Decision-Making Authority & Accountability Policy, 2007

Consensus 9 Sep 2007.  Replaces 2001 version.

Ultimate decision-making authority in the Takoma Village Cohousing Homeowners Association (TVCHA) resides with the membership as a whole. Decisions of the full membership supercede those of the board, teams (i.e., “committees” in the bylaws), interest groups, and individual members.

Teams and the Board (referred to as “Teams” throughout the policy) serve as mechanisms for carrying out the work of the community in ways that reflect the membership’s collective decisions. “Teams” also includes any permanent or temporary sub-groups formed by the membership.

Teams are responsible for ensuring that their members and sub-groups are functioning in accordance with this policy. Sub-groups are responsible for making recommendations to the appropriate team.

Individual Member Responsibilities in Decision Making

Members, as individuals, cannot implement decisions, donate tangible items to the common house or other facilities, or authorize expenditure of TVCHA funds outside of the team structure.

Members are responsible for keeping informed of team and membership decisions that affect them and for providing input on pending decisions using the team structure.

Members have the right and responsibility to raise questions and concerns about any decision being made by any team in a respectful manner and as early as possible in the decision-making process.

When expressing concerns about a decision, members should:

1. Communicate with the point person for the issue. It is hoped that most questions and concerns can be resolved at this level. It is the member’s responsibility to determine the appropriate point person for an issue and to contact that person directly before moving to step two.

2. If concerns remain, communicate with the point person for the relevant team.

3. If the issue point person or the team point person is not responsive, communicate with the ombudsperson appointed by the board, if any, or any board member.

4. If the member states to the Board that he or she believes the issue is still not resolved, the board is responsible for consulting the membership and resolving the issue.

Team Responsibilities in Decision Making

Teams are the primary means or entities for conducting TVCHA business including governance, maintenance, development of proposals, decision-making, implementation of decisions, and identification of work share tasks. Teams are empowered by the membership and must seek to reflect the values and desires of the membership. Teams are responsible for making decisions by consensus, with thought and participation by team members.

It is the responsibility of teams to proactively communicate with the community by posting notices of meetings, detailed agendas, and minutes to the tvc-members email listserve.

Team members who serve as point people are responsible for acknowledging the receipt of questions or concerns and letting individual members know when they can expect a response.

The level of input from the membership that is required before a team makes and implements a decision depends on the type of decision: (1) routine, (2) significant, (3) major, or (4) emergency.

1. Routine Decisions:

Teams may proceed on routine decisions by announcing discussion of the issue on their agendas, achieving consensus within the team, and posting the decision in their minutes. Before implementing the decision, the team must resolve any questions or concerns raised by an individual member.

Routine decisions involve necessary expenditures (e.g., utilities, elevator maintenance, insurance) of any amount approved in the team budget, or decisions that meet all of the following conditions:

• Involve minor expenditure of funds (< $1,000) within budget categories or line items that have been approved in the team budget,

• Do not involve changes to the use or appearance of common or limited common elements, and

• Are limited to the purview of one team.

If a member raises objections to the decision, and the team cannot resolve those objections, the member or the team can request that the decision be treated as “significant.”

Examples of Routine Decisions: selecting a contractor for an acoustical study, deciding the size of recycling and trash bins, setting technical specifications for web page design, organizing bulletin boards, purchasing kitchen equipment, scheduling meals.

2. Significant Decisions:

In general, significant decisions can be implemented by teams without consensus by the full membership and with or without discussion at a membership business meeting; however, teams must communicate clearly with the membership in all the following ways:

• In addition to posting an agenda item, announce to all members in a separate email that a potential decision is under discussion;

• Establish a clearly defined process for collecting and responding to comments, questions, and concerns. Individual members must have adequate time to comment, a specified time must be stated, and a response mechanism must be defined; and
• Document the process of receiving comments, questions, and concerns and address them in minutes or other communications.

If a member raises objections to the decision, and the team cannot resolve those objections, the member or the team can request that the decision be treated as “major.”

Significant decisions include those that meet at least one of the following criteria:

• Could not be resolved as “routine” decisions,

• Involve budgeted funds used for unbudgeted items,

• Involve expenditures of budgeted funds for specific items in the range of $1,000 to $5,000, including Reserve Funds.

• Involve changes in the use or appearance of common or limited common elements, or
• Require input from more than one team.

Examples of Significant Decisions: implementing recommendations of acoustical study, determining need for and use of common storage, changing the color of walls in the common house, creating new garden beds.

Examples of “clearly defined process” for collecting comments: Presenting options and asking members to mark their preference, requesting responses by email, survey via e-mail or hard copy to gather input, scheduling a discussion circle to promote dialogue.

3. Major Decisions

Teams must present major decisions to a membership business meeting to be made using the consensus process.

Major decisions include those that:

• Could not be resolved at the “routine” or “significant” decision level,
• Involve unbudgeted funds for unbudgeted items;
• Involve expenditure of funds above $5,000;
• Set policy, community rules, or precedents; or
• Involve issues on which members have expressed widely divergent values and views.

Examples of Major Decisions: Fencing the SE corner, policy on user’s fees, use of e-mail, budget allocations, increases in fees.

4. Emergency Decisions:

Emergency decisions are those where the health, safety, or security of residents or facilities will be endangered or damaged if action is not taken quickly. Emergency decisions should be made by as many team and/or board members as can be effectively included in the decision. If expenditure of amounts in excess of the budget is needed, a board member (preferably the treasurer and/or president) should be included in the decision.

The decision and its implications should be communicated to the membership as soon as possible.

Board Responsibility in Decision-Making

The Board’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to, ensuring that teams are following the wishes of the membership, posting meeting notices, agendas, and minutes, communicating decisions, and responding to individual members.

Evaluation

This policy will be reviewed within two years of the date of its last review. Such review may be limited to a discussion in a membership meeting to remind members of the provisions of the policy.

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History

June- July 2001. Policy initially drafted by Jean Hoff as Board President, 19 June 2001; reviewed by Sandra Hinson and revised for 20 June 2001 board meeting; revised to respond to board comments and reviewed by Debbi Reeves and Sharon Villines, 23 June 2001; revised for posting to main list, 1 July 2001.

July 2001. Discussed in Teams. Comments sent to Sharon Villines.

1 August 2001. Revised to incorporate comments and address questions and discussion by the Board. Revised by the board and placed on the agenda of the membership meeting.

3 August 2001. Distributed to tvc-members email list.

12 August 2001. Presented for consensus.

18 August 2001. Revised by the Board

26 August 2001. Presented for consensus .

16 September 2001. Revised by Jean Hoff

16 September 2001: Presented for consensus. Concern expressed by member who Will Stand Aside: The policy is overly procedural and does not reflect the neighborly value of co-housing where we talk to each other and make decisions through personal interactions.

Resolution: Respect the decision to stand aside and be certain to document from her the correct phrasing for her concern.

30 Sep 2001: Consent Achieved. Posted 30 Sep 2001

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Revision:

2005-2007 Subject of two year long process of reexamining decision making and the consensus process.

Discussed at two Membership Meetings (April 1, 2007 and one earlier). Proposed revised draft distributed to TVC-Members 7 Aug 2007 and discussed on 11 Aug 2007.

5 Sep and 9 Sep 2007: Revisions distributed and discussed.

9 Sep 2007: Consent achieved 9 Sep 9 2007.