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Business meeting ends as gripe session

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Question: At association meetings, the last item on the agenda is "good and welfare." Anyone may speak for one minute about anything: a complaint, concern, question, etc. The audience may not rebut or question, and members of the board do not respond. This is apparently an opportunity for those attending to get things off their chest. What is your understanding of this agenda item, and how it is supposed to be used at an association meeting?

Answer: Stop thinking of your association meeting as a place for social or civic exchanges. It is a business meeting. I'm not in favor of times for members to complain, voice opinions, or gripe. These often turn into opportunities for antagonists to take potshots at board members, and I believe the board _ who are, after all, volunteers _ should be protected from this sort of thing, not forced to endure public humiliation.

The board should deal only with the items on a published agenda. Members with problems, complaints, questions, etc., should make their comments in writing and ask that the issue be discussed at the next meeting.

If your board does decide to hear from members at a "good and welfare" time, I suggest that they formally adjourn the business meeting, then open the floor to members. No board member can be put on the spot with a harassing question or remark, and no official decisions can be made, since the meeting has been adjourned. Board members who don't want to listen to the remarks are free to leave.

Agitators are everywhere

Question: One resident of our townhome community is constantly stirring the pot, claiming that the board has made mistakes, encouraging others to join in the criticism and firing off letters to members. These letters degrade the board and the property manager. How can we deal with this person? We're always asking our lawyer for advice, which costs money. I've thought of moving. I think everyone has tried hard to keep this person off the board for fear of her disruptive tactics. Board members quit because of her harassing e-mails and finger-pointing.

Answer: Eighty percent of your members don't want to become involved in association operations. Fifteen percent are seriously committed and become involved. Five percent are the agitators. If you move, chances are you'll find the same problem in your next community.

Since agitators represent such a small percentage, chances are they won't be elected. Most of the time they make fools of themselves, and others avoid them.

It may not make you feel better to know that the same problem exists elsewhere, but these disruptive people do serve a purpose: A board makes better decisions in a community where opposition exists.

It's good that you have an attorney; the expense is the cost of doing business and operating properly. There's no magic wand to make these troubles go away.

Inflated mileage expenses

Question: Our condo bylaws say directors may not be compensated for their service, but they may be reimbursed for expenses. Last year a board member collected about $500 a month for mileage. Another got $250 a month for mileage. Is this reasonable? Or is this payment for services masquerading as mileage?

Answer: If your figures are correct, the two directors drove about 3,000 miles for the association. Sounds like a little padding of the account! I suggest that you ask the board in writing to justify the expenses at the next board meeting. Maybe the board should establish a driving log to record the mileage, the purpose of the trip, and any other expenses directly chargeable to the association. A standard per-mile figure should be approved, similar to the mileage allowed by the IRS. As of Jan. 1 that figure is 37.5 cents a mile.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at Please include your name and city.