Board Members Beware... Your Emails Probably Constitute an Association Record - Guest Blog by Dean Martin
Email is an incredibly useful tool for board members given everyone’s busy schedule and the number of issues that arise between board meetings. But, like many tools, email can be a dangerous thing if used improperly. Just remember, it is not unusual for owners to request certain association records, including any emails to or from board members about association business. They will argue that any such email is an association record; and they are therefor entitled to review and copy any such communication. Unit owners can always demand to see non-privileged association records. For Oregon association see ORS 100.480 and ORS 94.670. For Washington associations see RCW 64.32.170, RCW 64.34.372 (1), RCW 64.38.045. These days most people view emails as confidential communications and while they are certainly less public than Facebook posts or Tweets, they are not always confidential. Unfortunately, that false sense of confidentiality prompts many people to write things that they would never want to see on the front page of a newspaper or community newsletter. To avoid the disclosure of embarrassing or even damaging board emails, there are two basic steps each board member can take to protect themselves: 1. Create a separate email for association business. This is a good idea so that you can be certain you have not mixed personal and association emails. It also helps prevent a unit owner from requesting all of your personal email in order to make sure they see every email you sent that involved association business. Lastly, an association email account (e.g., VillaPointeTreasurer@gmail.com) allows for historical and institutional information to be passed down easily. 2, Do not mix personal and business information in the same email. Assume that every board email will ultimately be made public and draft them accordingly. Emails by and between board members or the manager are not the place for venting. They are business communications and should always be professional. Draft your board emails as a board member and keep in mind that all of the owners in your association may have the right to read what you are writing. A little vigilance goes a long way.