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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 124 July 2006

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 124  July  2006
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions
hoa@parli.com


"Dear Parliamentarian" is written by the author of Parliamentary Procedures Made Simple: The Basics, an 80 minute video that tells how to have better meetings.


Nancy LaFontaine wrote:

Dear Mr. McConnell:

I have become the V.P. of our Homeowners Association.  As a member of a committee to investigate property which lies up against our community, we asked the President if we could have a check for a 1 hour consultation fee for a lawyer.  The covenants state that the President can issue a check on his own as deemed necessary for the community up to $1,000.  When our President gave us permission to expend the money for this 1 hour consultation for a very prominent lawyer, the treasurer refused to write the check.  As the board we are meeting this weekend to resolve this problem, however, we feel that the treasurer is holding the communities money hostage for whatever reason.  Questions:  How can she deem it her right to do this?    I and others wish to ask and/or insist that she steps down?  Could she take us to court?  The previous president and officers did not have a lawyer for the association which is what I am insisting that they obtain and budget money for a retaining lawyer.  The treasurer is very aware that the association has not had a lawyer for quite some time and she is challenging us as the new officers.  Do you have any suggestions how we should resolve the problem she is causing?

Thank you for your time.

Nancy M. LaFontaine
Lazy Lake V.P.

 

Dear Nancy,
    I hope that the treasurer is a member of the board and will be at your meeting this weekend.  Do you have a procedure for handling the money situation.  Did the president give you something in writing that you could give to the treasurer?  It is very unusual for covenants to have a provision of this kind where the president has sole authority to spend a thousand dollars when he deems it necessary.  Perhaps this is why the treasurer did not write the check  Before trying to remove treasurer let reason prevail.  Find out why the treasurer refused to write the check.  Perhaps you have a good officer here who is really trying to manage the accounts of the association wisely.  Perhaps a vote of the board on this issue to hire the attorney will give more authority to the action.  The treasurer should never hold funds hostage as long as there has been a legitimate procedure to spend the funds even if the treasurer does not agree with the expenditure.  Try to work with this person. It's hard to find good treasurers.  Something that has helped me is to remember we all want what is best for our HOA's; we just might not agree on the way to do it.

The Parliamentarian

 

Nancy LaFontaine wrote:

Dear The Parliamentarian:

Many thanks for your response.  I do respect your opinion.

Yes. what you have said is correct.  She did join us at our meeting and stated why and we all did vote to have the check written for the lawyer even though she disagrees.  And, Yes, this is for the good of the community (the board members feel) and she disagrees with that however, we voted in front of her.  She seems to be a very up tight person who when she believes something there is no other opinion valid.  I, being new to the entire HOA scene was asking many other types of questions where I had gotten mixed answers from the previous bd. members and president and I wanted to know specifics and she got very annoyed which I felt was out of line however, I continued with my questions so that I understood how and why or what had happened prior to all this.

Another question:  To amend or ad to the by-laws do we need a lawyer to review and perhaps approve of the 'words' and/or how it is drawn up to make is 'legal'?   And/or, since it seems that many are interpreting the covenants as they see it to fit their criteria, if we just want to get rules and regulations in place (or define the covenants better) when we draw those up, present it to the board, and the annual meeting for a vote, do we also need a lawyer to over look it for whatever reason?

Nancy M. LaFontaine

 

Dear Nancy,
    An attorney usually is helpful for revising covenants, but I would recommend a parliamentarian for your bylaws since they understand how these should be worded  better than an attorney. Most attorneys that I have worked with or that I have met who work with HOA's do not understand how bylaws should be written.   The exceptions to this are attorney's who are also registered parliamentarians.
    Now, about the Treasurer.  The board should instruct the secretary to write a letter to the treasurer instructing her that the board has voted to pay this attorney and she should write the check. If she does not do this, then the next step would be to make a motion to censure which is the first step in removing from office.  However, someone should really go to her and help her understand that she is under obligation to follow the instructions of the board in paying the bills.  If she is not comfortable with what is going on perhaps she would like to submit her resignation instead of being removed from office.  When does her term expire?

The Parliamentarian

 

 


Nancy LaFontaine wrote:

The Parliamentarian:

Thank you so much.  How much would it costs for the consultation with a parliamentarian attorney?  Since we are in the talking stages, when is it a good idea to expend for a parliamentarian?  I presume in my research that your organization has these attorney's available?  I saw that you said to revise the covenants.  Everyone is admit that we can not 'change' the covenants.  We can only add to or amend.  However, you used the word change?

Yes.  I would have like to have started the procedure to ask the treasurer to step down.  Although, she unwillingly will write the check.  Kicking and screaming so to speak.  In some questions I had in the meeting she was very agitated that I dare ask and insist that our HOA have at least a retaining lawyer.  She insisted that the previous HOA officers utilized one.  I am not convinced since 2 of the officers admitted to me months before the annual meeting in May that they did not.  It is in my observation that she wants to 'save' or 'hold on' to our money.  There are others who feel this way too.   This will be hard to prove or she will show it in due time.  Are we as individuals and an HOA vulnerable if we do not have at least a retaining lawyer?  These people are still confused as to the power of a HOA and how they can enforce just the covenants as written now which are extremely vague and interpreted to fit the situation at hand.  As I am new to the whole HOA experience, in my brief research, I have learned more than they know for 10, 20 or even 30 years of their experience with HOA.  How do I convince them how to enforce violation to the covenants?

Many, Many thanks.

Nancy LaFontaine

Dear Nancy,
    Each parliamentarian charges individually.  When you get ready to revise let me know and I will try to find someone to help you in your area.  We don't revise covenants.  But we do help with bylaws.
    "To amend" or "to add to" is changing the covenants.  Perhaps they mean not to completely revise them and bring forth new covenants.  We have found that covenants are very hard to change in any way.  They usually require some very high vote like "90%" or "75%."  Often times they way to solve problems is to have good rules of enforcement.  Bylaws usually have to do with the government of the organization.
     No, you are not vulnerable if you do not have a retaining lawyer.  I have discovered that often this causes more problems.  Let me give you a suggestion.  Why don't you let me know what is not working in your association and what you need help with, then I can perhaps recommend a course of action.

The Parliamentarian