Q. Our board meetings have recently become contentious when it comes time to vote on approving leases and sales. One of the board members routinely disagrees with the other board members and has now formed the habit of “abstaining” from the vote, claiming she does not want any liability. Can this board member refuse to vote?
A. It is a common misconception that directors can “abstain” from voting, but it is only proper in limited instances. Robert’s Rules of Order provides that a member who does not have an opinion on an issue may abstain from voting on the issue. However, in community associations, a Board Member may only abstain from voting if he or she has a legitimate conflict of interest directly related to the issue or subject being considered. An example of a conflict of interest, which would allow a Director to abstain, would be if the Board was considering hiring the Director’s spouse to be the manager of the association. Barring a direct conflict of interest, it is improper for a Director to abstain. If this Board member continues this habit of refusing to vote, the members should consider pursuing a recall (removal) of that Board member.