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Committees Voting via EMAIL, No Open Meetings

I am a new member of a seven member Architectural Committee.

This afternoon, the HOA’s community manager sent us all an email to introduce us to the Architectural Review Committee’s “email approval process” – which has historically been used to review and vote on all “standard” requests submitted by homeowners, such as repaints, door colors, screen doors, etc.

According to this email, the Architectural Committee has no scheduled meetings and requests are typically always reviewed and approved via email. I’ve checked with other committee members and there hasn’t been an actual Architectural Committee Meetings for years.

Below is a recap of the approval process for “typical” change requests:
1. Homeowner sends an Architectural request form to the Community Manager
2. CM forwards request form to the Architectural Review Committee via e-mail and attaches a copy of the Homeowners requests.
3. The Arch Review Committee Votes.
3. Community Manager also emails the request to the Committee Chairperson, who is also a member of the BOD.
4. The Chair advises the CM if the request was approved or denied.
5. Community Manager advises the submitting Homeowner of the status of their architectural request.

The Community Manager informed the entire Committee Members that this process was designed to keep the HOA and the members of the committee in compliance with Arizona State Statutes.

She closed by letting us know that the she endorses this process and highly recommends that this email approval process continue.

Also, have review BOD Open Meeting Minutes back to 2011 and there are no mentions of what Architectural Committee requests are in process or approved or denied – nothing…. so I have no idea how the rest of the homeowners learn of the discussions or status of these change requests.

This appears at first glance to be an incredibly opaque process.

Question: Does this email voting process meet the requirement of ARS 33-1804? Please advise.

2 Responses

  1. Dennis Legere

    Mike;
    Technically since 2010 this use would be within the specific language of 33-1804. I will say that it is not in any way within the intent of the statute, as stated in the opening paragraph and in the public policy statement that was included in the same Bill that included the words “regularly scheduled committee meetings”. This was a very unfortunate inclusion in that bill because regularly scheduled is not defined in any way. This has probably been the most abused language in all the statutes, because by simply stating that a committee even the most significant committee that a community can have is “not regularly scheduled” it is allowed to circumvent the requirement of the open meeting laws for boards. It also open the door for any board to delegate all important decision for the communities to committees and allows them to conduct that business in total secrecy. This loophole in the open meeting laws has been abused for ACH committees, budget review and consideration committees, Rule enforcement committees, and capital improvement recommendation committees, to name a few. Having said this, relative to the conduct of these meetings the records of those decision are and must be maintained as community records. They do not in any way constitute personal information unless the requested deviation from the community documents would relate to health information about that homeowner. the rules for community records request in 33-1805 still apply to all these community records. The only way for the association members can ensure that they are all treated consistently and fairly by these significant committee is to have the conduct and decisions of that committee totally open to the members of the community.
    I will commit to you and to anyone else out there, that I will not stop working with the legislators to correct this abuse of the open meeting laws and ensure that these important community committees are made subject to all the provisions and limitations for board open meetings until those laws are changed for both planned communities and condominiums.
    Thank you for your question.
    Dennis

  2. Dennis Legere

    One more though to your post. If board or committee members thought like you half of all issues in HOA’s or Condominiums would be solved. You simply applied your on sense of values to determine what felt right and what made sense in making decisions and questions the guidance of the so called professional community manager. I’ve stated many time that if the HOA trade groups really wanted to make these communities better places to live like AACM and CAI continually state in their self serving propaganda that they would start training the community manager to help these communities not focus only on what the laws tell them they can and cannot do but rather help them understand what they should do in making any decision for their communities that truly represents the best interest of the community as a whole. Because the unfortunate language of the current law allows them to avoid the open meeting requirement for these “not regularly scheduled” committee meetings does not mean that they should not apply those standards to these committee to ensure true transparency in the important decision of the community.
    Dennis

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