Sharper Management


Board Tips: Managing Open Forum

If your Association falls under state statue 515B (Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act – applying to all Association build after June 1994 and all Condominium Associations) you are required to hold “open board meetings.”  This means owners can attend. If you don’t fall under 515B, but rather 317A (Minnesota Non Profit Corporate Act), you are not required to hold “open board meetings” unless your governing documents state otherwise – HOWEVER, it is strongly recommended that you do hold open meetings to avoid controversy. Sometimes “open meetings” can create problems and distractions for the Board in trying to conduct business. A good way to provide an outlet for homeowners to be heard is to offer an “open forum” portion of the meeting. Before/after that time, it is a business meeting of the Board and those attending may only observe. We’ve written extensively on this topic before, but some key functions to make this work effectively are; *    Setting an allotted amount of time *    Set the proper tone for constructive dialog *    Allow only one person at a time to speak *    Require homeowners to “register” their issue prior to the meeting *    Set an expectation that they may not have an answer that evening but the Board will take it into consideration and get back to them. Remember, the open forum is not an official segment of the meeting. The purpose of this article is to shed light on WHEN the open forum might be conducted. Before the meeting or after the meeting. There are two schools of thought and each has its pros and cons. Before the Meeting + You have a set time to call the meeting to order (on the Agenda), so you can control the time frame + You have the option to later address their issue under New Business + Homeowners have the option to leave after stating their concern without staying for the entire meeting – Sometimes it creates the expectation that an issue will, in fact, be addressed at that meeting – A strong meeting facilitator is required, or the open forum could spill in to official meeting time – It can derail your meeting and what you had planned to address via the Agenda After the Meeting + Issues on a homeowner’s mind may well have been addressed during the business meeting + Homeowner are often tired after observing the business meeting, and any hostile energy may subside + Homeowners may not stay for the entire meeting in waiting to get to the open forum – The meeting topics may generate further questions and open forum can become a Q&A session – Fatigue may set in for both Board members and homeowners alike – Facilities may be reaching closing time and the opportunity may be lost Hopefully these tips can help create productive open forum sessions – and hopefully it provides you with insight on when you may want to offer it in conjunction with your Board meetings.