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DEBIT CARDS FOR RESERVE A DICEY IDEA

Q: Our community has a new board of directors elected this year. All of the new board members have received debit cards to our reserve or checking account without informing the shareholders. Is this normal procedure?

A: It is a very dangerous procedure. There is no need for such cards and they should be immediately recalled and destroyed. Credit cards and debit cards have no security for misappropriation of funds, which could be a significant amount in the case of a reserve account.

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Overseeing treasury

Q: Our board has relieved our treasurer of her duties, while disclosing at a shareholder meeting she has done nothing wrong or illegal. Now three people on the board have taken over the treasurer's position of writing checks and distributing monies. The board is also talking about having a non-voting shareholder do the data entry of the finances. From what I have been told, a non-voting shareholder does not have to be bonded. If this is so, who would be accountable for financial errors or losses?

A: The duties of the officers, including the treasurer, can be found in your bylaws. Unless the board appoints/elects a new treasurer, she still has the duties. Now just because she does not do the work, she still has the duties to verify the accounting. A committee of three is a good procedure. I always recommend that two non-allied persons sign checks. As for having a third non-member do the bookkeeping, that is acceptable as long as she or he does not have direct access to the funds and the work is supervised. Any person handling association funds or their records should have fidelity coverage, not necessarily a bond.

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Owner apathy

Q: Our homeowners association has a bad case of apathy. Most members are here only for the winter months; the rest are older, retired people. They have a do-not-care attitude. When an annual meeting is scheduled, the notice includes proxies that most just return to the board. This gives the board control of the meeting and the election. Is there any way a relatively small group can take some of the powers of the board? We would like to have the proxy changed from a general proxy to a limited proxy but have not been successful when we talk to the board or to the manager.

A: The unfortunate situation is that no one can help with apathy except you, your neighbors and the owners. Your community members must take responsibility. Unfortunately, however, most associations operate in the manner you described. There is an old saying among managers that 80 percent of the members don't care, 15 percent are the workers and 5 percent are agitators, give or take 5 percent. One solution is to meet your neighbors and start a dialogue. Why not take a couple of hours each evening and knock on a few doors. Before the meeting, ask that the owners send you their proxy and name you as the proxy holder. Maybe you can get other owners to help get proxies signed.

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Presidential woes

Q: I have recently been elected to the board and serve as the president of my association. I have run into a problem with the lack of cooperation from the other board members and general members. I just feel the need to quit. Since I am the president, to whom do I give my letter of resignation?

A: Normally such letters would be given to the secretary. However, if the other board members have not voted to replace you or asked you to resign, you are doing something right. I have always said that an association operates and makes better decisions when there is opposition. It forces the directors to study their options. I would not resign until the directors ask you to step down. What you need to do is become a better leader and motivate the directors. You do this by giving each member a task to report at board meetings and then praise them upon completion. You might consider taking a course in leadership at a local junior college or community center.

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The three-minute rule

Q: Our condominium board meetings were out of control, with a few hostile members trying to argue about every agenda item. Our property manager finally put her foot down when 45-minute meetings started lasting two to three hours. The board instituted a three-minute speaking policy, but how do we carry that out?

A: The board needs to approve a meeting policy and communicate that policy to the owners. The policy should say how a member can address an agenda item. I recommend that the policy require a written request be given to the secretary before the meeting is called to order. Then, after an agenda item has been called, the motion made and seconded, and the directors have discussed it, the secretary would call forward those members who requested to speak. Each would be limited to three minutes. After the members speak, directors would be allowed a rebuttal time before the motion is called for a vote. I do not recommend time before the meeting or at the end of the meeting for member discussion.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115 or you may e-mail him at CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city.

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