QUESTION: Is there a conflict of interest when one board member is a practicing attorney & makes pronouncements on all issues that come before the board? He often twists the law to suit his own personal wishes, and intimidates the other two members who are not lawyers.
ANSWER: There is no conflict of interest unless the lawyer or his/her firm has been hired by the association. If that happens, the lawyer should step off the board so as to avoid any conflicts of interest. If he/she refuses, the board should immediately get new legal counsel. When it comes to lawyers on boards, there are three types:
Good Lawyers. A lawyer on an HOA board of directors can be a valuable asset to an association. Legal training brings unique analytical skills to problems faced by boards and a good lawyer can be invaluable at spotting potential liability issues.
Problem Lawyers. Where lawyers on boards get themselves and everyone else into trouble is when they freely offer legal advice. The problem is that they often have no experience with community association law. They mean well but their advice is sometimes dead wrong. Associations should hire good corporate counsel and follow their advice. Seasoned lawyers on boards understand the need to defer to corporate counsel.
Nightmare Lawyers. The nightmare lawyers are the ones with the giant egos--the bullies. They constantly remind everyone that they are the smartest person in the room, and they regularly threaten and intimidate fellow directors to get their way. They are an embarrassment to the profession. The membership should replace them as quickly as possible--either through a recall petition or by electing someone else to the seat at the next annual meeting.
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