Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quickie: Being on the Co-Op board

Being on a co-op's board of directors isn't always easy. If we're doing our jobs right, no one thanks us for doing the right things. If we're doing them wrong, there is no end to the complaints we receive. In our case, we are very happy that we have no active opposition from the outside and that we have a harmonious board.

Recently, one of our board members said that we should have backup for our two key positions: President and Treasurer. I agreed with her. However, this idea could also be seen as a threat. Wanting someone who could take over in case of an emergency is very important. But it could also be viewed as wanting to have an opposition slate ready to run things when the side in power is voted out. For a board as small as ours, we will need to take the systemic risk that comes with a small board, so that we can preserve the harmony we have in running things.

One of the tasks we now seem to be doing on a monthly basis is the vetting of new shareholders. We look at the financials of potential new residents and insure to the best of our abilities that new people will not become a financial drain to the co-op using objective standards. This is very important to us, as we can be sued if it can be determined that we broke the law in rejecting applicants.

There are mundane tasks that come up every year. For example, we have to develop yearly budgets, and monitor the performance of our vendors. Recently, we had to replace one of our vendors. Again, our decision was made focusing on finances and how the new vendor would best serve the needs of the co-op. Sometimes, a decision can be quick. And other times, a decision can take months to make and to implement. For example, changes which will be noticeable to (and that will affect) our shareholders are made carefully, as when we alter the internal or external appearance of our buildings.

Our co-op has one public meeting that is held every year. This meeting is the annual election of co-op board members. In the past, we had trouble collecting enough ballots to get a quorum to make the meeting and vote official. Now, we seem to have enough shareholders expressing an interest in the election to both send in their proxies or attend the meeting to cast their votes. As a form of providing answers to frequently asked questions, we have started to have yearly meetings where shareholders can ask questions of the board and other key people and get their answers. This is an important development. For example, shareholders unhappy with our board's inability to act on some issues can be told by our lawyer why we are forced to act as we do without us having to issue a reply that cause us problems in the future.

These public meetings can come at some personal risk.  A while back, I feared that my nosy neighbor could cause us problems by outing me as transgender at the public meeting. So I outed myself in private, and didn't have any problems either at the private meeting or the public meeting. Since I openly come and go as I please from my apartment as either Mario or Marian, there is not much this woman can do to me - especially now that she's moving out of the complex. Yet, I have to be careful, as my responsibilities as a co-op board member can affect her life. I must make sure that all my actions are taken with the best interests of the co-op shareholders in mind, and nothing more than that.

I could go on and on. But I'd rather finish off this entry and avoid the risk of going into any more details that could cross the line between public and private knowledge....

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