Unless it is an association with unusual organizational documents, generally the Board has management control of the common areas. So it could technically ban groups from meeting in common rooms. But the issue really is why would a Board do it? Is the “shadow board” defaming anyone, or engaging in objectionable conduct? Is the current Board concerned about criticism? Sometimes it is worthwhile to engage in dialogue with people of differing mindsets so as work towards a common solution to issues. Ultimately, even if the board were to ban these meetings, what makes it likely that the unit owners won’t simply meet somewhere else? Some people may contend that banning the use of common areas for unit owners discussing community issues may be a form of censorship. If the shadow board’s comments are confusing to others, the Board has the option to publish its own clarification.
Levine & Montana
1019 Park Street – P.O. Box 668
Peekskill, New York 10566
Whether the Board of Directors has the authority to ban the group from meeting in the common areas depends upon the restrictions on use stated in the governing documents. I would look for a clause that bans members from engaging in activity that creates a nuisance or annoyance for other members.
I don’t know whether the activity described constitutes a nuisance or other inappropriate activity. If members meet and discuss ideas, even dissent, that is part of the fabric of governance. What is the group doing that may be causing confusion among the members? If they are doing something to wrongfully portray their meetings or communications as being sponsored by the Association then the Association may step in to stop that.
Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC
Attorneys at Law
44670 Ann Arbor Road, Suite 170
Plymouth, Michigan 48170
(734) 459-0062 Fax: (734) 459-5313
The simple answer is “no.” All members in good standing are entitled to use the common areas. You can require this group to clearly identify themselves as not the Board.
Kenneth D. Roth, Esq.
Marchetti Law, P.C.
900 N.Kings Highway, Suite 306
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Most sets of covenants guarantee each Owner a uniform right to access to the common areas. The 1st amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. Serving on a Board can be frustrating, but as elected representatives of the Owners, unsolicited recommendations should be welcomed, even if the Board ultimately decides that they are not appropriate.
The Board could set up a website or other means of communicating information (minutes, newsletters etc.) to the neighborhood. I would not generally recommend interactive websites, as the content can get out of control, but each neighborhood makes it’s own choice.
Thrasher Buschmann & Voelkel PC
151 N. Delaware St.
Indianapolis IN 46204-2505
While it may be annoying or confusing that this group is publicizing its comments to other owners, the solution is not banning them from meeting in the common areas. If they are meeting in an area that is open for use by members during the time they’re using it, then no attempt should me made to exclude or ban them from meeting there. Even if such a ban were attempted, it is likely they would continue to meet, either at someone’s private residence, or offsite, such as at a restaurant or bar. Therefore such a ban would almost surely be ineffective. My recommended solution would be communication with the members. The elected board should utilize the communication channels at its disposal, such as the newsletter or association website, to inform the membership about the shadow board: explain what a shadow board is, and ensure them that it is not official and has no more say in governance than any other group of members who decides to meet and talk among themselves and form an opinion. Lastly, I would recommend that the “shadow board’s” concerns and recommendations be taken seriously and addressed. In my experience, once members learn the facts, such as financial constraints, budgeting, and being bound by the governing documents and applicable law, they gain more of an understanding and appreciation for why things are the way they are, and why solving the problems that are being complained about may not be as easy and simple as it may seem to people who are offering critiques that may not take into account all the realities of a situation. Lastly, it is important that all board meetings be open to the membership, except the limited portions that require private “executive session,” which is usually only reserved for legal business and discussion of individual owner accounts. Doing business as transparently as possible goes a long way toward avoiding misleading rumors, gossip and innuendo about the management and governance of a community association.
Sean A. O’Connor, Esq.
Finkel Law Firm LLC
4000 Faber Place Drive, Suite 450
North Charleston, South Carolina 29405
If common areas are available to residents for their use, then this group cannot be barred just because some do not like the end result of their meetings.
Sara A. Austin
Austin Law Firm LLC
226 E. Market St.
York, PA 17403
I am not in favor of “shadow boards”. Primarily, they serve to undermine the Board’s authority. I have, on behalf of my Associations, asked them to stop independent publication, and work through the Board’s procedures. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful.
At the same time, if your Board gives the impression that it is fearful of a shadow board, that can undermine the Board’s authority even more quickly. Also, if there is a legitimate question, it should be answered. Generally, if you professionally answer the questions and don’t play games, your credibility will be enhanced, and the shadow board’s credibility will be diminished.
If you get to the point at which the community believes that they are people without the guts to run the show, but just enjoy taking pot shots, you can cut them off and say you’re not going to respond to the group anymore, but any individual is free to ask any questions they choose.
Robert C. Griffin, Esq.
Griffin Alexander, P.C.
309 Fellowship Road
East Gate Center, Suite 200
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054