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Q&A: Seeking Transparency

Q&A: Seeking Transparency

Q.  During COVID restrictions, the board meetings at our condominium were not held regularly, or were held virtually, and few people paid attention. Now that meetings have resumed in person, the meetings seem to be less “official” — for example, a member makes a motion, someone seconds it, and the president announces it is approved, without an actual vote. Shouldn’t there be an actual, recorded vote? And I am sure that board members are meeting privately ahead of the formal meetings, because there never seems to be any discussion; it’s as if they’ve already discussed issues and made a decision. How can owners make the board be more open and transparent? Don’t board meetings have to be “open” to owners?

                                        —Kept in the Dark

A. “Each of these questions would require a review of the condominium’s governing documents, as none of these discussed items are required by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 183A, the Massachusetts Condominium statute,” says Ryan Severance, associate at Moriarty Troyer &  Malloy in Boston. 

“With regard to the way in which the board is voting on matters at board meetings, there is no law which specifies a procedure for board meetings or requires board members at a board meeting to hold their votes in a particular manner. It would be rare, but there may be a requirement for board member votes to be conducted or recorded in a specific fashion in the condominium’s declaration of trust and/or by-laws. In the event that minutes of the board meetings are being kept, board member votes may be recorded in the minutes of board meetings.

“Likewise, there is no restriction in the law which prevents board members from discussing any or all issues upon which votes are to be held ahead of a board meeting. There may be such a restriction in the governing documents of the condominium, but such a restriction would be very unusual.

“There is also no requirement by law that condominium board meetings must be open to the unit owners. In fact, many boards do not have meetings which are open to the unit owners, or may have just one specified board meeting every so often at which unit owners may attend. To require all board meetings to be open would be unusual, but that obligation may be contained within the governing documents of the condominium. 

“Finally, as with most issues with board members, owners can make the board be more open and transparent by voting for board members who will agree to be more open and transparent about board processes, including board meetings. Boards are empowered by the law to run board meetings as they see fit, so electing trustee candidates who share those values of openness and transparency is important if that is essential to you as a unit owner. 

“One way to approach each of these issues with your current board members may be to request that they have more open discussion and voting in front of the unit owners at board meetings. Perhaps your current condominium board members do not know that this is something the unit owners would value.”

“You should also review the governing documents of your condominium closely to see whether any of your requests are required of the board.”

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