Often some of the most challenging questions a chair must handle during an annual meeting come from members of the “opposition” who don’t believe the board is being fair to them, and who are afraid their rights will be violated by something that happens at a meeting. When owners take this type of concern to an extreme, they may appear to be conspiracy theorists, convinced that the board and manager are conspiring to deprive them of their rights.
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The annual meeting was one that homeowners in the Long Beach, Calif., community wouldn’t soon forget – and not for good reasons. Registration alone took more than an hour. Homeowner’s didn’t know where to sign in. Ballots were distributed to residents who had already voted by mail. Out of frustration, some people began screaming at the board.
How can you tell an experienced meeting chair from an inexperienced chair before the meeting is even called to order? There are lots of ways, but one key indicator of an experienced chair is such individual has a copy of the organization’s bylaws close at hand. Why? What is in that formal, bureaucratic document that might help someone preside over a homeowner meeting?
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.