Community Members Becoming Belligerent at Board Meetings

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“We are a co-op in CA (Santa Cruz County). We are having an issue with belligerent community members in board meetings that are held in a community building.  These members will not adhere to 4 minutes of time to speak per presenter, they are name calling, yelling, and threatening board and community members.  These members have become so disruptive that the board is not able to complete normal agenda items and there are major outstanding issues that need to be resolved.  These same members are so verbally abusive that no one wants to serve on the board anymore because they are afraid.  We have discussed having the community hire an off-duty police officer to attend our board meetings to keep peace.  I am wondering if this legal for us to do? Can we ask a belligerent, threatening member to leave a community meeting during a publicly held meeting and if this person refuses to leave can we legally have the police officer, if necessary, forcefully remove that person?

The offenders account for only a couple percent of our once beloved and wonderful community but they have banded together to cause chaos and tear the community apart with their bully antics.  I appreciate any help you might be able to provide as the situation has become way out of hand.”

Like many organizations, Co-op boards are meant to be run according to specified rules of parlaimentary procedure, which include important things like who gets to speak when, and for how long.  When people refuse to obey these rules, it can often be difficult to work around that, and sometimes you need to be creative.

You can certainly ask the people to leave until such time as they agree to obey the rules, and you can even adjourn the meeting to another time and refuse to admit them in the first place without an agreement to obey.  If these people object, their recourse would be to vote against you or to seek a court order admitting them to the meeting (but then you could argue to the court for reasonable limits on their participation).

Another option would be to have a closed or executive session for business that needs to be taken care of but cannot be handled in the open meeting.  Before you do so, however, check your co-op rules to determine whether and to what extent such a session is permitted.