When Boards Don’t Play by the Rules Controlling Rogue Board Members

Many if not most boards get along famously. There are boards that have had the same members for decades and run their communities without a hitch.

“Ninety percent of boards run very, very well,” says James Donnelly, CEO and the president of Castle Management in Plantation. “Conflicts arise in, by far, the minority of situations.”

We frequently get calls from readers who are troubled when they find that their board members seem to be operating under a different set of rules than the rest of the community. For example, they get preferential treatment for parking spots, ignore pet rules, fast-track their own alteration projects, fail to pay their assessments on time, and disrupt board and shareholder meetings. Rogue board members negatively affect building morale, erode residents' confidence in their board, and can even have serious legal ramifications as well.

Role Playing

A potential driver of the “rogue board member” phenomenon is the evolution of the job description. This is not your father’s board. “The management business has become much more sophisticated,” observes Paul Patti, president of Hawk-Eye Management in Boca Raton. “Two decades ago, a property manager did the financials, and they did what they called a walk-through or drive-through of the property, and that was all that was expected. We’re now in a situation where a lot of our board members are a lot more sophisticated. A lot of them are CEOs or ex-CEOs of companies, which in many cases is a positive thing, but it can become very difficult because they can become a little dictatorial.”

Again, this is both good and bad. This sort of board member can reinvigorate a moribund board, and be the agents of positive change for a community. Even in cases when the board member takes it too far, there are benefits. But the board of an HOA is not a board of a Fortune 500 company. There are no corporate jets, golden parachutes, or other cushy perks. If that's the sort of environment a director is accustomed to, the humble trappings of the HOA board member can take some getting used to.

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