Always get a lawyer involved early and often. Why? Because if you do it incorrectly you’ll likely make things a lot worse for you and your neighbors. More importantly, a board member generally does not have to face more than one removal petition during his or her term of office. So, an improper removal could prevent your neighbors from doing it correctly.
Assuming your community is not under declarant control (or the declarant has not appointed the board member in question), there are three different numbers that generally determine the success or failure to a removal petition. The first you’ll need to remember is an either-or: 25% or 100. In a community with one thousand or fewer members, a petition for removal of one or more board members must be signed by either at least 25% of the votes or by 100 (whichever is less). If your association has more than one thousand members, however, you only need ten percent. Keep in mind that these are the thresholds. You have to assume that the board, its property managers, and its attorneys are going to scrutinize your petition to try to invalidate it. If you have signatures of exactly 25%, you’re making their job easier for them.
The next number to remember is 20%. This is the percentage of owners necessary to establish quorum for purposes of a special meeting called for the purpose of removing a board member. Submitting a petition was just the first step. You need to mobilize your troops and keep them invested in the process. If you get 40% of the owners to sign a removal petition but only 10% show up at the special meeting, the process is over and you’ve lost.
You’ve gotten your 25%+ signatures, you’ve submitted a removal petition, and you’ve mustered your allies to show up at the board meeting so you pass the 20% threshold. You’re still not done. For the removal to be effective, a majority of those voting (either in person or by absentee ballot) must vote in favor of removal. So, the third number to remember is 51%. Obviously, if the board members subject to removal show up with more votes, then they will successfully defeat the removal petition.
These are the basics. Removing a board member can often be a complicated process. The statute, for example, imposes rigid timelines to be enforced. The law also says that a petition calling for the removal of a board member “shall not be submitted more than once during each term of office for that member.” It also entitles the prevailing party in any civil action filed regarding a removal to be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
There are a number of nuances in any removal petition and follow up questions, such as who fills the vacancies if successful? What happens if the board does not honor or challenges the petition? We highly recommend hiring a lawyer to walk you through the process to make sure it is done correctly. We cannot guarantee success in the removal process, but our professionals can guide you to avoid making mistakes that could continue to haunt you for months or even years.