On the first day of college, in my first class, a professor pounded his fist on the table and yelled, “Method and Discipline, Method and Disciple, that’s all it takes to be successful in college.” While that advice petrified everyone in the class, years later, I find those two elements are all it takes to be successful in almost every situation, including board meetings. It is critical that boards adopt the methods required by the statute for notice, open meeting, parliamentary procedure, and executive sessions; they must also be disciplined in the application of these tools. Consistent use of the proper tools will lead to controlled and manageable board meetings.
First, all boards should properly notice every board meeting, and make sure they are open to all owners who wish to attend. This is critical because it allows owners an opportunity to understand the decisions the board is making for the associations, and allows owners an opportunity to express their points of view to the board. (Note: for Oregon, proper notice is required by law: board members must give owners notice at least 72 hours ahead of time and by a method “reasonably calculated to inform . . . owners of such meetings” ORS 94.640(8); 100.420(3)).
The next method to keep board meetings under control is for the board to run all meetings using parliamentary procedure. Using Robert’s Rules of Order makes a meeting highly efficient. In the past, I have encountered boards that are resistant to using parliamentary procedure because it is hard to learn. I recommend picking up the Dummy’s Guide to Roberts Rules (a truly detailed and helpful publication, not just for “dummies!”), and the board can be running the meeting properly and efficiently in no time.
Another important tool for the board to properly use is executive sessions. An executive session is where the board meets in absence of any owners during a board meeting. An executive session may only be used for discussion of an issue. Remember, any decisions of the board must be made during the open meeting, so—after the executive sessions ends—the board must reopen the meeting to owners. Generally speaking (for all states, but declared specifically by Oregon law), executive sessions are limited to the following situations: (1) employment issues; (2) personnel matters; (3) consultation with association counsel; (4) negotiation of contracts with third parties; (5) collections of unpaid assessments. If there are any other issues the board needs to discuss that are not within the scope of these topics, the board must go back into the open meeting before discussing the issue(s).
These are just a few tools to keep a board meeting running smoothly and under control. Remember, with these methods and the discipline of a board, these few tools will go a long way to keep your board meetings under control, as well as your board in communication with the owners.