QUESTION: I know that board members are legally protected but what about committee members (like a rules committee, newsletter committee, finance committee, etc.)? Are they also protected under the Civil and Corporations Code?
ANSWER: Unfortunately not. By statute, board members have a higher level of protection but the same is not true for committee members. They do, however, frequently have protections under the association's governing documents and its insurance policy.
Advisory Role. One way to reduce potential liability is to make sure your committees are advisory only. Without decisionmaking authority, they make a much smaller target. Two exceptions to advisory-only committees are executive and architectural committees. The first is made up entirely of directors and the second derives its authority from the governing documents. The surest way to protect all volunteers is for the association to purchase insurance to cover them.
Recommendation: Proper D&O Insurance is a must. Make sure your association's policy covers committee members as well as board members. Adopt an ethics policy so committee members know what constitutes proper and improper behavior. And, adopt committee charters so members know they are advisory only. Finally, if your governing documents are silent about protections for committee members, you should consider amending your documents.
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