How many times have you tried to hold an official meeting of the members of your community association, only to find that not enough homeowners came to the meeting or sent in their proxies to meet the quorum requirement to conduct a legally held meeting? More often than not, the bylaws of the community don’t provide for alternatives if a quorum is not attained, so you’re faced with calling another meeting and perhaps yet another one still — in a desperate attempt to elect board members and ratify decisions made at previous meetings where a quorum also was not reached. On the other hand, perhaps your legal counsel has advised that as long as you’ve made the attempt at calling the meeting and complied with notice requirements, you should continue with the agenda except for any issues requiring a vote and try again next year for a quorum.
Some sources trace the origin of the word “idiot” to politics. No, seriously. Some scholars maintain that the ancient Greeks took the ideals of democracy pretty seriously, and imposed upon citizens both the right and the obligation to vote in all elections and referenda. A citizen who did not vote or who was not a regular orator in the citizen assemblies was publicly “marked” and labeled idiotai: A person who put his own interests over those of society as a whole. Over time, the word idiot evolved to mean something different, a half-with or an utterly senseless, foolish individual.
Understandably, being “publicly marked and labeled as idiotai, ”was not an ideal development for an upstanding, status-conscious and propertied citizen of Athens or one of the other city-states. Sometimes, however, it was unavoidable. There were no planes, trains or automobiles in ancient Greece, and when a citizen found himself away from his home city when it was time to vote, he was looking idiotai square in the eye. To avoid becoming labeled the village idiotai of his hometown, the citizen had to find a way to vote when he was away. The solution was to commission someone to vote on his behalf. Thus, was the proxy born.
The Wisconsin Democrats employed a clever technique (denying a quorum) to prevent their legislature from adopting an anti-labor law. The Wisconsin Republicans responded with their own smart bag of tricks; they reframed the law to eliminate the quorum requirement and got it passed without the Democrats participating. Can this sort of politicking be used in the context of homeowner association votes? You bet. Read on….
Generally, action cannot be taken by official bodies – like a homeowner association non-profit mutual benefit corporation or its board of directors– unless a quorum of its members participates in the meeting or vote at which the action is proposed.
We asked our attorneys to develop a list of practical tips for boards who are facing a recall vote. This list is not intended to cover the “legalities” of a recall meeting as much as it is to offer worthwhile and practical suggestions for a smooth running meeting and vote.