Don’t Force Signature for Board Pledge
Setting a code of conduct for board members who are campaigning and asking all board candidates to pledge to follow it may reduce negativity, but remember that you shouldn’t try to require candidates to sign it. An association board has no authority to impose requirements for board candidates other than being in good standing, such as agreeing to a set of campaign standards. If you try to force candidates to sign the pledge or you disqualify candidates who refuse to sign the pledge, you may leave the association vulnerable to a lawsuit and maybe even liability.
So after you write up your pledge and code of campaign conduct, ask candidates to voluntarily sign the pledge. A voluntarily signed pledge should be legally valid, as long as the code included in it is fairly written.
Also, if a candidate refuses to sign the pledge or violates the pledge after signing it, don’t publicize that fact to members. If you do, you’ll give the appearance that the association is taking sides in the election. But a candidate’s refusal to sign the pledge or violation of it after signing it can become an issue for the campaign that other candidates can publicize to the membership. Because such publicity could hurt a candidate’s election chances, the threat of it could encourage candidates to sign and follow their pledge.
If your association’s governing documents say that the association can regulate campaign behavior (or if you amend your governing documents by a member vote to say so), you could probably require candidates to sign the pledge. But check with your attorney before doing so.
For more tips for drafting your own code of conduct and a model that you can adapt, see “Bring Out the Best from Members Campaigning for Board Seat,” available to subscribers here.