The following recollection is inspired by and based on an actual board meeting. The year was 1997. I was one of the first to move into our newly developing townhome association. The builder was still on the board and I did not have access to the board meetings. I wanted to become more knowledgeable about townhomes so that I could be prepared when the builder turned over the association to the unit owners. In the summer of 1998, I found out that a neighboring townhome association was having a board meeting. I asked if I could attend as an observer. "Sure” was the answer.
At 7:00 pm on Wednesday night, I went to the meeting place. Some of the board members and unit owner observers seemed agitated. It quickly became apparent that the source of the frustration was grass. The problem was, the grass was not being watered properly. The "vendor” who was in charge of watering the grass was lazy and not doing his job.
A discussion ensued. One board member said the "vendor” was lying on the grass and was not moving the water hose very often. Another board member said she saw a girl with him. Another said he saw the "vendor” eating something while he was supposed to be working.
After a few more complaints were lodged, the discussion started to turn. One board member said that maybe it was the Association’s fault. An underground sprinkler system was under consideration at one time, but due to money concerns, it had been voted down. At the time of hiring the "vendor,” there had been no other applicants. Even if there were applicants, who would really work for the low pay the association was offering? Perhaps the job was boring and the girl wasn’t any trouble. After all, a "vendor” has to eat. At times, it was pretty hot out there. And the "vendor” did show up most times he was supposed to.
And then the conversation became even more positive. One board member said we are sure lucky to have him. Another said I think we should give our "vendor” a little raise. Another board member said he thought some bottled water would be nice. The last board member to speak asked how about if we bring our "vendor” and his girlfriend some brownies?
After the board meeting was over, I reflected on how I felt and what I learned. I felt grateful that a board let me attend one of their open board meetings even though I wasn’t one of their unit owners. I learned there is no substitute for actually observing board meetings; they can be very interesting, and open board meetings are important. The advantages are that you get to hear and see things that are not reflected in the minutes.
Of course, timely minutes of board meetings are also important, because if one can’t make it to the board meetings, at least the board minutes should summarize the issues being discussed.