QUESTION: I retired recently so I now have some time to attend our condo association's board meetings. I used to run meetings when I was working and I'd follow Robert's Rules of Order. I've noticed a couple of discrepancies at our condo board meetings regarding the president not permitting a board member to abstain from voting because the member felt he didn't have an opinion. Can this board member refuse to vote? Also, the president won't let people talk about things that are not on the agenda. Can the president refuse to let people from the community speak because the issue wasn't on the agenda?
ANSWER: It is a common misconception that directors can abstain from voting but it had been proper in the past in limited instances.
Robert's Rules of Order provides that a member of a board who does not have an opinion on an issue may abstain from voting on the issue. However, in the past in community associations, a board member could only abstain from voting if he or she has a legitimate conflict of interest directly related to the issue or subject being considered. For example, if the board was considering hiring the director's spouse to be the manager of the association, a conflict of interest exists and a director could abstain. If no direct conflict of interest existed, it was improper for a director to abstain. This is no longer the case and association board members can now abstain when he or she has no opinion.
Under Robert's Rules of Order members of an assembly have the right to speak without being recognized by the chair and ask any question by stating Point of Order or Point of Information. However, this is not the case at community association board meetings.
Pursuant to Sections 718.112(2)(c), and 720.303 Florida Statutes, members have the right to attend meetings of the board and to speak about all items on the agenda. The board may, however, adopt reasonable rules governing the frequency, duration, and manner of unit owner statements.
For instance, the board can require owners to sign-up in advance of the meeting if they wish to speak. The board can also limit the speaker's time to three minutes which is considered reasonable. So, if the item is not on the agenda, the member does not have the automatic right to speak on the topic unless the meeting chair allows it.
You may want to ask your attorney to clarify meeting rules that may be specific to your association.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.