LIGHTS , CAMERAS, ACTION: HOW TO DEAL WITH DISRUPTIVE VIDEOING
Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame and this desire is becoming a reality that managers and boards have to deal with on a frequent basis. Call it a push for a more “open" board meeting or simply a tactic by an angry owner to make a board uncomfortable, the prevalence of videoing board meetings is on the rise. This article focuses on the statutes governing the videoing of meetings and discusses some practical approaches to setting up reasonable rules to allow for an orderly meeting.
Both Virginia Code § 55-79.75(B) (contained within the Virginia Condominium Act) and § 55-510.1(B) (contained within the Property Owners’ Association Act) states the following:
Any unit owner may record any portion of a meeting required to be open. The executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof conducting the meeting may adopt rules (i) governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings and (ii) requiring the unit owner recording the meeting to provide notice that the meeting is being recorded.
The General Assembly recognized the importance of open and accessible meetings by including the right of an owner to video a meeting in these statutes. Further, the General Assembly also recognized the potential problems and provided managers and their boards with a mechanism to control the misuse of video equipment at meetings.
It needs to be made very clear; owners do not have the right to video every meeting. The only meetings subject to being videoed are those “required to be open." “All meetings of the board of directors, including any subcommittee or other committee thereof, shall be open to all members of record" (See Virginia Code §55-79.75 and 55-510.1). Thus, the only meetings that are not “open" and are prohibited from being recorded are properly noticed executive sessions of the board of directors or any subcommittees (See Virginia Code §55-79.75(C) and 55-510.1(C)).
The plain language used in Virginia Code § 55-79.75(B) and § 55-510.1(B) only provides for a “unit owner" to video the meeting. Thus, any resolution regarding the use of video equipment at meetings should prohibit any nonunit owner from videoing any meetings. Often, when there is anger about issues facing an Association/Condominium it is not just the unit owners who become vocal. Tenants, surrounding neighbors, or even the local media want to get involved in the Association/Condominium’s internal debate and fuel the fires of contention. Having a video policy prohibiting nonunit owners from recording a meeting will help prevent this outside influence from becoming an additional distraction.
One of the many distractions for managers and boards occurs when one or more owners are wandering around the meeting videoing the meeting from every angle as if they were Steven Spielberg. A simple and effective way to prevent this distraction would be to pass a resolution requiring those who video a meeting to stay within a designated area during a meeting. The resolution should state that before the meeting the presiding officer will designate an area for those who wish to video the meeting. This will alleviate the distracting and potentially harassing roving cameraman at meetings.
Finally, any resolution regarding the use of video equipment should require the unit owner to provide written notice of his/her intent to record a meeting. Virginia Code § 55-79.75(B) and § 55-510.1(B) allow for the board to chose the manner and timeframe for the notice. I would suggest that the resolution require a member to provide forty-eight (48) hours written notice to the president or property manager of his/her intent to record the meeting. This will allow the manager or board time to think about and prepare for the number of cameras that will be in use to best designate an area for videoing the meeting.
The next question would be, “How does a board enforce these rules if the owners ignore them?" Good question. Any member violating the rules properly adopted by the board should be subject to a fifty dollar ($50) fine to be treated as an assessment against the member's lot. Virginia Code § 55-513 and §55-79.80:2 grants the board the authority to “assess charges against any unit owner for any violation of the condominium instruments or of the rules or regulations promulgated pursuant thereto for which such unit owner or his family members, tenants, guests or other invitees are responsible." These assessments may only be levied after the member has been provided a due process hearing pursuant to the relevant governing documents and the notice and hearing requirements located at Virginia Code § 55-513 and §55-79.80:2.
Given the increasing use of videos at the meetings of Associations/Condominiums, it would be prudent to develop a policy now so as to prevent against the distraction of the roving cameraman.
Stephen P. Pfeiffer is an aggressive trial lawyer who efficiently and effectively navigates his clients through the legal system. Stephen has published several articles, presented lectures on various areas of the law and has even appeared on a nationally syndicated radio show discussing recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Stephen concentrates his practice on the following areas: Condominium/Home Association Law,Creditors' Rights and Collections, Landlord/Tenant and Civil Litigation.
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