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Coronavirus and Cooperative Annual Meetings

By AHC Attorney Merry Luong

In the past couple of weeks, the world has learned a great deal about COVID-19 and its exponential spread.  As everyone strives to flatten the curve, the CDC is currently urging a nationwide halt to all in-person gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.  In addition, many states, such as New York, California, New Jersey, and Connecticut, have already begun restricting restaurant and bar hours and services, prohibiting crowds of 50 or more, even private parties, and requiring closures of gyms and movie theatres.  But in the world of cooperatives, this is the time of year when annual meetings are held.  Many of our clients have turned to us for advice to comply with their cooperative’s governing documents in the wake of COVID-19. 

The advice we provide begins with each cooperative’s applicable state laws. Each cooperative must turn to its respective statute.  Some of these statutes mandate annual in person meetings.  How these statutes function in states that have declared a state of emergency or banned in person gatherings over 50 requires special consideration.  Second, cooperatives must turn to their bylaws.  Some bylaws, whether voluntarily or by statutory mandate, may also require annual in-person meetings Other bylaws provide alternatives to in-person meetings.  Finally, cooperatives should consider prudent practices and good sense.   

There is no need to unduly risk exposure of the virus to members, their families, and other individuals.   So when the law permits, it is advisable to seek viable alternatives to an in person annual meeting.