On Thursday Sept 13, 2012, at the Annual General Meeting of our neighborhood association, the outgoing board will propose an amendment to the bylaws of the association that would restrict members’ access to information of our association.
Thankfully, the board cannot pass this amendment on its own. Membership must vote for it in order for it to pass.
1. I urge you to vote NO on this proposed amendment.
2. Please help spread the word about this issue before the meeting on Thursday.
The annual meeting is this Thursday, September 13 from 6:30 – 9:00PM. At the Inman Middle School Cafeteria.
Details, if you like details:
In this 3-point summary, I’ll explain the issue as I see it; why I think this proposal bad for us as members; and why I urge you to NOT vote for this proposal – vote it down.
1. WHAT ARE THE CURRENT BYLAWS AND WHAT ARE THE PROPOSED BYLAWS OF CONCERN?
All residents of Virginia-Highland over 18 years of age are members of the neighborhood association.
Under the current bylaws, any member can inspect all books and records of the association at any reasonable time.
But there is now a board-initiated proposal to change those bylaws that would restrict member access to the association’s books and records.
Under the proposal, members would no longer have access to some of the books and records of our association. Namely, information that the board considers “Proprietary information”.
The key here is what is the definition of the term “Proprietary information”?
Here’s what the bylaws say about that definition, buried further in the bylaws, AND THIS IS KEY:
“Proprietary Information” means all trade secrets, know-how, proprietary business methods, confidential information, and shall include, without limitation, agreements and databases developed by any Director or member of the Fundraising Committee in connection with the operation and management of Virginia Highland Summerfest, Tour of Homes, and other events of a similar nature.”
2. WHY I THINK THIS IS BAD FOR US AS MEMBERS
The problem with this is the potential for abuse. Pretty much *anything* the board doesn’t want members to know, can be considered “confidential”, at the board’s discretion, therefore making it “Proprietary information”.
The result: *any* information the board doesn’t want members to have access to, the board would have the power to ensure that members will not have access to it.
With no checks and balances.
If the board wants to say that some information, any information, is confidential, then it will be considered confidential. Doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe it’s something members should know about. But members will not have access to that information.
Our association has a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I would not want to see any possibility that important information about our association being restricted. There is too much potential for abuse.
There is a reason why governments in the U.S., including all governments in Georgia at state and local level, have open records laws: *as a check and balance on potential abuse by those who are elected to serve*.
Open records sunshine laws exist, because elected officials being able to operate at their own discretion in the shadows, rarely proves to be a good thing.
While the civic association is not a government entity, it most certainly serves in a quasi-governmental role: with officials elected by the neighborhood; who among other things, vote on variance requests, and make recommendations to city and county government about variance requests.
Here’s what I say: we as members ARE the association. This is an association of us.
If we as members want to know about the activities of our association, we should not be prevented from knowing about them.
With the possible exceptions of: discussions related to legal issues between the association and its counsel; and personell matters, which are often reasonably carved out. But that have some very narrow definitions.
With the lack of transparency we’ve seen from the board at various times over the past several years, this is going in the wrong direction, and very troubling indeed.
3. WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP THIS ABUSE:
We as members will decide if this proposal is passed or not passed.
If you agree with me that this proposed amendment is bad for us as members and shouldn’t pass, I urge you to attend the annual meeting this Thursday evening at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria and when this proposal comes up do the following:
* If there is discussion allowed from the floor, please vocally state your concerns and urge people to *not* vote for the proposed amendment.
* When it comes time to vote, I urge you to *not* vote for this proposal. Vote it down by attending and not voting for it.
So few people typically turn out for these elections, I worry that this proposed amendment will pass simply because of low turnout. Every vote matters.