How To Handle HOA Board Meeting Attacks
Out of the blue, an irate homeowner launches a smear campaign aimed directly at the board. It’s relentless and focused. The motivation may be some personal grievance, hatred of a board policy, disagreement on how the board does business in general or loathing for the whole HOA concept. Rather than seeking redress in an orderly and open way, however, often it takes the form of poison pen letters, back alley rumor mills or a terrorist-like assault at a board meeting.
Board meeting terrorism is designed to hold the board hostage to relentless rants and demands. This form of HOA terrorism is designed to directly challenge board authority and to disrupt the orderly process. As with any terrorist attack, the board’s initial reaction is usually disbelief. But, the cold reality of the assault soon becomes clear and the need to act urgent.
How should the board deal with this kind of attack? When presented a list of demands, should the items be discussed point by point? Should they be recorded in the minutes? What should be done?
Rule #1: Never negotiate with terrorists. The board is not obligated to discuss anything off the agenda. And it’s unreasonable to expect informed answers to firing line questions. The response should be, “Thanks for making your points. We’ll review them and give you a response in writing or consider them at the next board meeting.”
Rule #2: Don’t record a list of demands. Minutes are intended to discuss in broad terms the business accomplished by the board. Specific motions should have enough detail to describe them and the outcome of the vote. It is not a forum for soap boxing, editorializing or where items are entered into “evidence”. It’s enough for the minutes to state, “Mr. Sniper asked that the board consider issues relating to (general description).”
Rule #3: Control the Owner Forum. To encourage owner input, an Owner Forum before the meeting should give each speaker owner up to, say, 5 minutes to speak, so the board can get on with its business. Letting someone hold the board hostage should never be allowed and it’s up to the president to control such actions. An abusive person should not be allowed to continue for any length of time.
Rule #4: When attacked, respond quickly and firmly. When the attack becomes apparent, it’s the president’s job to interrupt and, if necessary, ask the attacker to leave the meeting. If the attacker refuses to comply, the president should adjourn the meeting and advise that such conduct will not be allowed at future meetings.
HOA terrorist attacks are designed to fan the flames of emotion and to promote rash response. The board needs to walk the high road and refuse to “dance”. While this isn’t easy when the attack is intense, the directors outnumber the attacker and with a unified response, should be able to defeat the challenge and even help point the terrorist toward a better way.
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