I received far more feedback than I could print. So much so, this newsletter is devoted entirely to feedback on Don Wagner’s Hindenburg bill (AB 1720).
Blocked Emails. Readers were frustrated because Mr. Wagner blocked their emails. Following is feedback from one of many:
If Wagner is not accepting comments, why he is making laws and regulations affecting all California HOAs? As a board member, I do not agree with his proposal. -Martha M.
RESPONSE: Since Mr. Wagner seems uninterested in our input, we can go to the Chair of the Assembly Committee that will consider his bill. You can write your own email or cut and paste the sample below and send it to OpposeAB1720@caiclac.com. Your emails will then be delivered to the Committee. Make sure to add your name and address to the bottom of your email.
Honorable David Chiu
Chair of Assembly Housing & Community Development
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Chairman Chiu,
Please vote “NO” on AB 1720 (Wagner). The bill mandates that owners’ lawyers can attend homeowner association board meetings. Doing so will increase legal expenses and chill open discussion of homeowner business.
This is an unwarranted disruption of operations and will greatly intimidate volunteer board members.
In addition, the bill violates State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct which forbid one party’s attorney from addressing another party without permission from that party’s attorney. (Rule 2-100.)
Members who want legal representation already utilize attorneys without interrupting meetings and violating State Bar rules. AB 1720 is harmful and unnecessary.
Please vote “NO.” Thank you for considering my position.
Following is a sampling of the feedback I received:
Hindenburg #1. Please do NOT leave this bill alone. Keep on it. This bill is one of the single worst ideas I have ever heard. To the extent a legal representative shows up at our meeting, we will not discuss anything that could possibly relate to any reason as to why they are there unless our own legal representative is present. To that end, more work instead of less will be discussed in executive session (obviously there is a potential for pending litigation or else that legal representative would not be present) and transparency would be greatly diminished. -Randy W.
Hindenburg #2. Can’t believe this idiot Orange County Assembly person is proposing something like this! He must have a connection with lawyer lobbyists that are looking for another way to make money on our backs. -Kathleen E.
Hindenburg #3. Your newsletter is brilliant. I read every one and chuckle at your delightfully amusing comments. Thank You! -Liz D.
Hindenburg #4. Should the Wagner bill pass, what proof of legal representation may (or should) the board request to verify the standing of an attorney attending a board or association meeting? -Carol C.
ANSWER: Rather than get into a tussle over credentials, accept him/her at their word and immediately adjourn the meeting and reschedule to another date when the association’s attorney can attend.
Hindenburg #5. As always, I enjoy reading your newsletter. In regards to Assembly Bill 1720: I can see how frustrated homeowners get with property managers or board members controlling others. In this case, AB 1720 will cause these bullying volunteers and property managers to shape up or ship out. I’m for AB 1720. It’s time for ethical non-bullying people to take charge and for the unethical bullying people to be held accountable. -Ted S.
RESPONSE: Using a canon to kill flies also works. AB 1720 is in the same category. If an unhappy owner wants to make a statement, their lawyer can send a letter. It’s a lot less costly and disruptive.
Hindenburg #6. When the government can screw up your life they will make it a top priority. When it comes to actually solving a problem, they might get to it someday. -Finn M.
Hindenburg #7. It is my understanding that the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen because the U.S. refused to sell non-flammable helium to Germany. Am I wrong? -Jim K.
RESPONSE: You’re right. Helium was hard to obtain, which made it more expensive. So Zepplin decided to use less expensive but highly explosive hydrogen. Cost trumped safety. That’s always a good business model…until it isn’t.
Hindenburg #8. As frightening as it is to contemplate, the Hindenburg was a rigid frame airship which means the passengers, who had individual private suites and access to a variety of public dining and social areas, were actually inside the envelope and not strapped to its underside. That’s why the Hindenburg was so incredibly roomy compared to the frameless blimps we see in the air today. -David K.
Hindenburg #9. I am president of an HOA and an attorney. If AB 1720 passes, I will commence the practice of starting each board meeting by announcing the HOA is represented by legal counsel, giving the name and contact information for that attorney, and instructing any legal counsel present at the meeting to communicate solely through our legal counsel. It will defeat the purpose of AB 1720. Moreover, if an owner’s legal counsel remains at the board meeting at that point and communicates at all with the board during the meeting, they are violating Rule 2-100 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and can be reported to the State Bar. -Neil W.
RESPONSE: That works.
Hindenburg #10. What about small associations like ours? We don’t have legal counsel. We hold our board meetings in an owner’s unit. What are we supposed to do when a lawyer shows up at a meeting? -Roy M.
RESPONSE: Under Wagner’s bill, you must let the lawyer into your unit where he can threaten a lawsuit, scare the daylights out of everyone, and do it all in the comfort of your own home. This is not a good bill and needs to be stopped.
Hindenburg #11. You may be right about the potential problems for associations when owners can bring attorneys; but consider the opposite case where a board is itself the intimidating or manipulative body that takes action to disqualify opposition candidates and then says “lawyer up” to any complaining member? That’s what has happened here on occasion. What recourse is there? -Svein F.
ANSWER: A lawyer letter to the board is quite effective. There is no need to disrupt meetings by sending in lawyers. When that happens, everyone stops attending or brings their own lawyers. An empty meeting or one filled with lawyers–neither is a good outcome.
Hindenburg #12. What is your view when one or more owners are in fact “lawyers”? Especially if said owners are not following rules, policies, or committee recommended practices. When “lawyer owners” speak for or against items in forums are they not intimidating to board or other owners? – Clyde B.
RESPONSE: Homeowners who are lawyers can attend. They are attending meetings as owners. If they are retained by another homeowner and switch hats so that they are now attending as a lawyer, that’s a problem.
Hindenburg #13. I’d be curious (and I’m sure so would your other readers) as to what purpose this law would serve if approved, what problem is it trying to solve? Or is this just a giveaway to the Assemblyman’s attorney donors? -Kevin W.
RESPONSE: It solves no problems–it only creates them. What’s next? The state orders that lawyers attend committee meetings and go on maintenance walks?
Hindenburg #14. I’ve served on business boards which, upon appearance of an attorney, immediately suspended the board meeting. Highly threatening, disruptive and unnecessary. A possible plaintiff can take action in any event. -Larry F.
RESPONSE: The state ordering attorneys at meetings is highly disruptive and completely unnecessary.
Hindenburg #15. I can’t imagine why anyone would introduce legislation of the nature Paul Wagner did unless it is to drum up business for the legal profession. Mr. Wagner is not doing HOAs any service with his proposed legislation. Many people are intimidated by lawyers which will likely result in fewer people willing to serve on a board. Some lawyers are very bombastic and it will create chaos. Such lawyers will use the Bruce Cutler approach with boards and ‘Brucerize’ them. Some HOAs will want to have the association’s lawyer attend a board meeting where an attorney will be present. This could result in the board finding it necessary to increase the monthly dues to cover legal costs. Everyone loses except the lawyer representing a homeowner. -John A.
RESPONSE: I had to look up Bruce Cutler. I discovered he is the criminal defense lawyer who defended mobster John Gotti and is known for his hyper-aggressive courtroom antics. I don’t think we will get any mob lawyers attending board meetings but I have no doubt we will get aggressive ones. You’re right, only the lawyers win if this passes.
Hindenburg #16. As a homeowner…..I SUPPORT this bill 100%. Board attorneys come to board meetings, so should a private attorney be allowed to attend. Right now HOA boards one sided against homeowners who have no choice in being members, and no representation from the government when boards are abusive and non conforming to the governing documents. I pray this bill is passed. -Rebecca C.
RESPONSE: You’re dead wrong on members not having representation. They already have the right to hire lawyers and, believe me, they do. We deal with threatening letters all the time and advise boards on the proper course of action. That might mean telling a board to shape up or advising them how to deal with a bully homeowner. Creating a lawyer free-for-all at board meetings is not the answer.
Hindenburg #17. Quite honestly, I am in favor of the Wagner bill at this point. I am a retired Los Angeles Police Detective 31 years and wonder why an unqualified person was re-elected and as president told me, expletive, he never heard of the Davis-Stirling Act and would run the association like he wanted to. -Harold R.
RESPONSE: The problem you describe is one created by and perpetuated by the membership. They elected him because no one else is willing to sacrifice their time to serve on the board. Sending lawyers to board meetings will not fix this problem, it will only make it worse.
Hindenburg #18. As the past president of an HOA I know that having an attorney at board meetings would severely limit participation not only in the meeting but on standing committees and the board itself. Thank you for drawing our attention to this important matter. -Joshua R.
Hindenburg #19. Nanny GOVT in our community. Another law mandating how we should live in our neighborhood. Four other dispute remedies already exist. Where’s the big problem? -SD
RESPONSE: Wagner is attempting a costly fix a problem that does not exist.
Hindenburg #20. AB 1720 would violate our bylaws in that only shareholders are allowed to attend board meetings of our coop. I can just see how a shareholder close to being adjudged a vexatious litigant would bring activities to a halt. -Eric D.
RESPONSE: Mr. Wagner’s bill will override all governing documents in the state and invade private meetings. He must think associations have governmental immunities and board members are paid professionals with large staffs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Boards are staffed by volunteers who would just as soon resign than be further abused by an invasion of lawyers. This bill will not benefit anyone except lawyers.
Hindenburg #21. Regarding the latest newsletter (which I find truly worthwhile reading), allowing lawyers into the inner sanctum comes about because of the abuse of both the board of directors and some of the association members who don’t like the rules. Boards use executive sessions to obscure too many important issues. Why can’t we all get along? -Ken W.
RESPONSE: Allowing lawyers to attend board meetings will only drive more issues into executive session. AB 1720 does not solve problems, it only creates more.
Hindenburg #22. Great newsletter! The Hindenburg was a great analogy. -Laura W.
Hindenburg #23. Thank you for your newsletter regarding AB 1720. I agree with all your comments. I receive a lot of praise from homeowners for serving as a board member. I recognize that things don’t always run smoothly in our community of 330 homes and I stay cheerful when problems have to be dealt with. But, as a volunteer, I’d resign the second a homeowner sent their lawyer to a board meeting. Nobody is paying me for that kind of hassle! –Mark H.
RESPONSE: That is exactly my concern. It is already incredibly difficult to find qualified members willing to sacrifice their time to serve on the board. Who would want to do it with lawyers publicly breathing down their necks?
Hindenburg #24. The bill does not state that a member’s attorney can speak at a meeting; neither does it declare said attorney may not speak at a meeting. The specter of bullying and lecturing seems less than factual. –Dan M.
RESPONSE: By the nature of our profession, lawyers are advocates. What is the point of creating legislation allowing attorneys to attend meetings if they can’t speak for their clients? Even if the bill were amended to prohibit lawyers from speaking, their mere presence suppresses free and open discussion.
Hindenburg #25. This bill states “where possible,” the member shall give the board at least 48 hours advance written notice that his or her attorney will attend the board meeting. What does “where possible” mean? That is very confusing to me. –Patsy O.
ANSWER: Exactly! Give people a loophole and they will take it. Nothing good will come from this bill.
Hindenburg #26. Good letter as always. Just a side note, my family possesses a knife and a fork from the Hindenburg. My Great Uncle (grandmom’s brother) was stationed at Lakehurst when she blew up. The following days, all the ship’s belongings were picked up; the liner refused to take them, so those stationed there just hung onto them. Over the years, we’ve added some photos to the collection. You’re correct, this is a bad bill. -Joseph L.
RESPONSE: Having debris from a disaster brings it closer to home. Maybe Mr. Wagner can send us something from his. I urge everyone to oppose Wagner’s bill by sending an email to the Chair of the Housing & Community Development Committee at OpposeAB1720@caiclac.com.
Board Election. Regarding the “Board Election” question in your latest newsletter, why in the world would an HOA go to the trouble and possible expense of having an election that is uncontested? And then to top that off, they don’t even get the intended results–elected board members. If there are only three openings and you have three qualified applicants, they should be elected by acclamation. This is the only process that makes any sense in these types of situations, and eliminates the silliness of someone not being elected because they didn’t vote for themselves. If the HOA’s bylaws require a ballot vote, the first order of business is to change this rule. -Mike S.
RESPONSE: Your common sense approach is now in a bill before the Legislature–AB 1799. It would allow elections by acclamation when the election is uncontested. I will ask everyone to write letters in support when the time is right.
I am looking to hire an attorney for our busy Riverside office to help with our growing portfolio of large-scale community associations.
Candidates should have at least 2-5 years transactional legal experience. Litigation is a plus.
If you would like to apply or know a good candidate, please contact me by email.
We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or info@AdamsStirling.com.