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News

Quick gains in Yacht Club poll draws suspicion

8/30/12 | By Nathan Brunet, Staff Writer

OCEAN PINES – An employee or employees of the Ocean Pines Association apparently figured to tip an online poll more in favor of the community’s proposed $4.3 million Yacht Club project last weekend by signing on in favor the plan using an assumed name.

The plan is now being considered by members of the association in referendum balloting that began Aug. 10 and will end on Sept. 6.

Over the weekend, Joe Reynolds, Ocean Pines resident and administrator of oceanpinesforum.com, was notified by a forum member that it appeared his online poll had shifted quickly from a negative tilt to a 50-50 split between those who favored rebuilding the club to those who did not.

Suspicious, Reynolds investigated the origins of newly registered members and found, according to his post on Sunday, that 11 new accounts had been created between 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Friday.

Some of the registered names were nonsense or nicknames, but others were reportedly those of former and current OPA employees.

What seemed most odd to Reynolds was that all 11 accounts were created using the same IP address.

“The IP address of every individual is the same as the IP address for OPA’s Marketing & Public Relations,” Reynolds said in the post. He explained that while the IP address attributed to the new members was not directly traced to the department, it is the same IP address that sends out weekly emails written by the department to residents.

One of the new accounts was supposedly created by Kim Goldberg, who worked last year as the assistant for the Marketing & Public Relations department, but now lives in California.

“Unless I don’t remember flying home for a day, I did not go on that Web site to create an account. I didn’t even know there was a vote going on,” she said.

When Reynolds made his post on Sunday, he also contacted the OPA Board of Directors.

“I have been asking the staff and others to stop the hard sell on the [Yacht] Club because folks have already made up their minds by now. I will look into this,” said Ray Unger, OPA board vice president in an online reply to Reynold’s post.

When OPA officials dug into the matter, they found that a person or persons in their employee did indeed try to even things up on the poll.

“Our community is faced with a big decision with the Yacht Club. With the level of excitement and commitment for the project, we had an overly eager employee assist in 11 new joins on the forum and vote to support the new facility. While I appreciate the level of enthusiasm, it was not the right thing to do,” said Bob Thompson, general manager of the OPA.

Oceanpinesforum.com is not affiliated with the OPA. It is a Web site designed for residents to discuss issues surrounding the community. The online poll is not related to the actual referendum ballot and not necessarily indicative of where the voting stands.

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