What is Censure?
One of the most important pieces of authority that the HOA Board has in its power is censureship. Censuring may sound a little strange and intimidating, and rightfully so, as it is a very serious matter. What exactly does it mean, and when is it appropriate for a board member to be censured? It’s something that all community members should be aware of and all members of your community should understand the gravity that a formal censure provides.
To start, a censure is a formal act of reprimanding a governing member for an infraction or breach of authority. Basically, censureship is a form of punishment if any of the governing body members that break serious rules. Examples would be a Board member disclosing confidential information or misusing funds or purposefully skipping meetings. Here are a few examples outlined by the Davis-Stirling Act:
- Disruption of meetings (shouting, use of profanity, engaging in personal attacks against fellow directors, etc.)
- Breach of confidences
- Interference with association operations
- Breach of fiduciary duties
- Improper behavior toward association vendors or employees undisclosed conflicts of interest
The best way to determine whether or not a board member is breaking the rules to the point where censure can be legitimate. A response would be if they violated a rule outlined in your Code of Conduct. If your HOA presently does not have a Code of Conduct, creating one to standardize HOA expectations and responsibilities is a good idea.
It’s also important to keep in mind that censuring can potentially create tricky legal situations. As censuring is a disciplinary action that incurred when a board member without due process. No trial or meeting is necessary to approve a censure. Usually, all it takes is the witnesses at the meeting to agree and determine a penalty for the offender.
Censure and the Effects
But censuring can also cause some more serious repercussions. Oftentimes, censuring is just the first step of furthering disciplinary action taken against the board member. Requesting for a resignation or forcible removal from office is commonly followed, although seeking legal counsel prior to action in order to fully understand the rights of due process that the censured member does have if further action plans to be taken. Defamation claims are a common defense.
Usually, censuring can be enough to communicate to the offending board member that their actions are unacceptable by the Board, and the conflict can resolve itself. But sometimes that is simply not the case. It is best to maintain a comprehensive and agreed-upon Code of Conduct that your Board members then follow. Deferring to the previously agreed upon rules is easily the best way to handle an oftentimes a bitter situation between neighbors. If the Board members are able to treat each other with respect, then ideally, censuring can be a rare instance.