Legal or not, a board of directors that unanimously consents to vote via email on a particular action, and then votes unanimously to take that action risks running afoul of the Elvis provision of politics.
That would be, considering the propensity of the public to think the worst of an otherwise harmless circumstance, the “Suspicious Minds” clause, which the King of Rock ‘n Roll explained in 1969 when he sang, “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”
The discussion the Ocean Pines Association Bylaws and Resolutions Committee had last week regarding a board of directors’ email vote to buy a sound system failed to recognize that, focusing as it did on the need to conform to the letter of the law.
While that’s fine, concerns about the legality of that proceeding and how to conduct similar situations in the future overlooks the bigger problem of creating an opportunity for criticism and mistrust.
As one state regulatory body observed of a completely legal, but out-of-the-room vote, “when a public body decides a matter, without discussion … the public body should not be startled when a member of the public infers that every aspect of the matter was discussed and decided in secret.”
As harmless and expedient as the sound system purchase vote might have been, the conduct of business of any kind out of public view invites criticism, unwarranted or otherwise, from a community known for challenging its governing members.
Considering all the hard work this board has done to restore the community’s confidence in the association’s system of management and government, risking its good standing just to save two or three hours via electronic voting doesn’t make sense.
While email votes on minor matters is efficient and allows the board to devote more time to concerns of greater import, nothing is more important than the public’s perception, especially when many of the public’s earlier suspicions of board motives and plans have finally been laid to rest.