HOAs are another form of local government

Listening to the events concerning the shooting in Brooklyn Center, MN I was surprised to learn that its form of government is based on the council-manager system.  We are more familiar with the mayor – council or mayor – manager forms of local government where the mayor is elected and plays a major role in governing the city.[1]

However, in the council-manager form the major is a figure head with the powers to rule the city are divided between the elected city council and a city manager  appointed by the council.  Sound familiar?  Many HOA Bylaws follow the council-manager form of local government, except that the Bylaws do provide for corporation laws governing the duties of officers.  This is true of the many large HOAs and the retirement/resort subdivisions.

The division of labor and authority follows the public form in that the council holds ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the government but is restricted to policy issues, while the appointed manager actually runs the HOA. A good example can be found in an Arizona active-adult HOA of some 17,000 people.

“The affairs of the Association shall be managed by a Board of Directors which shall serve as the corporate policy-making body of the Association. . . .  The Board is not responsible for nor authorized to perform day-to-day operations of the Association. The day-to-day operations of the Association shall be carried out by CAM or agents retained by the Association under the supervision of the Board.

“Subject to the Board’s responsibilities concerning operational policies, it shall be the policy of the Association . . . that the Board refrain from unreasonably interfering with the performance of delegated functions by CAM.”

The major difference between local public government Brooklyn Center, MN and the Arizona HOA lies in the private contractual nature of the HOA that absolves it from application of the US Constitution as well as the state constitution. HOA members are, as compared to non-HOA members, therefore second-class citizens lacking constitutional protections within their own state.[2]

The $64,000 question is: So why is there so much opposition to requiring the HOA to be subject to the Constitution like all other forms of local government?  BEFORE you respond, think very carefully with respect to the implication and consequences of your response.

References


[1] See in general, Roger L. Kemp, “Forms of Governance,” Managing America’s Cities: A Handbook for Local Government Productivity, McFarland & Co., (2007). They are: Strong Mayor, Council-Manager, Town Meeting (direct or representative democracy), and Commission. See also,  Home rule doctrine vs. HOA governments; CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government.

[2] See George K. Staropoli, HOA-Land Nation Within America (2019).

AZ Senate protects HOA misconduct rejecting HB 2052

The Arizona Senate is still sitting on HB 2052 since a month ago, March 1st,  a bill providing for member participation in HOA governance.  The bill  explicitly states, since the CC&Rs is seen as a contract, what the HOA cannot do and must allow for fair elections and meaningful  participation in HOA governance.

In the past I’ve addressed this constitutional question of fair elections in the HOA model of an authoritarian,  business form of governance.  I’ve provided examples of incidents and court cases reflecting this denial of fair elections, which exist in the public domain, as if the HOA is afraid of the democratic voice of its members.

In this writing I will call to your attention how an upscale, over 1,000 member HOA board — as a representative example of such HOAs — refuses to accept the facts laid before it that provide valid cause to conduct a due diligence examination; and to validate its positions in regard to its fiduciary obligations of good faith conduct and obedience to the governing documents.

Below I’ve copied parts of its application package provided to all candidates for  a director’s position. The package material clearly shows the BOD’s awareness of its fiduciary obligations and its required treatment with respect to the membership.

Obligations  and liabilities of directors

“Directors have a fiduciary duty to the Association and to each member.

“The duty of loyalty requires that:   Directors act in good faith  pursuant to a free, honest exercise of judgment not influenced by considerations other than the best interest of the Association.

“Failure to discharge the fiduciary duty can subject the Association to liability and subject the Director to personal liability. A Director can also be liable for illegal or tortuous acts of the Board of the Association if he/she participates in the decision to authorize the acts or knowingly fails to take steps to avoid the action. “[Emphasis added].

HOA control of the candidate process and campaigning

Getting down to the specific application of HB 2052, the relevant HOA’s candidacy procedures follow, with the opening line stating: “The Campaign and Election Policies have been carefully developed to provide a fair and clean process for candidates and all members.

While the specific policies are not clearly stated as whether prohibited or permitted, the overall tone is definitely of a prohibitive nature. The 14 points are shown as Exhibit 1 below. In sum, they include not using email listings; association facilities or agencies, clubs, etc. websites; no right to hold Q & A sessions independent of HOA;  no right to campaign through social media —  Facebook, Instagram, etc.; all advertising must be HOA approved; distributing flyers outside restaurants, presumably those within the HOA, or on common areas.

The policies of this HOA, and many other large-scale HOA are similar but not so detailed, demonstrate the failure of the board directors to act in good faith and as a fiduciary for the members.  For the HOA to argue that “The ends justify the means and we determine what’s good for the members, but the HOA entity comes first” is unsatisfactory and irrelevant. These policies reflect an authoritarian government that accepts the rejection of fundamental member democratic rights and privileges because they can hide behind the questionable legality of the CC&Rs.

There can be no excuse for HOA directors not being aware of the voluminous materials available for conducting their due diligence with respect to democratic, fair elections and member participation in HOA governance. They have been given plenty of notice, which subjects them to personal liabilities and prevents them from hiding behind “my attorney said it was OK,” or from acts of omission – doing nothing. 

This representative HOA’s policy so informs them of their liability. Yet, nothing is done to correct these violations of good faith. And still the directors, officers, and managers all demand respect! It’s shameless!

What is going on, you may ask?  Well, the board is setting policy for the acceptance of candidates without a vote of the membership. In other words, unless the proposed candidates are accepted by the BOD, the members have lost a candidate of their choosing. They have lost a meaningful participation in the governing of the HOA; they cannot disagree with the establishment!  So, if you thought your HOA was democratic, forget about it! 

Also, the BOD controls how candidates acceptable to them can campaign, placing severe restrictions not found in the fair public elections procedures.  See Exhibit 1 below. Again, members have lost their right to fair and free elections in HOA matters.

AZ Senate’s rejection of HB 2052

It is easily seen that  the AZ Senate supports these undemocratic polices as represented by this HOA’s practices. 

I have maintained that,

“Public policy today rejects constitutional government for HOAs allowing them to operate outside the law of the land. The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.”

See, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape Constitutional government; Reorienting the HOA board – fair elections; HOA Common Sense, No. 6: Fair and just hearings

And furthermore, “CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local federal amd Arizona governments.”  … Privatopia (1994), Evan McKenzie.

It is not too late for the Senators to meet their obligations to uphold the federal and Arizona Constitutions by passing HB 2052 into law.

Exhibit 1. HOA BOD campaign policies.

  1. Using email listings, electronic or websites of Neighborhood Representatives and Alternates, Charter Clubs, Interest Groups, community and specialty groups.
  2. Addressing a formal . . . Group (e.g., Neighborhood Representative, Charter Club, Interest Group, specialty group meetings, sports venues, etc.). However, a person’s right to free speech in casual conversations shall not be restrained.
  3. Participating in formal Q&A sessions and programs other than those sponsored by the . . . Election Team.
  4. Using Association facilities for campaign events for individual candidates.
  5. Removing other candidates’ campaign flyers from approved locations.
  6. Using the official . . . website, Facebook or Instagram social media accounts to promote your campaign or to use your personal social media accounts to defame or incite defamation of candidates, engaging in unkind innuendoes / slander / harassment at any time or in any setting.
  7. Posting campaign flyers on street signs, trees, light poles, motor vehicles, golf cars, lawns, windows, auto windshields, or in commercial buildings.
  8. Defacing approved campaign flyers.
  9. Using balloons, buttons, t-shirts, marked-up election ballot, etc. as campaign tools.
  10. Using advertising of any type (other than approved campaign statement and/or approved personal correspondence).
  11. Using multiple versions of campaign flyers at the same time.
  12. Placing flyers in mailboxes (against the law).
  13. Distributing campaign flyers outside the entrance of or in the restaurants.
  14. Distributing campaign flyers in common areas except as noted.

Why isn’t your HOA board supporting AZ HB 2052?

HB 2052 is a big step forward for HOA homeowners in AZ as it restores lost constitutional rights. Why then, isn’t your board supporting this important bill that is unquestionably in the best interests of the members?  If you read your CC&Rs, almost all but not everyone contain a statement of intent and purpose directed toward the members, you will find wording similar to: “shall inure [take effect] to the benefit of the member and be mutually beneficial.” 

Upholding constitutional protections provided by the US Constitution would seem to fit a board’s obligation. However,

“The political and social changes in our society brought about by the adoption and acceptance of the HOA legal scheme has created a new America of authoritarian, private governments known as HOAs. They function as independent principalities.  The values, beliefs, principles, ethics, and morality of today’s America would shock the Founding Fathers.”[1] 

HB 2052 follows in the footsteps of California’s SB 323 and several court opinions upholding HOAs as public forums that provide for protective free public speech on HOA governing matters.[2]  

AZ Senate Rules committee must place  HB 2052 on the COW agenda. This important bill extends constitutional protections to HOA members.  It is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Rules Committee; time is running out! It was not heard on the 15th and today, the 17th. Bills have been killed by being held by Rules, which is a mandatory committee for all bills.

The public in general does not understand the functioning of their state legislature when it comes to its lawmaking powers under our democracy.  Our Declaration of Independence, our ‘social contract’ between the government and the people,  states quite clearly

That to secure these rights [‘among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness] governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

However, in many ways your legislature operates as the sovereign that can do no wrong. Take, for instance, the question of passing laws that are of questioned constitutionality.  Long standing legal doctrine holds that all laws passed by Congress or your state legislature are presumed constitutional.  This doctrine makes the primary function of legislative Rules Committees for checking constitutionality, among a minor formality issue, perfunctory and meaningless.

With the assistance of the Rules attorneys, the committees review the proposed legislation’s consistency with the United States and Arizona Constitutions and Arizona and federal law”[3]

In all my 20+ years I cannot recall any HOA bill being found unconstitutional by a Rules committee, even for one in 2013— by the same sponsor of HB 2052 — that was challenged in court and found unconstitutional.[4]

Members should be urging their boards to speak out.  Members would be protected and enjoy such constitutional freedoms to openly discuss issues of public HOA governance with their fellow members if  HB 2052  becomes law.  Make it a law – write the rules Committee and demand passing on the bill for a debate and a final vote by all Senators.

References


[1] George K. Staropoli, HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, StarMan Press, 2013.

[2] See Substantive HOA member rights advances in Arizona.

[3] As an example, from the Arizona Legislative Manual.

[4] See AZ Attorney General admits SB 1454 HOA to be invalid and without effect.

Social Engineers needed in HOA-Land and all America. Are you one?

The following material is primarily based on the Charles Koch (billionaire and philanthropist) book, Believe In People [note 1]. Quotation marks and italics have generally been omitted but are used within sentences to distinguish quoted material.

The theme of Believe is developing ‘Social Engineers.’  It’s a term used by Koch by which he means a person

finding new ways to break the barriers and overcome the injustices that prevent others from realizing their potential.’ He continues, ‘These individuals  disrupt the status quo to help others, especially the less fortunate rise’ (p. 7).  

They’re concerned citizens, mobilizing neighbors to support good policies and oppose bad ones.  They’re elected officials — of any party — enacting laws that secure for everyone the opportunity to realize their potential and contribute to society’s progress (p. 7).

You are a social engineer when ‘fighting a harmful public policy that’s affecting your family, friends, or neighbors’  (p. 7).  Homeowners in HOA-Land  are ‘less fortunate’ and are subject to top-down authoritarian governments.  Read on!

. . . .

With this preface material, what is the social and legal task before homeowner rights advocates and other concerned citizens?

A properly functioning government is a precondition for individual success and a thriving society (p. 13).     You’ll see the widespread assumption that those at the ‘top’ know best and that the people they consider beneath them can’t be trusted. This can be summed up as a top-down or one-size-fits-all approach  (p. 5).

If we are to go beyond fighting injustice one person at a time, then the core institutions of community, education, business, and government must be transformed (p. 243). Transforming these institutions so they consistently empower people to succeed is the job of Social Engineers (p. 10).

With respect to HOA-Land, see on Amazon [note 2], my Commentary [note 3].

Notes

  1.  Believe In People, Charles Koch & Brian Hooks, St. Martin’s Press, 2020.
  2. A Plan Toward Restructuring the HOA Model of Governance.
  3. Plan to Restructure HOA model.

Restoring the lost Constitution to HOA-Land

Some 23% of Americans live in HOA-Land, that collection of fragmented independent principalities known, in general, as HOAs. Overwhelmingly their members swear by the HOA as the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie. It is hard to accept this undying loyalty to the HOA and its board of directors in view of the fact that their acceptance of HOAs is the result of an intentional indoctrination by national lobbying, business trade group that, in my mind, does not know how to spell “constitution.. Obviously then, those CAI surveys are suspect.

HOAs are separate, local private governments not subject to the constitution, and collectively constitute a nation within a defined geographical region known as the United States. “A nation consists of a distinct population of people that are bound together by a common culture, history, and tradition who are typically concentrated within a specific geographic region.”

“Public policy today rejects constitutional government for HOAs allowing them to operate outside the law of the land. The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.”

To provide the ignored but important and substantial aspects of the HOA legal scheme I have designated three books by StarMan Group under the collection, “Restoring the Lost Constitution to HOA-Land.” They are 1) HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, a summary of 6 constitutional defects, 2) The HOA-Land Nation Within America, presenting the scope of outlaw private governments that deny constitutional protections to HOA members, and 3) The Plan to Restructure the Model of HOA Governance that advances a plan to restore the Constitution to HOAs while keeping the desired benefits of the “real estate package.” (All the above can be found on Amazon.com).

For a historical perspective of HOA-Land, see:

  • The Homes Associations Handbook (ULI, 1964). Not publicly available but I have a copy of the 434 page document).
  • Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government (1994), Evan McKenzie.
  • Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing (2000), Donald R. Stable. (ULI and CAI production).

(All the above, except for the Handbook,  can be found on Amazon.com).