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Keep peace by posting, opening all meetings

By RICHARD WHITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2001


Question: Are notices of committee meetings supposed to be posted for all residents to see, or can this information be circulated to committee members only? Does this apply to committees appointed by the board and to self-appointed committees?

Question: Are notices of committee meetings supposed to be posted for all residents to see, or can this information be circulated to committee members only? Does this apply to committees appointed by the board and to self-appointed committees?

Answer: Any committee meeting that discusses budgets, finances or expenditures, and any meeting where final decisions are made must be conducted the same as a board meeting. That means a notice must be posted 48 hours in advance, the meeting must be open to members and minutes must be recorded. See FS 617.0825.

Typically, a board appoints a committee to research a specific question -- for example, to gather information to determine the best security system for the community. Or it might be an ongoing committee, such as a rules mediation committee.

If the committee exists only to research a question, it would not have to post a notice or hold open meetings. Such a committee's function is to determine possible solutions and present the findings and suggestions to the board.

I suggest that wherever possible, meetings be posted and open. It helps keep down the rumors and maintain peace. You refer to "self-appointed committees." Such a committee is not an official association committee; therefore, it has no power or authority and cannot represent the association.

Plan agenda items

Question: If the notice of a board meeting and the prepared agenda are published 48 hours before a meeting, how does a member arrange for an item to be included on that agenda?

Answer: The notice is published in advance of the meeting to allow members and board members time to research the agenda items. It is not intended to allow new items to be added at that point.

If you wish to place something on the agenda, you should contact the board in writing at least a week in advance of the meeting. If you don't know when the next meeting is, call the manager or a board member.

When I prepare a board meeting packet, I start to gather materials a week in advance. Board members and committee chairs know I need their reports or proposals five days before the meeting. The president and I meet four days before the meeting to discuss the agenda. Then I distribute the packets to give members plenty of time to read the materials, get familiar with the subjects on which they will be voting, and ask questions.

Board members should not be caught unprepared at meetings and asked to make decisions without research. The 48-hour advance time period is the absolute minimum time to post agendas.

Use the courts

Question: Some of our homeowners do not maintain their landscape and the exteriors of their homes. The grass grows into weeds, the hedges are as tall as trees and the houses need painting or cleaning. These owners ignore our letters and slam the door in our faces. How can we resolve this dilemma?

Answer: Thousands of associations have the same problems. Communicate your deed restrictions in writing to owners with violations. Engage an attorney and start legal action against those who do not bring their home up to standard. Once you take two or three owners to court, others will fall in line.

Yes, it will be expensive, but how much has your property been devalued? Get the neighborhood looking better and your home values will increase. Most buyers want a neighborhood with strict codes. They feel confident their property values will not merely be maintained but will increase.

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Write to Richard White, 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 CAMquestion@att.net. Please include your name and city. Questions should concern association operations; legal opinions cannot be offered. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney.

Readers may call the state Division of Condominiums Bureau of Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-226-9101 with questions or requests for material. Or write to Bureau of Customer Service, 1940 N Monroe St., Northwood Centre, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1032. Note that this office provides no information about homeowners associations. The state has no bureau or department covering those associations.

You can access the Bureau of Condominiums Web site at www.state.fl.us/dbpr/html/lsc/co_page.html.

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