Why can’t I contact my association’s president?

Q: I emailed the elected association president with a concern. She responded not to email her at work but did not reply to my request for an alternate address.

The president works in a Division of Juvenile Justice facility and she treats the homeowners much like her incarcerated youth, and so, it appears her reaction was to report me. I received a scolding call from the management company, who told me I am not allowed to contact the president.

Since she was elected to represent homeowners, I am quite disturbed with this reaction. So, my questions: Who does the president report to — homeowners or management company? Must the president provide a way to contact her, and be responsive to owners? Does the management company have a right to scold owners and forbid them to contact the elected officers?

J.M., Tampa

A: With the exception of emergencies that threaten a life or injury or major damage to association property, an owner does not have the right to contact the directors or officers directly. More specifically, never contact them at their business or work or by knocking on their door or when they are at leisure or simply walking down the sidewalk.

Emails are becoming more accepted as a way of communication, but I prefer a handwritten letter mailed to the board of directors. It is not required that the officers and directors provide their personal contact addresses. Sometimes a manager is instructed to take all communications addressing association business and forward them to the board of directors or the officers.

Members elect the directors and these directors have total responsibility for the operations of the association. The directors elect the officers and the president reports to the board of directors.

The manager has been hired by the board of directors with certain instructions and contract obligations. Thus if you want to communicate a concern, address it to the board of directors (maybe in care of the manager) at the association address. Anything of concern sent to the board of directors in writing would be addressed by the board and not a single officer.

Remember: Your directors and officers are volunteers and deserve privacy.

Q: When the budget is being established, should it be done in a meeting that is open to members or can it be done privately?

In our situation, a Budget Committee sets up the budget. Unfortunately, the committee consists of three of the five board members. They meet in private and then the budget is apparently accepted by the entire board, but not at a member’s meeting. The only time we are aware of the new budget is when it arrives in the mail a month before the annual meeting.

Is this manner of approving a budget legal? Should not it be discussed and approved with a motion and vote at a member’s meeting?

R.K., Naples

A: The requirements to create and approve a budget are fairly simple but all financial (budget) committee meetings must be open to the members. The budget committee should not have a quorum of directors as that would require that the meeting be conducted as a board meeting. If a quorum of directors is present, then there must be proper notice that the meeting will be conducted as a board meeting.

In so many words that means that the committee should include members of the association to discuss and create a budget. At a properly called board meeting, the committee would present a draft budget. Then a meeting needs to be scheduled for the board to approve the budget and send it to the members. It is a board’s decision to approve the budget at a board meeting, not a decision for members to vote on at a members meeting.

The statutes obligate the board to maintain the community and give it the right to assess the members the expense of maintaining the community. The members have a right to petition the board to call a members meeting in order for the members to present an alternate budget. If the members do not come up with an alternate budget or not approve the alternate budget, the original budget will be approved.