How to Stand Up to Bully Board Members

June 4, 2010
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In response to a question from a member on the discussion forum, this week's tip provides real-world advice for knocking the dictators on your board down a few pegs.

James R. McCormick Jr., a partner at Peters & Freedman LLP in Encinitas, Calif., who represents associations, is currently advising two associations on the issue of bully board members.

"I had a meeting yesterday with a board with a member who has physically grabbed other board members," he says. "And I have a meeting tonight with a board with a similar situation. It's really tough."

McCormick says bullies come in two types. "One will actually take action, and the other, who is usually more prevalent, will back down when confronted," he says.

"But you don't know going into it what type of person you're dealing with. In my current situation, I've never met the people, so I don't know which they are. We can try to cut them out of board activities, but I don't know how they'll react."

Therefore, you must tread carefully. Check your state law and governing documents. If they permit, your first option should be to use the power that many boards don't realize they often have—knocking the board member down a post from an officer to a director position.

"In Florida, the board of directors determines who serves as officers," says Lisa A. Magill, a shareholder and association attorney at Becker & Poliakoff PA in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"If you have a president, treasurer, or other officers going rogue, you can always remove them from office. They'd be removed from office but still remain a director. So if they're signing contracts or issuing purchase orders, they won't have that authority."

That's just one way to beat back bullies. For more ideas provided by our expert contributors, see our new article on Reining in Bullies on Your HOA Board.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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