My advice is to Embrace your Inner Exhibitionist (Do it in the Open)
The current trend among laws around the country is to mandate that the vast majority of SOC meetings must be held in a public place, open to all members. Under many laws, members must be allowed to speak on all issues on the agenda for some minimum amount of time. Generally, the only exceptions to these rules involve legal meetings, which are required to be closed to maintain attorney-client confidentiality (the attorney represents the association itself, not the owners, and so the only ones who may be privy to the attorney’s advice are the officers and certain employees of the association. Otherwise privilege is broken, and any advice may be requested by third parties, such as the opposition in a lawsuit). But assuming that we’re talking about a typical board meeting, whether or not your documents, or the laws of your state require open meetings I would STRONGLY suggest that all of your meetings be open to members. Look at it this way–directors are democratically elected by the owners to represent the owners in a mirror of our own American governmental system. Nothing looks more corrupt than an elected government operating in secret 100% of the time. That’s why our own federal government is largely open to the press–look at TV channels like C-Span. This is just a very basic element that is core to our democracy, and ultimately SOCs are supposed to be mini representative democracies, themselves. The owner’s don’t have final say on decisions, but they are supposed to be able to contribute.
The main reason that boards fail to follow open meeting rules is because it’s inconvenient for volunteers, who ordinarily have their own lives to manage, to have to meet in a big formal meeting every time they want to make a decision about the community. In the modern age it’s tempting to simply send around an email to discuss issues among the board at their convenience. But remember that the main reason owners may attend meetings is so that they can comment and add their thoughts on issues that affect their community. Often, you will find that an owner has an unusual expertise in an area being discussed by the board, one where his or her advice is welcome and even essential. Or, you may find that a contrary position as presented by an owner is convincing enough to change the board’s mind about its course of action. Either way, it’s never a bad idea to allow owners to participate and comment as much as possible. Ultimately, it serves as a CYA for the board–actions taken at open board meetings, where owners are allowed to participate and comment, always carry a greater impression of propriety than a decision made in secret by a quiet cabal.