QUESTION: There have been issues that residents don't feel comfortable bringing up at the board meeting (open forum). A resident thought of a town hall meeting to discuss these problems. Can we hold this meeting in the clubhouse? Should we call it a "gathering" rather than a meeting? Is it illegal for us to gather to discuss problems we are having with our association?
ANSWER: Members have the right to use the clubhouse to peaceably assemble and discuss any matter of interest to other members. Wikipedia describes the right to assemble as:
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political freedom and a civil liberty.
Advertising for Meeting. You can call it a gathering but there is nothing wrong with "meeting" provided your invitation does not wrongly imply it is an official meeting of the membership. You are also allowed to advertise the meeting through (i) mailings, (ii) postings on bulletin boards (provided the bulletin board postings stay within the association's published guidelines), and (iii) distribution of flyers. (Civ. Code § 4515.) What you cannot do is transact business, i.e., amend documents, vote on special assessments, elect or remove directors, etc. For votes on such matters, you must petition the board to call a special meeting of the membership.
Use of Common Areas. If the town hall meeting is related to an issue that is before the membership for a vote (election of directors, special assessment, amendments, etc.) the association must provide access to common area facilities. If the meeting is for the purpose of discussing something of "public interest," you have the right to use common area facilities if they are available. (Civ. Code § 4515.)
Board Notice of Meeting. If the board were to call a town hall meeting, proper notice must be given. If a quorum of directors will be in attendance then at least four-day's notice must be given. If the board intends to vote on business at the meeting then it's a town hall meeting coupled with a board meeting and appropriate notice must be given.
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