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Interview with Alan Silverman by AssociationHelpNow

Some community association boards just seem to get along and work together better than others. Is there something the property manager can do to make a board run more smoothly, cohesively and productively? We spoke with Alan Silverman, Chief Operating Officer of Del Val Realty & Property Management in Malvern, Pennsylvania, to find out his thoughts on managing a board.

According to Silverman, the property manager has a number of responsibilities with regard to the association’s board. First, the manager must guide and advise the board on legal matters and keep up with changes in the laws. The manager must also implement the policies of the board, convey policies and decisions to homeowners and handle collections of delinquent fees. Another responsibility of a manager is to prepare a draft budget for board review and approval, as well as advise on any budget variances.

In addition, it is the manager’s role to ensure the association’s governing documents are being adhered to and that the association is being properly governed per the documents. “It’s important to remind everybody what the goal is,” Silverman said. “The board has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the association based on the governing documents. It’s our responsibility as both managers and board members to treat everybody the same way.”

Silverman said he always tries to reiterate this to board members and also not to show favoritism to someone just because he or she is on the board. The board must follow the rules set by the governing documents that address the issue at hand so that everyone is treated equally.

What’s the best way a manager can foster positive teamwork among board members? Silverman said the most important thing is to keep the board focused and on task. “Make sure the board stays focused on the community and not personal agendas,” he noted.

If board members do not get along with each other on a personal level, Silverman suggests the manager should remind them to stick to the meeting’s agenda because that is where their responsibility lies. Silverman said it’s important to stop personal discussions and gossip immediately because they often lead to arguments.

Silverman added that it’s okay for board members to disagree with each other, which is not the same as not getting along for personal reasons. “Having a difference of opinion often prompts good discussion and debate and, hopefully as a result, a better decision will ultimately be made,” he said.

Of course, if a debate gets out of hand, Silverman recommends referring to “Robert’s Rules of Order”  According to Roberts Rule, parliamentary procedure is based on the consideration of the rights: of the majority, of the minority (especially a large minority greater than one-third), of individual members, of absentee members, of all of these groups taken together.

In order to keep the perception of favoritism out of the equation, Silverman suggests requiring multiple bids for community projects. 

Another way to encourage the board members to work together is by getting the entire board involved in all decisions, said Silverman. 

Alternatively, he noted, it may be beneficial instead to have a different board member assigned to oversee each project. That prevents the same board member from always taking care of every project by himself or herself. It allows board members to stay involved and knowledgeable, while at the same time, no single board member feels left out or like he or she is doing everything. “Each board is different, and we have to find what works best for that board,” Silverman said.

What can a manager do when there is a divided board? According to Silverman, sometimes all that can be done is to present all options and opinions and allow majority vote to rule. However, at the same time, it is important to ensure the board has all of the facts and information required to make an informed decision, he noted. The manager should also give his or her opinion and be able to justify it based on experience.

“Sometimes there are disagreements, which is why the board has an odd number of people,” said Silverman.

He explained that the exact number of board members required is specified by the association’s governing documents, but it will always be an odd number. The only time there might be an even number of people is in the event that a board member leaves for whatever reason. However, when this happens, the board can either call for a special election or appoint another homeowner to the board to finish out the term of the board member who left.

In conclusion, it’s important for a manager to communicate with the board and keep the members informed and educated, said Silverman. In addition, it’s best practice for a manager to keep the board on track by reminding members of their fiduciary responsibility to the association and that the association’s governing documents oversee the property, not personal opinion. 

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