What’s on your Agenda?

By Jon H. Epsten, Esq., CCAL

Over the last several months, several questions concerning agendas have resurfaced. For ease of reading, I have listed some of these questions below with a shortened version of my responses.

Please be on the lookout for practice tips on preparing agendas in future publications.


Question:

Why do we need an agenda?

If the Board intends to discuss a matter at a board meeting, the topic must be on the agenda. No worries. A procedure exists for adding certain items to the agenda (discussed below).


Question:

How much topic detail is necessary on the Open Meeting agenda?

The purpose of the agenda is to place attendees on notice as to what is going to be discussed during the meeting. It is beneficial to have a well-thought-out agenda.¬†Boilerplate agendas are discouraged. Look at your agenda objectively from an uninformed owner’s perspective. If you read your agenda, you would know what the Board discussed at the meeting. Think of the agenda as a legal document that can be used as a tool to defend the Association. An agenda is also a tool to reference historical matters, such as when the Board approved or considered an item.


Question:

Should the Executive Session Agenda have the exact details as the Open Meeting Agenda?

The Board needs to have a clear understanding of what can be discussed in Executive Session (ref. Civil Code section 4935). The Executive Session agenda should tie into what is allowed to be addressed in the Executive Session (e.g., legal matters, personnel matters, member discipline, assessment payment plans, etc.) The Executive Session agenda will have less detail than other meeting agendas, as the items to be discussed may be deemed privileged. For example, if the Executive Session discussion covers collection matters, the owner’s name should be omitted. Similarly, discussions of ongoing or anticipated litigation should be noted in the agenda in general terms. It is a good practice to briefly consult with legal counsel if you have any questions on the description of items to be placed on the Executive Session agenda.


Question:

Who should prepare the agenda?

Oddly enough, the law contains little guidance in this matter. While “the board” is ultimately responsible for deciding what goes on the agenda, the law does not state that any particular director or officer may determine what goes on the agenda. Unless there are rational and substantive reasons for rejecting a request from a director to add an item to the agenda, a requested agenda item should be included. Note that the Board determines what to include on the agenda, and there is no procedure for owners to dictate to the Board the agenda for board meetings. In smaller communities, the agenda is typically prepared by the association manager. In larger communities, the agenda is generally prepared by the General Manager in conjunction with a designated board member. In either event, we suggest that a board member (typically the Board Secretary) be appointed to work with the association manager on agenda topics.


Question:

What do we do if an owner raises a topic outside the agenda at an Open Board Meeting?

The law allows the Board, among other things, to briefly respond to statements or questions posed by a person speaking at a meeting, ask a question for clarification, make brief announcements, and make a brief report on the Board’s activities. However, unless the item falls into one of the categories listed below, it cannot be added to the agenda for that board meeting.


Question:

Can we add items to the agenda after it has been published to the Owners?

Yes, under certain circumstances (Civil Code section 4930(d)(1)(2)(3)] such as an emergency, where immediate action is needed or where the item appeared on the agenda 30 calendar days before the action is taken and at a prior meeting the item was continued. A board motion and vote must be taken to add the item under the conditions mentioned above to the agenda, and we recommend the minutes of that meeting reflect the motion to add the item and the particular statutory provision that would allow the addition of the item.

 

If you have any questions, please contact a member of our Community Associations legal team.