Why are published agendas so important? Can't the board just amend the agenda at the meeting to talk about whatever it wants or whatever comes up?

No. The main point of the 2008 amendments to the Davis-Stirling CID Act was to limit board discussion only to those items contained in an agenda posted on common area at least four days prior to the meeting. This is another check on the arbitrary exercise of power because it requires directors to frame their meeting in advance and to telegraph to members exactly what issues are planned for discussion and prevents the board from acting on any other issue, subject to some exceptions.

Can a board be “tricky” and try to say something is an exception to the agenda rule and talk or vote on things not included in the agenda?

The exceptions are pretty strict as to decision making but less so in relation to “comments.” The board can ask fellow directors, committee members or the manager to make a report or otherwise respond to questions “from the floor.” And, if there are emergencies or late breaking situations requiring immediate action, in some situations, these can be acted on as well, even if not posted on the agenda. Boards should not use the exceptions to hide behind a failure to properly agendize a meeting.

How specific must the agenda be?

The Act doesn't say; the agenda should be specific enough to give members meaningful notice as to what might be discussed at a meeting. For example, a reference to “landscaping issues” may not really convey that the board will debate a complete renovation of common area trees and irrigation systems; a reference to “architectural matters” may not be adequate to communicate consideration of an owner's request to add a second story addition that would negatively impact neighbor privacy. On the other hand, agendas which are too specific may unnecessarily limit the board's ability to consider issues likely to come up.

In our experience, very few boards abused their power before the Act and few do so now. Still, the Open Meeting Act is a good law that helps directors and members focus on the key issues affecting the association. Posting of and respect for the notice and agenda requirements facilitates prudent decision making and confidence in the board's integrity. The law strikes a reasonable balance between the need for confidentiality and openness that is the hallmark of a well run organization.

Who establishes board meeting agendas?

The board. Unless an item is placed on the agenda, the board cannot take action on that item (with some “emergency” type exceptions) per Civil Code 1363.05(i). The decision to place something on the agenda is thus very significant and itself constitutes an action of the board. The board may delegate to the president or manager the ability to augment or delete agenda items.