We’re Having What Kind of Meeting?
What’s the difference in a board meeting and a special meeting, or an annual meeting and a town meeting? Confused? Here’s some clarification.
Annual meetings—or annual membership meetings—are required by our governing documents, which specify when they’re to be conducted and how and when members are to be notified about the meeting. This is the main meeting of the year when members receive the new budget, elect a board, hear committee reports and discuss items of common interest.
Special meetings are limited to a particular topic. The board can call a special meeting at any time, and they must notify all members in advance. The notice will specify the topic so interested members can attend. Special meetings give the board an opportunity to explore sensitive or controversial matters—perhaps an assessment increase. Members do not participate in the meeting, unless asked directly by a board member, but they have a right to listen to the board discussion.
Town meetings are informal gatherings intended to promote two-way communication; full member participation is essential to success. The board may want to present a controversial issue or explore an important question like amending the bylaws. The board may want to get a sense of members’ priorities, garner support for a large project or clarify a misunderstood decision.
Most of the business of the association is conducted at regular board meetings. Board members set policy, oversee the manager’s work, review operations, resolve disputes, talk to residents and plan for the future. Often the health and harmony of an entire community is directly linked to how constructive these meetings are.
The governing documents require the association to notify you in advance of all meetings, and you’re welcome—in fact, encouraged—to attend and listen. The only time you can’t listen is when the board goes into executive session. Topics that the board can discuss in executive session are limited by law to a narrow range of sensitive topics. Executive sessions keep only the discussion private; no votes can be taken. The board must adjourn the executive session and resume the open session before voting on the issue. In this way, members may hear the outcome, but not the private details.
Occasionally the association notifies all residents of a meeting at which absolutely no business is to be conducted. Generally these meetings include food and music, and they tend to be the best attended meetings the association has. Oh, wait! That’s a party, not a meeting. Well, it depends on your definition of meeting.