Anyone who’s clocked lots of hours at association meetings has a story or two about high passion and heated arguments—but a police detail at an annual meeting? “If someone’s just too disruptive,” reports Henry Goodman of the Dedham, Massachusetts law firm of Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, LLC, “police have been called. One association we know, anticipating the attendance of a perennial ‘bad actor,’ hired a police detail in advance to be on site during the meeting.”
Goodman states, “We try to tell people how to keep meetings short and to the point and squelch inappropriate interference …” although he contends that most board members aren’t forceful enough to control “people who want to put forth their own agenda.”
Too often, he says, “As soon as meetings, whether board meetings or unit owner meetings, start, the board chairman lets everyone raise their hands, and they promptly take over the meeting… but that’s wrong. There are certain things the board must do at board meetings, such as make policy decisions, which they cannot delegate to anyone else. At annual meetings, they must get through all the items of business required by their documents first… and then let people talk.
“Often, a ‘gadfly’ in the audience can really drive you crazy. Unfortunately, residents believe they will get some kind of result by talking about their problems in front of other unit owners at the annual meeting,” Goodman notes, but “that’s not how it works. At an annual meeting, people should only be talking about things that are relevant to the entire community.” An individual’s issues should have a place on the agenda of regular board meetings, he adds.
“Robert’s Rules of Order are very cumbersome and unnecessarily complicated,” he points out [see sidebar]. “There’s no requirement that anyone follows Robert’s Rules unless it’s specified in the condo docs, and most docs leave the rules of order to the party conducting the meeting—usually the [board] chairman. I advise boards to just create rules that they can use.”