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.

HOA constitutionality Plan supplement – BOD education

The Plan Toward Restoring the HOA Model of Governance[1] called for both a systemic restructuring of the HOA legal scheme and the need to reorient the BODs and legislators. The long ignored and inexcusable questions of constitutionality that continue to harm members and the greater communities across this country must be exposed, understood and accepted.

hoa-const.jpg

The above picture reflects the rewrite of the Preamble to the Constitution as applied to the HOA-Land nation. It reads,

“We the people of a private HOA, in order to protect property values, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of increased property values to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Declaration for the United HOAs of America.”

Why is there a need for board of directors education on HOA constitutionality? Why? Because:

  • HOAs are a form of local government not subject to the Constitution, and have created divisiveness and a separation from the greater public community resulting in member confusion regarding the law and their constitutional rights and protections;
  • the national lobbying entity, CAI, has indoctrinated the legislators, the courts, and the public with its CAI School of HOA Governance program that contains just lip service to constitutional questions, for example,

“A global nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization, CAI is the foremost authority in community association management, governance, education, and advocacy. Our mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership, and responsible citizenship—ideals reflected in community associations that are preferred places to call home.”[2]

while opposing the application of the Constitution in its numerous amicus curiae briefs to the courts, for example,

“In light of these statutory, contractual and common law standards protecting the interests of community association members, they need not claim constitutional protection from the conduct of governing boards to exercise their rights with respect to the associations.”[3]

  • The Findings, Section II, Education for Homeowners Associations and Board Members, of the North Carolina HOA study report to the NC General Assembly recommended,

“In order to provide accurate and readily available resources to educate homeowners, board members, and interested persons about the duties and responsibilities of property ownership in an HOA community, the General Assembly . . . to seek reliable and unbiased information available from private entities . . . and provide for published and online documents and programs offering HOA education . . . .”[4]

  • Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government, the 1994 landmark book based on the research of UIC Prof. McKenzie, and highly appropriate today, called the reader’s attention to,

“CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.

“In a variety of ways, these private governments are illiberal and undemocratic. Most significantly boards of directors operate outside constitutional restrictions because the law views them as business entities rather than governments. . . . [They] are inconsistent not only with political theories of legitimacy but with the normal process by which governments are created. . . . Thus these ‘private governments’ may violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” (Chapter 6).

  • A Table of Authorities,[5] not all inclusive, supporting the Restoring the Lost Constitution.
  • Unanswered questions on HOA constitutionality:

CAI Common Ground Editor Durso mentioned my 2006 “‘open e-mail questionnaire to CAI’ containing four questions.”  Below is a copy of those questions initially addressed to the AZ Legislature a year earlier.  I never had any answer, either from the Legislature or CAI, nor any debate on the issues.

In a 2011 email to the North Carolina Legislature House HOA Committee I asked, “the legislators, the public interest organizations and policy makers to consider the following questions.” And I concluded with, “I await your reply, or a reply from any of the legal-academic aristocrats.”[6] Still no answer.

    • Can a legislature delegate its functions, not government services but functions, to private entities without oversight or compliance with the Constitution, as required of all government entities?
    • Can private parties enter into contractual arrangements using adhesion contracts and a constructive notice consent that serve to regulate and control the people within a territory (an HOA), to circumvent the application of the Constitution?

 A webinar is in the plans that summarizes and follows the materials – the text — comprising the HOA educational series to reorient HOA boards and the public in general. The text is available online under the collection, “Restoring the Lost Constitution to HOA-Land.” Will be coming soon.

Notes

[1] See https://tinyurl.com/sr27yq3.

[2] About Community Associations Institute, April 4, 2020). https://finance.yahoo.com/news/community-associations-institute-cai-provides-181931116.html. April 4, 2020).

[3] CAI amicus brief, Jan. 3, 2013, Dublirer v. 2000 Linwood Avenue Owners Assn, N.J. Docket 069154 (2014).

[4] “Study On Homeowners Associations”, Luke A. Rankin, Chair, South Carolina General Assembly (December 18, 2015). (http://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/HomeownersAssociationStudyCommittee/HOAStudyCommitteeFinalReport12182015.pdf). April 27, 2020).

[5] http://starman.com/m…/restructureHOA/restructure-reading.pdf.

[6] See Too hot for NC HOA committee – withdraws legal-academic “experts, George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government (Nov. 17, 2011). https://pvtgov.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/too-hot-for-nc-hoa-committee-withdraws-legal-academic-experts/

NJ Supreme Court upholds constitution against HOA free speech electioneering violations

Those familiar with rogue HOAs have seen this occur time after time – board control of the electioneering process.   In, Dublirer, a NJ Supreme Court case, [1]

The [condo] Board, citing a ‘House Rule’ that barred soliciting and distributing any written materials, denied the request. On prior occasions, though, the Board had distributed written ‘updates’ under apartment doors throughout the building, which criticized the Board’s opponents. The resident filed a lawsuit and claimed that the House Rule was unconstitutional.”

Finally, a state supreme court said enough is enough and free speech in elections for members dominates the governing documents, and the state constitution prevails (This case was not filed under federal laws).

Under that approach, we find that the Board’s policy violates the free speech clause of the State Constitution. The important right of residents to speak about the governance of their community, which presents a minimal intrusion when a leaflet is placed under a neighbor’s apartment door, outweighs the Board’s concerns. We therefore affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division.

The panel [appellate decision] noted that Dublirer’s expressional activity was ‘political-like speech’ because it related to the management and governance of the common-interest community. The panel found that the restriction left Dublirer without reasonable alternative means to convey his message.”

Thus, even though Dublirer did not run for public office, his message was akin to and should be treated as political speech, which is entitled to the highest level of protection in our society. . . . If anything, speech about matters of public interest, and about the qualifications of people who hold positions of trust, lies at the heart of our societal values.

Essentially, members – and speaking with respect to member-owners — must be given equal access to the membership as long as the campaign does not excessively disrupt the “tranquility” of the community. Suitable means must be given to members to allow for free speech expressions. The HOA had argued, beyond technicalities that were dismissed, that members had no free speech rights.  Imagine that!  CAI’s description of HOAs as democracies was just contradicted!

The Court held,

“On balance, we find that the restriction on Dublirer’s right to disseminate his written materials to neighbors is unreasonable. Dublirer’s right to promote his candidacy, and to communicate his views about the governance of the community in which he lives, outweigh the minor interference that neighbors will face from a leaflet under their door. In short, Dublirer’s right to free speech outweighs the Board’s concerns about the use of the apartment building. We therefore find that the Board’s House Rule violates the free speech guarantee in New Jersey’s Constitution.”

It appears that this Court believes that HOAs are akin to public governments and the election of board members is tantamount to a local public election and must be constitutionally protected.  To ensure that local community government works for the member-owners, don’t due process protections and the equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment require judicial enforcement against HOA violations?  And that these rights deserve supremacy over privately drafted contracts that have as their objective the dismissal of constitutional protections?  I think so!  So should state legislators!

As for CAI’s amicus brief, it denied free speech rights to homeowners, declared HOAs are businesses and members are like stockholders during board elections, and other non-constitutional methods were available so forget about applying constitutional law.  Sounds like a belief that HOAs are indeed independent principalities (See Establishing the New America: a new book).

CAI cannot allow HOAs to be treated as equivalent to state entities.  See Commentary posted here.

Note 1.  “BRIEF OF PUTATIVE AMICUS CURIAE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE – NEW JERSEY CHAPTER,” Michael S. Karpoff, Jan. 3, 2013 (Dublirer v. 2000 Linwood Avenue Owners Assn, N.J. Docket 069154 (2014)).