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.

CAI School faculty advice – managing HOAs

I have described the CAI School of HOA Governance in an earlier post. In short its programs educate and promote the biased CAI view of governing HOAs.[1] I consider the School’s faculty consisting of those learned professionals, real estate attorneys, CAI former Trustees and national Presidents and some misguided constitutional attorneys and nonprofit organizations.

The latest School pronouncements come from a highly respected real estate attorney that is deeply involved in CAI, Kelly G. Richardson.[2] In view of his background and publications, seminars and speeches, I consider him to be part of the of the CAI School faculty that sets CAI’s objectives, missions and programs. Note that Richardson’s profile shows no credentials or expertise to speak about corporation management or governance, or constitutional or municipal laws.

Yet he feels free to speak outside his expertise about HOA governance that I maintain is founded on real estate equitable servitudes, covenants running with the land, where “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.”[3] Richardson, with all due respect, does not have the credentials to advise HOA directors on governing the HOA.

In his “Homefront: Fiduciary Duty” article[4] he takes the time to clarify in some detail, finally for the members, that the BOD (board of directors) acts in the interests of the corporation and not the individual member. That’s straight corporation law not HOA law. However, I’m confused by the following statement: “If the director were a fiduciary to the individual member, that pursuit of delinquency or violation would breach the duty of loyalty toward that member, but the loyalty is to the corporation.” Richardson seems to be saying that indeed a director has a fiduciary duty to the member but that duty to the HOA comes first.

Then he goes on to advise directors that a dissenting director, one who voted in the minority, owes his allegiance to the HOA and must muzzle himself.

“Even though the director believes the decision is a poor one, the director’s loyalty to the corporation compels the director to support and not frustrate the board’s decision.” This appears to be one of the fundamental flawed teachings of the CAI School, never go against the HOA or BOD. Never! It is contrary to all expert advise on effective and productive management[5] or city management.[6]

Richardson closes with advice on the need to conduct due diligence so the director can fulfill his duty to the HOA.

“The duty of care requires directors to have sufficient information from qualified persons to make the decision.” But then comes the plug for CAI, “Savvy directors know their role as directors is to make good decisions and not to advise, and so support hiring outside experts for advice.”

He further warns directors, who have relevant knowledge and expertise, to remain mum and not speak out least he be sued. If the director chooses to speak out as he should do in the best interests of the HOA, ”the director is not acting as a director but is an unpaid consultant and could be held liable for their advice.”

 Once again Richardson is advising directors to remain silent and to trust in the experts adding support to my earlier assertion, BODs, in general, resort to CAI not for legal advice on how to run the HOA government but as a crutch to allow them to dodge their obligations to govern the people.”[7] His managerial advice does not come from any credentials in political science, or constitutional law, or municipal government, but as a real estate professional espousing the CAI School of HOA Governance model of contractual, private, local government. In short, by fear mongering, it gives credence to the view that the HOA lawyers control the BODs.

Indoctrination “is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” Over the years CAI has been very successful in indoctrinating all the people: the policymakers, the state legislators, the state real estate departments, the media and the homebuyers. Richardson’s article justifies the need for a restructuring of the independent HOA principality and a reorienting the board of directors away from the CAI School doctrine.[8]

 Notes

[1] The foundation and principles of the School can be traced back to CAI’s Public Policies, The CAI Manifesto (its 2016 “white paper”), its numerous seminars and conferences, its Factbooks and surveys, its amicus briefs to the courts, and its advisories, letters, emails, newsletters, blogs etc. I have designated these foundations and principles collectively as the CAI School of HOA Governance.

[2] Kelly G. Richardson: CAI Board of Trustees 2011-2017; Community Associations Institute (CAI), National, President, 2016; College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL), 2006; CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee, Chair, 2009, 2010; National Association of Realtors; California State Bar Association, Real Estate & Litigation Sections.

[3] See in general Restructuring HOAs: “CAI School and member benefits” pt. 2.

[4] HOA Homefront: Fiduciary Duty – What It Is, And Is NOT, The Public Record, (Feb. 26, 2020).

[5] See for example: Are You Creating ‘Yes Men’ And Hindering Your Own Leadership Success?”, Terin Allen, Forbes.com (Nov. 10, 2018). “In my experience, most people get this way because they are responding to a culture or people in management who elicit and reward this type of behavior. . . . [in order to] survive on a dysfunctional leadership landscape where all the signals and messages confirm for them that dissent is bad and agreement is good.”; “7 Ways “Yes People” Can Destroy Your Business,” Barry Moltz, American Express Company (May 27, 2013). “Yes people don’t tell the truth. They only tell the . . . business owner what they want to hear. This doesn’t help a leader, who needs the whole story, good and bad, to operate a business. It only serves to increase your vulnerability.”

[6] Orville W. Powell, City Management: Keys to Success, AuthorHouse (2002). Powell “is recognized in this country and internationally as an expert in the field of city administration.”

[7] See Restructuring the HOA model.

[8] See HOAs are in need of a major restructuring.

 

Is CAI’s ‘lack of candor to the tribunal’ intentional?

In my recent complaint letter to the NJ Supreme Court (Complaint filed with NJ Supreme Court for CAI lack of “candor to the tribunal) arguing that CAI lacked “candor to the tribunal” — a violation of attorney professional conduct, RPC 3.3 —  I also charged that the misrepresentation was not accidental or simply an oversight, but was intentional.  “This failure is intentional as evidenced that both the CAI-NJ and CAI ‘Central’ websites do not refer to 501(c)6 status at all.”   

Evidence was provided from several web pages from both CAI-NJ and CAI “Central” that clearly show a co-mingling of representations, an implication that CAI is an educational organization with HOA membership,  and a failure to clearly state that CAI is a 501(c)6 trade organization.

Furthermore, the very fact that CAI-NJ found it necessary to prepare a standard form to justify the validity for HOAs to pay CAI membership fees shows an awareness by CAI of a possible conflict of interest.  It shows CAI advocating for its own agenda and for its HOA clients to breach their fiduciary duties to their members under the law and governing documents.

Further evidence of intentional misrepresentation and a complete disregard of the truth can be found in a 2008 amicus curiae brief to the Colorado appellate court in Booth Creek Townhouse v. Bassick (No. 07 CA 2531)[1].   Here, 3 years after dropping HOA membership in 2005 and 16 years after becoming a business trade group, CAI repeats its boilerplate certification of interest and justification to assist the court.

CAI is a national educational organization . . . . Nationally, members include . . . homeowners associations and condominium associations . . . .” and “CAI is uniquely situated to provide information to this court because all parties within this industry are represented by this organization. 

It would have been entirely acceptable if CAI had just indicated that it promoted and supported the Colorado version of UCIOA, CCIOA (effective 1992) and its subsequent amendments, and let the statutes speak for themselves.  But, this alone would indicate a bias toward protecting HOAs.

No, the evidence is quite clear and convincing that CAI’s repeated misrepresentations were not just a slip of the mind.  These persons are not just Joe Schmoes, but self-proclaimed community associations experts and who provide seminars to the uninformed public.


[1] While a search of Colorado court cases fails to show a record of this case, CAI nevertheless did prepare and file this brief.  “CAI Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Homeowner in $550,000 Judgment (10/08)”  (Link found on http://www.caionline.org/govt/news/Pages/CAIHeads-UpArchive.aspx June 21, 2012).  (The homeowner charged HOA for failing to perform its maintenance duties. CAI believed that the HOA’s failure to maintain the property was “egregious,” and the “association was so blatantly . . . and unwilling to perform its required duties.”)