Most of the time, "communication" and "openness" are watchwords for boards and management. Clear, transparent communication between boards, managing agents, and shareholder/owners should be right up there with "location, location, location" as a mantra of successful urban living. But where does the line get drawn between what boards can - and should - discuss amongst themselves in closed board meetings, and what to discuss openly amongst all the shareholders? Well-publicized cases of corruption and opacity in corporate America have resulted in an increased demand for transparency and openness in all governing organizations - including co-op and condo boards - that is forcing some board members and agents to re-examine their own building policies.
By all accounts, the expectations of board members versus shareholders about what constitutes an adequate exchange of information between the two groups can differ widely. It's not uncommon for non-board shareholders to feel that they're being kept in the dark and excluded from the decision-making process that directly affects their home.
Board members, by contrast, may feel that making those decisions is the very job they volunteered or were elected to do. And additionally, shareholders may not be aware that there are sensitive matters discussed in board meetings that should be kept confidential.
A policy of openness regarding board operations has both positives and negatives, depending on whom you talk to. Helen Hartig, an attorney who represents co-ops and condos and who also serves as president of her own Upper East Side co-op feels that an open meeting policy engages shareholders to become more involved.
Greg Carlson of Carlson Realty in Queens and the executive director of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums (FNYHC) agrees. "If the building maintains a policy of openness, and the board is meeting on a monthly basis, the benefit is that there's no pent-up aggravation among shareholders who feel they're not being heard."