The Illinois lawmakers heard the cry of community association board members who were feeling the bad effects of open board meeting requirements. Longer, more contentious meetings. Less informed board members who were afraid of meeting each other in the supermarket and talking about board business for fear of violating the open meeting laws. Come January 1, 2017, that changes in Illinois.
The current laws allow boards to discuss only litigation, employment, rules violations and delinquent owner accounts in closed meeting executive sessions that take place within the framework of a properly noticed meeting open to all owners. Those categories are not broad enough.
As of January 1st, Illinois community association boards under the Illinois Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act (amended by Public Act 099-0567) will be able to have closed meetings to discuss probable or pending litigation, third-party contracts and employment issues, violations of the rules and regulations of the association and an owner’s unpaid share of common expenses. Boards also may interview prospective employees and contractors and consult with the association’s attorney. None of this has to be during an open meeting.
Board members can meeting at any time to discuss those topics. They can have email discussions, or any other type of communication before meetings. The only catch is that while the discussions can take place by email and other means between meetings (yes, even at the supermarket), the eventual vote has to take place during the open meeting.
With this law change, board members can do their board work between meetings rather than being afraid of doing so and believing that they have to do it all during an open meeting session. It’s hard enough volunteering for board membership and juggling a job or the children or a multitude of other personal obligations.
Now that board members will be able to use email between meetings to discuss those broad range of topics, they need to make sure to do so in a controlled, secure environment where records of their discussions and the documents that they consider are preserved and/or purged by the community association according to policy. Boards need a framework around their email and other digital communications. Board members can’t be using their free email accounts or employer’s email accounts to conduct board business. In doing so there is no record or historical perspective preserved; particularly when those board members leave the board along with all of their electronic records.
The changes in the Illinois laws are good, but the boards need to make sure that their board members are equipped to operate in a way that does not add risk to the organization.