Committee structure is critical to the effectiveness of the Association. There are occasions where the dynamics and reporting or working relationships between Board members, Committees and Management become muddy and the outcome is often frustration and a feeling of wasted time and effort by all parties involved.
A refresher course is sometimes in order to bring the team back together.
The Board expects Committees to assist the Board in gathering essential information; research issues and provide recommendations; assist the Board in maintaining standards; assist in achieving financial objectives; utilize management to coordinate with the Board and other committees.
Committees are not permitted by most Governing Documents or by the Committee Charters to bind the Association to contracts, financial commitments, or any other binding agreement.
Committee charters should periodically be reviewed to align the current Board’s charge to each committee. This is the foundation of the Committee's responsibility and should be clearly understood by the sitting committee. Likewise, there should be periodic review of the committee’s task list to ensure they are working in concert with the Boards objectives.
The Board expects Management to assist and facilitate the work of committees; coordinate issues between committees; receive committee reports and coordinate recommendation with the Board; advise committees and the Board of CC&R and Bylaw requirements as necessary; execute the decisions of the Board
Management should function as an overseer or facilitator to ensure the Committees and Board are following the governing documents of the community. Also, management is responsible for making sure that the vision and direction of the Board is followed. In an ideal case, Management would be a consensus builder. In an imperfect world, Management will be charged with the obligation of reporting to the Board and Committees when their paths are straying from the association documents or State laws. At theses times, Management will make recommendations to the Committees and Board. In some cases, the recommendation will be a clear path of guidance; in others, it will be to seek the advice of counsel.
In a relationship building process, it will be expected that Committee members, volunteer groups, advocated or individual Board member do not consciously ask Management to perform tasks or services that are broadly known the Board does not want or will not approve but stems from personal agenda. Everyone needs to follow to processes. This process protects the Associate and all of its members from liability.
Committees meet independently, assisted, facilitated, and advised by management. Neither the Committee nor the Staff has any authority to act on the decisions of the Committee. Committees and Management are a team which supports of the Board. The board makes all official decisions to carry out the recommendations of the committees but has no obligation to follow committee recommendations.
Management provides background information to accompany committee recommendations. Committees and Management need to work in a cooperative effort to provide the Board factual and complete information. In many cases, committees need to work in harmony with each other to ensure their recommendations can be fully supported financially and operationally.
Committees and Management cannot nullify any action by the Board. The committee has the responsibility to present the facts, and then to further state the committee's support or non-support of an issue, along with the reasons the committee supports or does not support an issue, to permit an informed decision.
One final thought, please be reminded that homeowners sometimes act upon what is termed a “good faith opinion.” In this scenario, a homeowner has a conversation with a person who has expressed or implied authority to represent the Association generally a committee volunteer, Board member or person on the management staff. A simple expression consistent with “this will be fine” or “we can make it okay” or even “yes, you can do that” becomes the impression to the homeowner that they have approval. The courts could rule that the homeowner acted based on a good faith opinion. The Association is then left without the ability to act differently.
It is through fully developed working relationships that all three parties Committees, Boards and Management can effectively implement the vision and mission statements of a successful community.
Matt Humphrey is president of the Alameda, California-based HOAleader.com, from which this article was adapted.