A few weeks ago, we blogged about how to run a successful annual meeting. I not so jokingly said the best way to make the meeting run smoothly was to order food. Lots of it. I also made it clear not to serve liquor. I wasn’t joking about that either. As many of us know, liquor tends to fuel the emotions and removes the filter from people’s tongues and brains. There is already so much pent up feelings at these annual meetings that adding liquor can only be equated to adding fuel to the fire.
In fact, in the case of Hidden Harbor Estates v. Norman, the Forth District Court of Appeals upheld a rule of the condominium board of directors who voted to preclude any alcoholic beverages in the clubhouse. The Court found the rule to be perfectly reasonable, and so do I.
Just recently, at one of our Condo Craze seminars, a new vendor got loaded and sexually harassed two wonderful attractive female friends of the show. He was escorted out, putting it nicely. At a recent bar b que I attended, after pounding back a few, some guy who appeared to be very friendly, went on to explain to me how not a single Jewish person died in the 9-11 tragedy in New York because “the Jews knew the planes were coming and signaled to each other in advance to stay home from work that day.” He was not escorted out so nicely. And that’s all I’ll confess to about that.
These fights took place at friendly events. It certainly begs the question as to what would happen if liquor was served at no so friendly events like an annual meeting. If liquor is to be served however, the association better purchase a liquor liability policy in advance.
Several times I have watched annual meetings or board meetings turn violent. Just this week, at one Board meeting I was pretty happy to have two Metro Dade Police Officers in attendance after I had to advise someone with a prior felony conviction that he’s now off the Board. In Hallandale a few years ago, I had to be escorted to my car at 1:00 a.m. by a police officer after a guy in a drunken stupor started screaming at me “You are my lawyer and you will do what I say”. He eventually did what the Hallandale Police said.
In a tough economy, it seems that everyone’s fuse is a little shorter. The situation is compounded in those communities that do a poor job keeping their owners advised of association matters throughout the year. The more communication, the less distrust amongst the owners of the Board and management, and even of the association attorney. The more communication, the greater likelihood of a smooth sailing annual meeting. A growing trend by associations is to have a police officer at the annual meeting. If there is any concern whatsoever that the meeting may become violent or the crowd or even specific individuals may become unruly, having a law enforcement officer at the meeting is a wonderful idea. Owners may scream in the face of Sally, the 94 year-old President, but they’re probably not going to do it if Joe Police Officer is sitting next to her. Better safe than sorry.