Chapter FifteenIIIChapter Seventeen

16. Attend the Board Meetings: Try to Keep'em Honset

Believe me, what I am about to say I say with the deepest sympathy and full acknowledgement of the dire consequences involved, but I really think you ought to go to the monthly board meetings.

it’s seven o’clock; do you know what your board is up to?
I am very much aware of what an extremely unpleasant undertaking this can be, and I cannot claim that our presence at our board meetings made a great deal of difference in the management (or should I say mismanagement) of our community. However, I do believe, if nothing else, the presence of a “watch dog” group just might have a slight calming effect on a rogue board. When they know you’re watching, and they also know you can have tales of their misadventures posted on the internet before the ten o’clock news, they seem to behave just a little bit better.

share the burden
What we did is take turns going in small groups. We went in small groups because we didn’t have enough dedicated supporters to go in large groups.

unmanaged minutes
Because we knew that the meeting minutes did not always convey the truth of what went on, and were often altered at a later date, we would take our own minutes and post them on our website on a page called the Board Monitor. But, I must warn you, the information in these minutes is incredibly boring and not recommended reading.

suburban stumping
The one portion of the monthly board meetings that was anything but boring was the opening half-hour when they held the open forum. This is where residents and board members could sign up for five minutes of mostly uninterrupted speech time.

back into the shadows
Again, I can’t say our efforts here really made our neighborhood a better place to live, but we did force the board into another major integrity trap where they, once again, showed themselves to be the scoundrels we thought they were.

Since it was clear that a watch dog group was going to be a fixture of every future meeting, the board just had their CAI attorney show up at the end of the regularly scheduled meeting and declared there to be an executive session, which is a euphemism for “secret meeting.”

All non-board members (witnesses) were asked to leave. This is how they were to conduct their more questionable activities, in hiding.

This is a perfect example of why these industry operatives are so vulnerable to any measure of scrutiny; they’re always up to no good. The scrutiny can come from either your website or a newspaper article, but no matter the source, anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention to this industry is not liable to like what they see. And that is why you need to make every effort to ensure that they see plenty.

Those people who really and truly believe they are doing the right thing want others to know all about it. Those who routinely engage in bad conduct do it in the dark.

general meetings of mayhem
You certainly should not miss the annual general meeting. In between the boring financial details (boring that is unless the board has embezzled or otherwise misappropriated the association funds) and the board members self-congratulatory speeches, there sometimes emerges some rather interesting, impromptu sideshows.

One year our board was shouted down by a group of angry homeowners and driven from the hall. The next year one of our supporters took on the board and half the assembled masses. This was a well intentioned but unwise effort to keep the board from steering the meeting away from subjects they would rather not discuss in front of the other homeowners. It was an attempt to gain more ground than could be had in a single evening and we just ended up losing support. I don’t recommend this approach.

The last general meeting I attended before leaving Shavano Ridge opened with a lengthy harangue delivered by the board’s president whining away about how uncomfortable my website made them feel.

To me, that one testimonial from the tyrannical made it all worthwhile.

a conscience crisis?
There was one final comment that was made that evening that I would like to acknowledge. The husband of one of the board members stood up and thanked me, in front of all those assembled, for having made everyone think.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was it possible there was at least one staunch board supporter who was struggling with issues of conscience?

I’ll never know exactly what he meant by that. He could have meant I made them think about how not to get caught in compromising situations in the future. But I don’t think so.

He appeared to be very sincere when he said it and that’s how I believe he meant it. And that makes the effort doubly worthwhile.

See, there is hope after all.


Chapter FifteenIIIChapter Seventeen