Co-op boards make decisions for the good of all shareholders, not just one or two. Though board membership may be a selfless proposition, productivity results from a concerted effort to put duty first, with personal conflicts and interpersonal friction taking a backseat to business. According to Bud Johnson, a thirty-year shareholder resident and board president of Manhattan's Chesapeake Owners Corp. co-op, "To me, being on a co-op board is like running a corporation. All of us on the board are running a business. We're spending the money of the shareholders. We have to run it on a profitable basis."
Meetings are the best time to transact important co-op business, so time spent picking through grievances and unstructured chatting wastes valuable time that would be better spent focusing on getting things done. A proper meeting actively includes board members, the manager, and - when requested - the co-op's attorney.
Boards often derail themselves through simple lack of structure. Johnson points to how his board divides duties based on professional skills - financial skills for the treasurer, someone with human resource skills for the interview committee, and so forth.
Stanley Dreyer, a senior partner with Gallet Dreyer & Berkey LLP in Manhattan, suggests a different approach - bringing in an outside third party expert to advise the board. "I think that what your expertise is when you walk into that board room, you're a shareholder. And that goes when you vote for the maintenance charge, you don't vote your own pocket, you vote for the benefit of the corporation.
"I'd much prefer not to use the professional expertise of a member of the board for solving a corporate problem," says Dreyer. "No matter how good, I don't like architects [who live in the building] designing lobby plans, etc. Bring in somebody else, pay the fee, and you're away from it all. Bring in an expert and get the expert's opinion, decide whether it's appropriate, move ahead, and you're going to be sustained by every court in this jurisdiction. Don't try to undertake the project by yourself"¦generally, I can tell you I've never met a board member who was an elevator engineer, who was a heating contractor, or who knew anything about some of the problems we're faced with. When in doubt, bring in a third party."