How Do I Prevent a Director From Taking a Position Resulting from an Improper Election?
The answer will depend on the association's bylaws and whether its rules regarding voting by the board of directors were followed. I suggest you consult a local attorney who can review all the documents and facts involved. A corporation is governed by a board of individuals known as directors who are elected by the shareholders. Directors may directly manage the corporation's affairs when the corporation is small, but when the corporation is large, directors primarily oversee the corporation's affairs and delegate the management activities to corporate officers. Directors usually receive a salary for their work on the corporate board, and directors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the corporation. These fiduciary duties require the directors to act with care toward the corporation, to act with loyalty toward the corporation, and to act within the confines of the law. A director who breaches this fiduciary duty may be sued by the shareholders and held personally liable for damages to the corporation.
The articles of incorporation or the corporate bylaws determine how an election is conducted. Directors hold meetings at regular intervals as defined in the corporate bylaws and, in addition, may also call special board meetings when needed. At board meetings, directors discuss issues affecting the corporation and make decisions about the corporation. Before the board can make a decision affecting the corporation, however, there must be a quorum, or certain minimum number of directors, present at the meeting. The precise number constituting a quorum may be determined by the bylaws or by statute.
The fiduciary duty held by directors requires them to act with due care, which means that the director must act reasonably to protect the corporation's best interests. Courts will find a breach of the fiduciary duty when a director engages in self-dealing or negligence. Self-dealing occurs when the director makes a decision on behalf of the corporation that simultaneously benefits the director's personal interests. For example, assume a director for a wholesale foods corporation also owns separately a grocery store. At a corporate board meeting, the director votes to reduce by fifty percent the cost of wholesale apples sold by the corporation to independent grocery stores. Such an act would likely benefit the director's grocery store and could hurt the corporation's profitability. A court would likely determine such an act to be a breach of the director's fiduciary duty toward the corporation.
Injunctive relief consists of a court order called an injunction, requiring an individual to do or not do a specific action. It must be proven that without the injunction, harm will occur which cannot be remedied by money damages. To issue a preliminary injunction, the courts typically require proof that
(1) the movant has a ‘strong’ likelihood of success on the merits;
(2) the movant would otherwise suffer irreparable injury;
(3) the issuance of a preliminary injunction wouldn't cause substantial harm to others; and
(4) the public interest would be served by issuance of a preliminary injunction.
A request for a declaratory judgment may be filed with the court, seeking to have a judicial declaration of the rights of parties involved. A petition for a declaratory judgment asks the court to define the legal relationship between the parties and their rights with respect to the matter before the court. It is used to determine the legal status of a situation, rather than the enforcement of the rights involved.
Please see the following FL statutes applicable to non-profit corporations:
617.0721 Voting by members.--
(1) Members are not entitled to vote except as conferred by the articles of incorporation or the bylaws.
(2) A member who is entitled to vote may vote in person or, unless the articles of incorporation or the bylaws otherwise provide, may vote by proxy executed in writing by the member or by his or her duly authorized attorney in fact. An appointment of a proxy is not valid after 11 months following the date of its execution unless otherwise provided in the proxy.
(a) If directors or officers are to be elected by members, the bylaws may provide that such elections may be conducted by mail.
(b) A corporation may reject a vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment if the secretary or other officer or agent authorized to tabulate votes, acting in good faith, has a reasonable basis for doubting the validity of the signature on it or the signatory's authority to sign for the member.
(3) If authorized by the board of directors, and subject to such guidelines and procedures as the board of directors may adopt, members and proxy holders who are not physically present at a meeting may, by means of remote communication:
(a) Participate in the meeting.
(b) Be deemed to be present in person and vote at the meeting if:
1. The corporation implements reasonable means to verify that each person deemed present and authorized to vote by means of remote communication is a member or proxy holder; and
2. The corporation implements reasonable measures to provide such members or proxy holders with a reasonable opportunity to participate in the meeting and to vote on matters submitted to the members, including an opportunity to communicate and to read or hear the proceedings of the meeting substantially concurrent with the proceedings.
If any member or proxy holder votes or takes other action by means of remote communication, a record of that member's participation in the meeting must be maintained by the corporation in accordance with s. 617.1601.
(4) If any corporation, whether for profit or not for profit, is a member of a corporation organized under this chapter, the chair of the board, president, any vice president, the secretary, or the treasurer of the member corporation, and any such officer or cashier or trust officer of a banking or trust corporation holding such membership, and any like officer of a foreign corporation whether for profit or not for profit, holding membership in a domestic corporation, shall be deemed by the corporation in which membership is held to have the authority to vote on behalf of the member corporation and to execute proxies and written waivers and consents in relation thereto, unless, before a vote is taken or a waiver or consent is acted upon, it appears pursuant to a certified copy of the bylaws or resolution of the board of directors or executive committee of the member corporation that such authority does not exist or is vested in some other officer or person. In the absence of such certification, a person executing any such proxies, waivers, or consents or presenting himself or herself at a meeting as one of such officers of a corporate member shall be, for the purposes of this section, conclusively deemed to be duly elected, qualified, and acting as such officer and to be fully authorized. In the case of conflicting representation, the corporate member shall be represented by its senior officer, in the order stated in this subsection.
(5) The articles of incorporation or the bylaws may provide that, in all elections for directors, every member entitled to vote has the right to cumulate his or her votes and to give one candidate a number of votes equal to the number of votes he or she could give if one director were being elected multiplied by the number of directors to be elected or to distribute such votes on the same principles among any number of such candidates. A corporation may not have cumulative voting unless such voting is expressly authorized in the articles of incorporation.
(6) If a corporation has no members or its members do not have the right to vote, the directors shall have the sole voting power.
(7) Subsections (1), (2), (5), and (6) do not apply to a corporation that is an association as defined in s. 720.301.
617.07401 Members' derivative actions.--
(1) A person may not commence a proceeding in the right of a domestic or foreign corporation unless the person was a member of the corporation when the transaction complained of occurred or unless the person became a member through transfer by operation of law from one who was a member at that time.
(2) A complaint in a proceeding brought in the right of a domestic or foreign corporation must be verified and allege with particularity the demand made to obtain action by the board of directors and that the demand was refused or ignored by the board of directors for at least 90 days after the date of the first demand unless, before the expiration of the 90 days, the person was notified in writing that the corporation rejected the demand, or unless irreparable injury to the corporation would result by waiting for the expiration of the 90-day period. If the corporation commences an investigation of the charges made in the demand or complaint, the court may stay any proceeding until the investigation is completed.
(3) The court may dismiss a derivative proceeding if, on motion by the corporation, the court finds that one of the groups specified in paragraphs (a)-(c) has made a good faith determination after conducting a reasonable investigation upon which its conclusions are based that the maintenance of the derivative suit is not in the best interests of the corporation. The corporation has the burden of proving the independence and good faith of the group making the determination and the reasonableness of the investigation. The determination shall be made by:
(a) A majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors, if the independent directors constitute a quorum;
(b) A majority vote of a committee consisting of two or more independent directors appointed by a majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors, whether or not such independent directors constitute a quorum; or
(c) A panel of one or more independent persons appointed by the court upon motion by the corporation.
(4) A proceeding commenced under this section may not be discontinued or settled without the approval of the court. If the court determines that a proposed discontinuance or settlement substantially affects the interest of the members of the corporation, or a class, series, or voting group of members, the court shall direct that notice be given to the members affected. The court may determine which party or parties to the proceeding shall bear the expense of giving the notice.
(5) Upon termination of the proceeding, the court may require the plaintiff to pay any defendant's reasonable expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred in defending the proceeding if it finds that the proceeding was commenced without reasonable cause.
(6) The court may award reasonable expenses for maintaining the proceeding, including reasonable attorney's fees, to a successful plaintiff or to the person commencing the proceeding who receives any relief, whether by judgment, compromise, or settlement, and may require that the person account for the remainder of any proceeds to the corporation; however, this subsection does not apply to any relief rendered for the benefit of injured members only and is limited to a recovery of the loss or damage of the injured members.
617.0809 Board vacancy.--
(1) Except as provided in s. 617.0808(1)(f), any vacancy occurring on the board of directors may be filled by the affirmative vote of the majority of the remaining directors, even though the remaining directors constitute less than a quorum, or by the sole remaining director or, if the vacancy is not so filled or if no director remains, by the members or, on the application of any person, by the circuit court of the county where the registered office of the corporation is located.
(2) Whenever a vacancy occurs with respect to a director elected by a class, chapter, unit, or group, the vacancy may be filled only by members of that class, chapter, unit, or group, or by a majority of the directors then in office elected by such class, chapter, unit, or group.
(3) The term of a director elected or appointed to fill a vacancy expires at the next annual meeting at which directors are elected. Any directorship to be filled by reason of an increase in the number of directors may be filled by the board of directors, but only for a term of office continuing until the next election of directors by the members or, if the corporation has no members or no members having the right to vote thereon, for such term of office as is provided in the articles of incorporation or the bylaws.
(4) A vacancy that will occur at a specific later date, by reason of a resignation effective at a later date under s. 617.0807 or otherwise, may be filled before the vacancy occurs. However, the new director may not take office until the vacancy occurs.