January 22, 2010

Using Executive Sessions of Board Meetings to Address Sensitive Matters

Most of the important decisions regarding a condominium or homeowners association are made at board meetings. The attendance of owners at board meetings has many benefits, but owners may be excluded in certain situations. Such closed portions of board meetings are called executive sessions.

The Washington Homeowners’ Associations Act requires board meetings to be open for observation by owners and their agents. It goes on to state that boards may vote during meetings to hold executive sessions that only directors may attend. The motion to hold an executive session must specifically state the purpose of that session. The Act lists five areas that are appropriately handled in executive session:

1) Consideration of personnel matters.
2) Consultation with attorneys or consideration of legal advice.
3) Discussion of likely or pending litigation.
4) Discussion of possible violations of the governing documents.
5) Discussion of an owner’s possible liability to the association.

After an executive session has concluded, the board must vote in open session in order to take any action with regard to the matters discussed in executive session. Homeowners associations’ governing documents may impose additional procedures relating to board meetings and executive sessions.

Washington laws governing condominiums do not contain specific requirements pertaining to the attendance of owners at board meetings or executive sessions. However, many condominium associations’ governing documents contain provisions that cover those topics. If an association’s governing documents are silent, the board may wish to consider complying with the rules applicable to homeowners associations to give its actions an extra measure of protection.