The Fayette County Neighborhood Council (FCNC) has received inquiries about neighborhood association (NA) and homeowners association (HOA) involvement with political candidates, and we hope to provide guidance below. The topic is especially relevant as we enter “campaign season” and prepare to elect local, state, and federal officials in the November 2018 mid-term election.1. Should a neighborhood invite a political candidate to a neighborhood meeting?
The general answer is, “no.” It’s not appropriate to invite a candidate to a meeting unless all candidates receive an invitation. HOAs and NAs are nonprofit corporations and need to be scrupulously nonpartisan or risk losing nonprofit and corporate status. Losing that status could impact tax status and remove some limits on liability.
As a practical matter, no neighborhood is 100 percent behind a single candidate in a two-candidate or multiple-candidate race. Inviting a single candidate would be unfair and would have the potential to split a neighborhood organization.
2. What if a candidate just shows up for a meeting without an invitation?
It would be most appropriate to quietly ask the candidate to leave the meeting. If the candidate is a member of the NA or the HOA, it would be acceptable to allow them to stay with an understanding that there is to be no “politicking.”
3. What if an HOA or NA wants to invite its Council Member to a meeting to address an issue before Council and the Council Member is a candidate for office?
Such an invitation can be appropriate if the Council Member is restricted to addressing an issue or issues before the Council. That should be very limited, especially as an election approaches. It would be best to invite the other candidate or candidates as well on the same date. Once again, the association should inform the candidate(s) that there is to be no “politicking” at the meeting.
OPPORTUNITIES TO TALK TO CANDIDATES
HOAs and NAs may decide to host a candidate forum and invite all of the candidates to speak or answer questions, thus providing a service to the public. Neighborhoods can work together to assure a larger audience and can be especially helpful in hosting LFUCG council candidates, who generally receive less exposure than mayoral candidates.
Note that the FCNC is a co-sponsor of a mayoral forum on October 2 that will be open to all neighborhoods and could be broadcast in public libraries. You will receive detailed information about this forum as the time approaches. Please add this date to your calendar now so that you do not miss it!