K.D. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We are members of a private community, not a condo association, but we hope you can help us. I attempted to videotape the annual election meeting this past Sunday. The Board objected strenuously, and called the police when I refused to remove the equipment. The police said since it is a private community they have the right to disallow filming. Filming is not addressed in our bylaws or rules at all. I want to try again. What do you think? Can I videotape legally? Also, the Board does not publish minutes.
Mister Condo replies:
K.D., I assume your private community is a Home Owners Association or HOA. HOA’s are common interest communities and not unlike condominiums in that there are democratically elected Directors who serve on the Board to govern the community and interpret the association by-laws. As such, there are some broader rules that apply to the governance process and it sounds like the local police have given you their interpretation of what can and can’t be done with regards to videotape. I am not surprised that your by-laws do not address the subject. But, I have some bigger questions for you.
It sounds to me like there is a lot more going on here than just your right to videotape. Unless there are specific rules that allow videotaping of the Board meeting, a volunteer serving on the Board would not necessarily want or expect to be videotaped. For the most part, volunteers aren’t TV stars; they are just humble folk trying to do their best to govern their communities.
I suspect the reason you want to videotape these meetings lies in the end of your question. You say that the Board does not publish minutes of their meetings. Videotaped or not, the Board needs to be very open in their dealings, especially when it comes to votes and how they are spending HOA funds or making rules that effect residents. If you feel you are being denied access to how the Board is operating, you may be able to bring suit against them to release the minutes of the meetings. Before you do that though, I would encourage you to simply write a letter to the association asking for a copy of recent minutes. If they refuse, contact an attorney who is versed in community association law. You can find a great list of them at http://www.caict.org/?page=Directory#Attorney – Law Firms.
K.D., I’m ready for my close-up now… Good luck!