Incumbent Brookhurst Village homeowners-association-board director Mohammed Alam campaigned for re-election at a September 2009 meeting. Former Brookhurst board president Veronica Cabrera, though no longer a resident, was there to campaign for a slate of candidates other than Alam.
During the meeting, Cabrera accused Alam of being "a dictator," adding that board funds went missing during his tenure. Alam then rose to ask what happened to a $100 rebate Cabrera had promised while she was president.
Cabrera sued Alam for slander, and the case eventually wound up before the state appeals court in Santa Ana, which found last week that free-speech protections extend to elections for governing boards of condo associations.
The panel added that no evidence was presented that Alam knowingly presented a falsehood--seeing as how the missing-rebates question was never resolved. In other words, all indications were Alam believed he was telling the truth. And he only rose to defend himself amid Cabrera's accusations.
I haven't read the actual ruling (the link to it in the story is broken) and don't follow California appellate law as closely these days. But it's consistent with a 2000 California Court of Appeal decision in Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club 85 Cal.App.4th 468 wherein the court ruled that letters published in an HOA newsletter critical of the HOA's manager were fair commentary on a matter of public interest and therefore not defamatory.