– By Laurie F. Masotto, Esq. (originally published in October 1999)
You see it everywhere. Every-one, and everything, it seems, has gone “high tech.” Today, much of our communication is via the internet, e-mail, conference calls, satellite broadcasting, etc. Just how home-owner associations can become a part of today’s “high tech” world without jeopardizing private information is the focus of this series of articles.
It is easy to imagine the possibilities: a website (www.ABC Homeowners Association.com); or an e-mail address (mail@ABC HOA.com). However, before you turn your association into the latest internet address, there are several issues to consider.
In considering whether to have a website for your association, you must consider what type of information is appropriately accessible to not only your members, but to the public. Certain general information could be posted on the website, such as the date, time and place of board and membership meetings, announcements of other upcoming events (the holiday block party), and pertinent information such as when the cars have to be off the streets in order to complete the slurry seal. The association could use the website to supplement, but not replace, mailed and posted notices of pertinent information, as not every member in the association would have access to a computer or the internet.
Similarly, information that is currently “public record” such as copies of the CC&Rs, Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, etc. may also be beneficial on the website, as members would be able to easily access that information. Associations may also put copies of their newsletters on the website; however, any information which is not for public knowledge should be eliminated from any public portion of the website. This would include, for example, the new gate entry code for the community. Also, if mention of litigation (pending or threatened) is included, in order to avoid prejudice to associations and defamation claims, associations should use caution in publishing such reference, absent legal counsel’s approval, either on the internet or the written publication.
Regarding board meeting minutes, while the non-executive session minutes are available to the members, if they are put on the public portion of the website, then any member of the public would be able to view the minutes, if they so desired. We have to remember that associations are still private organizations and it may not be appropriate to have its business affairs open for all to see. The board minutes should be placed under some type of password protection so that only members can access that information. In any event, to the extent they exist, executive sessions minutes are not for member inspection and should never be posted on a website.
So, before posting information on the association’s website, a careful analysis of each item should be made as to whether it is appropriate and desired for such information to be available to the public at large.
Part 2 of this article, which will appear in our next newsletter, will include e-mail communication between board members, conference call and satellite meetings.