I asked to attend one of our Board of Directors’ meetings to see how the affairs of the corporation are handled, but I was told that board meetings are closed and that unit owners cannot attend. Can you explain to me why that is?
First, I wish to commend you on showing a genuine interest in the governance of your condominium corporation. I trust that your interest is for positive purposes and not to find fault in your volunteer directors. Most condo corporations experience enough challenges in finding qualified owners willing to serve as directors that anything that could be a deterrence to serving on the board should be carefully considered.
I am not aware of any legislation (I am not a lawyer) that bans unit owners from attending board meetings. A practice to exclude owners from attending may be reasoned by the desire to encourage a free exchange of ideas among the board members. We can all appreciate that there can be an intimidation factor at play when discussions about controversial issues are debated in the public eye.
Closing attendance to owners could be a stipulation that is included in your governing documents. The board may simply be following the established rule. To change such a requirement would require a change in the governing documents. While there may be no written rule, it may be a long-standing practice.
You must understand that allowing you to attend a meeting, would not allow you to participate in the discussions. Generally, you would be considered an observer only. Some organizations require individuals who wish to address the board to make a request in advance and for the board to approve the request. This is to ensure that representations do not overtake a board meeting or degenerate into complaint sessions.
Some parts of a board meeting will, by necessity, have to be held in private. When issues to be dealt with include employee matters, delinquent condo fee payments, complaints, vendor contracts, insurance claims, and legal actions, confidentiality is in order, and should be restricted to board members only. This part of a meeting is known as being an executive session or in camera, meaning behind closed doors.
If you ask the board to allow you in to observe once or twice, they might do so without creating an open invitation for everyone. In the meantime, trust that your board has your best interests at heart. If not, vote the members out office at the next opportunity. All the best!