENGLANDCONDO.COM  C  ommunity association and co-op   boards typically consist of elected   volunteers whose job is to serve the   best interests of the community in day-to-  day decisions both big and small. In an ide-  al world, every board would live and die by   its fiduciary duty,  making  well-informed   choices that not only keep its community   or building solvent, but also maintain a   pleasant environment in which to live. But   would even that ideal scenario be enough?   If a board is doing all the right things  but   fails to communicate the hows and whys of   its decisions to its constituents, will those   decisions be received approvingly?   Truth is, in addition to making good   decisions,  it  also  falls  to  the  board  to   communicate those decisions – as well   as how they were reached – to its com-  munity in a clear and digestible way. The   reasoning for this goes beyond just get-  ting reelected; to a diligent and capable   board, optics may seem performative –   but they’re actually a crucial part of being   open and transparent with the residents   that board represents. A certain amount   of marketing and salesmanship is often   needed to get buy-in from the folks most   directly impacted by a given board deci-  sion. A board that does the right thing   without showing its work can still face   backlash from residents  who  interpret   the board’s discretion as secrecy, or who   don’t see immediate positive results from   the board’s endeavor.  The Messaging Matters  “Optics are extremely important,” says   Thomas O. Moriarty, a principal at the   law firm of Moriarty Troyer & Malloy in   Braintree, Massachusetts. “While percep-  tion of performance alone is obviously   not  enough  to  deliver  results,  results   alone are not enough to ensure content-  ment among unit owners. The fact of the   matter is that unless a board has systems   in place to ensure that unit owners be-  lieve they have a voice in the process of   governance, those owners may never be   happy with the results. In addition, if the   actions and deliberations of the board   are not transparent, unit owners may not   even be aware of the issues the board is   confronting  – nevermind  whether the   board has done a competent job pursu-  ing resolutions.   “Knowledgeable unit owners under-  stand and expect that when they buy a   unit, they become members of a self-gov-  erning association,” Moriarty continues.   “While they might not volunteer to serve   on the board, they nevertheless have an   important economic and personal inter-  est in how the board conducts its busi-  ness. A unit owner who cannot obtain   enough information to reasonably assess   the merits of his or her board’s decision-  making is not  going to  develop confi-  dence and trust in that board. This can   lead to frustration and skepticism.”  Moriarty goes on to say that when   boards fail to communicate their process   to owners, owners nearly always per-  ceived that as negative. “While there are   always exceptions based upon the need   for confidentiality – attorney-client priv-  ilege, for example – or because statutes   may prevent the disclosure of certain   information,” he says, “in every other   circumstance it is almost always better   to communicate as much information as   possible, even if the information is not   what  the  owners  want  to  hear.  Reason-  able unit owners will understand that not   all news is good news, and they will be   more content with board operations and   governance if they have more accurate   and reliable information, good or bad.”  A current board can make association   business easier for its eventual replace-  ment by being explicit with its decision-  making methodology. “It’s essential to   pay attention to the details, or there can   be problems in the future,” warns Mark   N. Axinn, a partner with the New York   City-based law firm of Brill & Meisel.   “For example, when files are reviewed   by a future board, it should be clear what   the people at the time were considering,   and why a particular decision was made.   Records should be kept in such a manner   that someone who is not familiar with an   issue can easily ascertain what happened   and why certain decisions were made.”   According to Jacqueline Abraham,   Regional Director for Lieberman Man-  agement Services, which has offices in   Chicago and Elk Grove Village, Illinois,    a resident will occasionally run for the   board with the intended goal of improv-  ing its optics. “Once elected, these board   members realize that there is a need for   greater transparency, and make efforts to   steer the other members to communicate   more with the community,” Abraham   says. “This could mean forming a com-  mittee to create and send a monthly or   quarterly newsletter, sending meeting   minutes to owners electronically imme-  diately following a board meeting, in-  stalling a bulletin board in the common   area on which they’ll post community   updates and notices, or utilizing a com-  munity website to store documents and   share information.”  Backlash  For a board, neglecting optics and ig-  noring the public relations aspect  of  its   job can have abject consequences.  “Boards  often  forget  the  messaging   aspect inherent in getting information to   owners before a new policy takes effect,”   notes  Axinn. “This is  especially true  if   there is a new restriction or a new charge   being considered. For example, if a board   decides to implement a fee for subletting,   it is important to convey to the owners   that \[the purpose\] of the fee is to raise   funds to help limit future maintenance   increases.”  Different states have different laws   concerning how information can be   Board Optics  The Perception of Performance   BY MIKE ODENTHAL  ISTOCKPHOTO.COM  BOARD RELATIONSHIPS  continued on page 20

   6   7   8   9   10