What does a secretary of a board do in a community association?
The success of any organization depends on the quality and diligence that goes into its management and recordkeeping. The board of directors for community associations is required by law and association governing documents to maintain certain records for transparency's sake, which can be difficult without an experienced board secretary.
If you are new to community association management, you may be asking yourself, what does a secretary of a board do? The secretary is responsible for maintaining association records accurately, including meeting minutes, bylaws, and membership records.
What are the three duties of a secretary?
As the official record keeper for the association during meetings, the secretary is a historian working in the moment. Ten years in the future, any board member should be able to look back at the secretary’s meeting minutes and understand, in broad strokes at least, what was happening in the community at that time.
The secretary ensures consistency, and that information is being articulated accurately in any document, whether that’s a notice, newsletter, meeting minutes, or anything else that is part of the official record of the association,” explains Carli Gilchrist, community training and development manager at FirstService Residential. Although the secretary’s name may go on correspondence for the association, the onus for those tasks usually falls on professional staff if the community has onsite management. “We’re the drafters; they’re the proofers…the management staff may do the legwork, but having those checks and balances in place is important.”
- Administrative assistant
Every board, community, and state has different rules and regulations, so some secretaries may be responsible for ensuring that corporation paperwork is filed as required by the state. Other responsibilities may include affixing corporate seals when required for official or legal documents and serving as the witness when essential documents require signatures. During election time, the secretary will coordinate the distribution and collection of ballots and proxies as directed by the governing documents and applicable law.
What can happen if you don’t have the right secretary on your board?
Chaos. Legal problems. Confusion. Financial risks. These are just a few of the reasons it’s critical to understand what the secretary does and what qualities they should have—and to ensure that your association’s secretary understands them.
“I worked with one secretary, years ago, who had no clue what was expected of her and didn’t keep a single official record,” Gilchrist recalls. “There was no backup for any legal matters that needed to be addressed, all the way down to violation notices. She thought the manager would do it all, but it turned out the management company wasn’t holding up its end of the bargain because she wasn’t watching them! We took over management of the community and discovered that we couldn’t provide documentation for a lawsuit because none was kept, not letters to the homeowners, minutes of the approval to fine them, nothing. Ultimately, the board couldn’t hold the homeowners responsible and had to write off those fines as bad debt because the secretary didn’t do her job.”
What makes a good secretary?
Gilchrist says that in her 12 years of experience, the best secretaries have an excellent eye for detail, are organized and efficient, and always respond in a timely manner. “In my experience, teachers tend to make excellent secretaries,” she says. “They are really good at catching things that need to be restated for clarity when sent to the membership, very organized, and accustomed to running on schedule.”
“There’s a secretary I’ve been working with for years who is exceptional at proofreading and reframing thoughts, so they are communicated in the most effective way possible,” Gilchrist says. “At year-end, she reviews all the documentation we’ve kept and ensures that it is stored on the right sections of the website or other appropriate place.”
What does it mean to take meeting minutes?
The minutes of board meetings are essential because they allow members to refer back and review what was discussed at a previous meeting. Minutes should be accurate and concise and note the reasoning behind the board’s actions and the votes cast by each director present - including those who voted “yes” and those against it.
It can be helpful to use the management report or the meeting agenda to frame the minutes. If the management company takes the minutes and types them up, the secretary must approve them before submitting them to the board for approval at the next meeting.
Like all members of the executive committee, your board secretary bears much responsibility for the health and future of your community. Make sure that the right person is in the role to avoid mistakes, oversights, and future confusion.