By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(May 24, 2018) Whether former Ocean Pines Association director and interim general manager Brett Hill will be allowed to run for election to the board this year has yet to be decided, as the outcome will depend on a battle of minutiae involving association bylaws and other governing documents.
Multiple sources said the attorney for the Ocean Pines Board of Directors has a legal opinion stating Hill does not meet requirements to be a candidate, although requests to obtain of the copy of the opinion were not answered.
A press release on May 16 said Director Colette Horn, as the association secretary and with assistance from the assessment/membership coordinator, determined that nine candidates met eligibility requirements. One, who later turned out to be Hill, did not according to the release.
Hill, in an email last Wednesday, said that decision would “definitely be challenged.”
In a series of letters, Horn and Hill debated which sections of the governing documents were to be followed and how to interpret what seem to be conflicting rules.
For instance, Section 5.02(a) of the bylaws require candidates to meet voting requirements of Section 3.01(c), which includes paying assessments 35 days prior to the voting deadline on Aug. 8.
However, Section 5.02(d) of the bylaws requires the secretary, Horn, to “verify that the Association’s records as of May 15th support each candidate’s eligibility.”
Also, Resolution M-09, governing the search committee, states candidate eligibility must include “No unpaid annual charges as of May 15th of the year of the election.”
Hill, by his own admission, had not paid assessments as of Tuesday this week.
“The assessments aren’t late until May 31, and I most certainly will pay them. However, I don’t have $11 million in my bank account. So right now, those dollars serve me better in my custody instead of OPA’s until the point they officially become late,” he said in an email.
Additionally, he argued in a letter to Horn that other current and former candidates were treated differently.
“Your disqualification of me is not only legally wrong but appears to be personal,” he said. “This is the exact reason why I filed to run for the board. The board needs to be focused on managing the business of the community, not playing with resolutions to accomplish personal agendas.”
Horn replied that was not so.
“In this role, I am not making policy decisions. Rather, I am applying the requirements contained in the bylaws and the board adopted policies. Unfortunately, based on the OPA’s bylaws and polices, as of the close of business on May 15, 2018 you did not meet the eligibility requirements for candidacy to the board of directors,” she said.
“I can assure you I had no desire to invalidate any candidate’s eligibility,” she added. “My personal preference is to let the members to decide who should serve on the board of directors. But, based on the language of the bylaws and M-09, you did not meet the eligibility requirements for candidacy to the board and I could not verify your eligibility as a candidate. To do proceed otherwise, would be contrary to the language of the bylaws.”
Hill, on May 18, filed a complaint with the Maryland Attorney General’s office and on May 21 sent a letter to Horn, also forwarded to this paper, again crying foul.
“You responded to me on personal letterhead, and your treatment of me is unlike that of any other candidates, both this year and in years past. If your opinion is supported by counsel, please share that opinion publicly now, otherwise, I implore you to add me as the tenth candidate on the ballot as I am legally allowed to run,” Hill said.
“Your independent failure to take action now will jeopardize the election as a whole, which is certainly not something I want to do, but I will continue with legal action to fight for what is legally correct,” Hill added.
In statement sent to the Gazette, Horn said she was absolutely not discriminating against Hill.
“Contrary to Mr. Hill’s assertion, all of the nine other candidate registration forms were handled in the same way. Their verifications were accomplished through (1) inspection of the information they included on their candidate verification forms and any supporting documentation they attached to the form, and (2) through verification of member status and qualification to vote (i.e. Property ownership of record and status of Assessment payment) through OPA records as of close of business on May 15, 2018.”
She added, in an email on Tuesday, “I also will affirm that the verification decision was vetted by OPA Counsel prior to communicating it to Mr. Hill, as was any and all correspondence from me to Mr. Hill.”