The Community Association Institute’s (CAI) College of Community Association Lawyers recently released a Civility Pledge to help homeowners associations adopt a model to facilitate better conversations and more effective communications among board members and homeowners.
There are 4 pillars in the Civility Pledge, which all aim to increase transparency and civil conservation, while prohibiting personal attacks and hostility. In summary the 4 pillars of the Civility Pledge are:
1. Every individual should be accountable for their own words and actions.
2. All interactions within the association should be civil, despite differences in opinion.
3. There will be respect for all points of view, and all persons will be given a reasonable opportunity to express opinions openly without attacks.
4. Every resident should be engaged and informed.
Our firm is a proponent of this Civility Pledge and would encourage your community to consider adopting it as a model for your community. We believe that civil conversation is very beneficial for all associations. Further, as we see more and more hostile situations during association meetings, and in all other facets of our lives, we feel that it is important for associations to have this pledge in place so that all residents know what kind of behavior will and will not be accepted and tolerated within the community.
For many associations, adopting this Civility Pledge will be a culture shift for the entire association. It is important for the Board and the Board President to take the lead on this initiative and to lead by example. With the idea in mind that the goal is not to stop debate, but instead to do so in a healthy manner, the Board can lead by example in its interactions in Board meetings. For example, the Board members can be respectful of all Board opinions and give each Board member a reasonable opportunity to express his/her viewpoints on a specific issue. Then, the Board can acknowledge that unanimous consent is not needed to take action, but instead only a majority vote. After each Board member has been given the opportunity to express their position, a vote should be taken and the action that receives the majority of the Board approval should be final. These type of behaviors show effective leadership and will create a better sense of harmony at Board meetings. We typically see healthy Board behavior trickle down to the rest of the community.
The Board can also help facilitate difficult conversations and controversial issues within the community and among the members. The board should set boundaries and ground rules, but not stifle respectful debate. The Board and members of the community can learn a lot about each other by asking questions and becoming educated on association issues.
In order for an association to adopt the Civility Pledge, the Board should do so at an open Board meeting. CAI recommends publishing the Civility Pledge prior to its adoption and seeking community input prior to its adoption. Further, CAI recommends that the Board explain its benefits and goals prior to its adoption. I enclosed the Civility Pledge documents from CAI to this blog post. If your community needs any assistance with the adoption of the Civility Pledge or has questions about the Civility Pledge, please contact our firm. We are excited for this Civility Pledge to gain momentum and believe it will be very positive for many of our associations.