Volume 4, Issue 1 Voting on New Documents
By Robert McConnell Productions
Home Owners Associations
Volume 4 Issue 1 January 2006
By Robert McConnell Productions
The outcome of the document revision process
After years of revision and more revision and discussion and debate (some of it acrimonious), the Canta Rana Homeowners Association finally decide to vote on the new documents. The election was held in the local fire house meeting room on January 12, 2006. It was a simple up or down vote, either "yes," adopt the new documents, or "no" do not adopt the new documents. My wife who is a Registered Parliamentarian served a Chair of the Tellers Committee to count the votes. Just before the meeting she passed out a one page document urging the members not to adopt the documents as was her right as a member of the Association. She made the following points:
- The Covenants had been the only documents discussed during the lengthy public hearings before the members. Suggested changes made by the members had been ignored by the Board and by the lawyer the board hired to help revise the documents. Members had not been allowed to propose and vote on changes to the documents according to Robert’s Rules of Order.
- Even though the new bylaws were included in the package to vote on, the members had never been allowed to discuss the new bylaws. The new bylaws specified a quorum of 27 members. We rarely get 27 members at any meeting. Thus no meeting would have a quorum and the control of the Association would be left in the hands of a 5 person Board.
- Members never had a chance to discuss and revise the proposed new Rules and Regulations. The lawyer had written them yet they were included in the package to be voted.
If the new documents were defeated, the Members could still discuss and revise the bylaws which were still in effect.
During the short discussion before the vote, a member asked the Board about this one page handout. One of the Board members who had been pushing for the new documents but who had not received a copy of the handout, saw the handout and had a fit of anger. He stood up and yelled at my wife, calling her a “liar” because he said the members did have an opportunity to discuss the new documents. He apparently believed the discussion of the Covenants was enough to include a discussion of the Bylaws and the Rules although this was factually not the case. The President was frozen with inaction. It was for me, a Board member, to stand up and order the member to cease speaking because his remarks were out of order.
When the vote was finally taken and counted, the new documents were overwhelmingly defeated. The danger here had been that the Bylaws required only majority of those present to pass. If they had passed, the quorum of 27 would be in place and the members would be effectively disenfranchised. All decisions would fall to the Board which had in recent years been a self-perpetuating board that didn’t even follow its own rules while expecting members to follow the rules of the Association.
Upon further reflection about the recent events of revising the documents, we realized that if all they wanted was a way to make homeowners keep their yards clean and in good order as well as to keep junk cars and RV’s from being parked on the roadway illegally thus creating an eyesore, we could easily solve that problem with a set of Rules and Regulations that directly addressed the issue. The rules could say something like “on first complaint the Board would send the homeowner a letter asking him to comply with the Covenants,” i.e., clean up the yard or whatever. If the homeowner didn’t respond by correcting the problem, a second letter would be sent by the HOA's attorney. If the homeowner still didn’t comply, the Board could hire an independent contractor to clean up the yard and then send the bill to the homeowner. If the homeowner didn’t pay, the Board could take him to small claims court.
This set of rules would be effective and could be passed by a simple majority. A Bylaws amendment would not be needed and, of course, there would be no need to try to revise the Covenants which, under the current circumstances, would be nearly impossible because it required 75% of lot owners to amend or replace the covenants.