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CCOC Decision Summary

#47-07, Zich v. Decoverly I Homeowners Association (June 5, 2008) (Panel: Hitchens, Maloney, Negro)

The homeowner (HO) claimed that the homeowner association (HOA) board of directors was holding closed meetings in violation of the law.

The evidence before the Hearing Panel showed that the board had closed 2 recent meetings for the purpose of discussing other cases currently pending before the CCOC with its manager.  These cases involved architectural disputes.  At one of these sessions the board also discussed a third architectural dispute that did not involve any legal action.  The board's minutes showed that the board discussed those matters but did not show the vote of the board to close the meetings nor did the minutes state on what legal grounds the board was closing the meetings.

The Hearing Panel held that the board could properly close its meetings to discuss cases pending with the CCOC with its property manager.The Panel ruled that disputes filed with the CCOC constituted "litigation" within the meaning of the open meetings provisions of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. � 11B-111), and that the property manager was one of the persons listed in the law with whom the board could meet in private to discuss the litigation.

However, the Hearing Panel also held that it was not legal for the board to close its meetings for the purpose of discussing an architectural dispute when no litigation over that dispute was either pending or threatened.  The Panel reasoned that rulings on architectural disputes were a matter of public policy and public appearance affecting the entire community, and that unless the architectural dispute also involved some other matter for which the open meetings provisions specifically allowed the board to close the meeting, the board had to hold those discussions in open meetings.

The Panel also found that the board had violated the open meetings requirements by not including in its minutes a statement of the date, time, and purpose of closing the meeting, the vote of each board member on the motion to close the meeting, and the legal authority for closing the meeting.

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