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Hi Yo Silver!

Being a person that wants to serve and protect your own interests, you get yourself elected to the board. At the first board meeting, the president gives you a pep talk about not giving instructions to contractors or discussing board issues with other members unless you preface comments with “the board policy/decision is…”. You bristle at this. Who does this guy think he is? This is America, Home of the Free and Land of the Lone Ranger. Why shouldn’t you be able to say what you want, when you want and to whoever you want?

As a director on the board, you wear two hats: one as an elected official and another as a member of the HOA. While you are clearly entitled to your personal opinion, you need to be careful how and when you express your opinion as a board member. Once elected to serve the interests of the HOA, you need to view things through corporate glasses. This can be difficult when the issues are contentious.

The homeowner association form of government is a representative democracy…a few are elected to represent the many. A fundamental concept of democracy is rule by the majority. Thus, decisions of the board do not require consensus, just that most agree. This may leave some directors in the minority opinion and in even direct opposition with the rest.

When it comes to being a minority position director, there are several approaches, one good and one bad. An HOA board needs diverse points of view to make good decisions. If few have an opinion, usually the loudest voice will prevail and effectively the board will run by a dictator. Dictators don’t work well within the democratic context. Having dissenting opinions expands the perspective and dissenters can often have a major impact on shaping key parts of the final decision. A Lone Ranger dissenter may not carry the day but can still impact the outcome.

On the other hand, a dissenter can choose to express opposition by churning the board’s decision through the HOA grist mill, spinning the facts and creating ill will. It compromises the ability of the board to do its job and causes bad feelings among neighbors. That’s bad for everyone.

That said, there are times when a board or board officer is acting irresponsibly or even criminally. Whistle blowing is certainly appropriate when there is self dealing going on. If the matter is irresponsibility or neglecting HOA business, a vigilant director can be effective by promoting candidates that are more suitable or encourage ineffective directors to step down. But bad mouthing the current regime to neighbors over the back fence is usually self-defeating. It makes the Long Ranger look small minded, he will be ostracized or minimized by the remaining directors and lose ability to impact decisions.

A Lone Ranger director can also compromise the HOA’s interests by interfering with day to day management. One of the most frustrating things a contractor goes through is trying to respond to many “chiefs”. In a professionally managed HOA, the manager is usually authorized to direct contractors. But when a Lone Ranger director steps in to micro-manage a project, the contractor will often try to respond to both the manager and Lone Ranger. But it takes more time and effort and reduces the chances of a successful outcome.

Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s sidekick and mentor. With his wise manner, he would balance the Ranger’s hero compulsivity. Between the two and creative thinking, they always figured out a way to save the day.

In the final analysis, while dissent is a fundamental part of the democratic process and can produce good outcomes, consistently being a Long Ranger erodes the ability for the board to work as a team. Tonto understood the concept of teamwork and often gave the Ranger a different point of view by providing additional information and options. Encourage opposing points of view but strive to forge an outcome that works for the majority. Hi yo Silver!

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter.