Q&A: What Goes on at an Open Meeting?

Q I wonder what your take is on open meetings. Are all shareholders and unit owners invited to attend? Are they allowed to make comments? Are they allowed to attend the entire meeting? Is there some portion of the meeting that relates to litigation or personal matters, such as a specific personal matter concerning a unit owner that should be discussed in private? Is everything else discussed in an open meeting?

—Being in the Know

A “With certain exceptions, all meetings of an association’s governing board are required to be open to attendance by all unit owners and shareholders, says attorney Gregory M. Dyer, a partner at the law firm of McCarter & English, LLP, with offices in Newark and several national locations. “Informal conference or working sessions of the board at which no binding votes are to be taken are not required to be open to all unit owners. In addition, the board may exclude or restrict unit owner attendance at those meetings, or portions of meetings (often referred to as 'closed sessions' or 'executive sessions'), that deal with certain subjects, which may be summarized as follows: (1) matters which should not be disclosed due to individual privacy concerns; (2) any pending or anticipated litigation or contract negotiations; (3) any matters falling within the attorney-client privilege; or (4) any matter involving the employment, promotion, discipline or dismissal of a specific officer or employee of the association. If the board meeting does not deal with one of these subjects and is not merely a working session, then it is required to be open to all unit owners.

“The requirements for open meetings and the exceptions thereto are set forth in the New Jersey Condominium Act, which applies to the condominium form of ownership, and in The Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act, the provisions of which may apply not only to condominiums but to homeowners associations and cooperatives as well.

“All unit owners must be given adequate notice of any open meeting (in such manner as the bylaws shall prescribe). Minutes of each open meeting must be taken, and copies of those minutes must be made available to all unit owners before the next open meeting. Open meetings must be held in a suitable meeting room within the development or, if there is no suitable meeting room within the development, at a suitable meeting room elsewhere in the municipality in which the development is located or in an adjoining municipality. To be considered 'suitable,' a meeting room must be large enough to accommodate a reasonable number of unit owners who might wish to attend an open meeting.

“The participation of unit owners during open meetings, including their ability to make comments, is at the discretion of the governing board. Thus, a board may decide that it will not allow unit owners to make comments or ask questions at an open meeting. However, most association boards do provide for an open comment or question and answer session at open meetings attended by unit owners.”

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