By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(April 4, 2019) The Ocean Pines Board on Saturday voted 4-0 to appoint John Viola as general manager on an unpaid, volunteer basis.
Viola has served as chairman of the association’s budget and finance committee for several years. Last June, he was appointed association treasurer, a role he will apparently continue to fill.
Association Vice President Steve Tuttle made the motion to appoint Viola during the special emergency meeting, called during the prior evening. The session followed a two-hour town hall meeting and was also attended by Association President Doug Parks and Secretary Colette Horn.
Director Frank Daly participated by phone while two others, Esther Diller and Slobodan Trendic, could not attend.
In the motion, Tuttle said the appointment would comply with Ocean Pines bylaws that “require that the board of directors appoint an individual to carry out the duties of the general manager on a temporary basis.”
“John brings a wealth of business, financial and management experience to this role,” Tuttle said. “John Viola also has a significant knowledge of the Ocean Pines Association, having served the association in various capacities over the last several years.
“This is a voluntary, temporary appointment. It is very important that association members understand that John will not be a paid, full-time [interim general manager], but will handle the critical activities as needed to maintain the continued functioning of the OPA. John will be supported in this role by the Transition Management Team and the OPA staff, especially Michelle Bennett, Colby Phillips and Stephen Phillips,” he added.
Attorney Jeremy Tucker, who also participated by phone, recommended a friendly amendment to Tuttle’s motion “to appoint John Viola to assume the duties of a general manager on a temporary basis for a term to be determined by the board of directors in its sole discretion.”
Because Tucker is not on the board, Horn officially offered the friendly amendment. Votes to approve the amendment and the original motion as amended both passed unanimously.
Viola officially became the fourth Ocean Pines general manager in four years.
Bob Thompson was fired in August 2016 and replaced, on an acting basis, by then director Brett Hill. Hill served in that role from Aug. 26, 2016 until Sept. 11, 2017, when John Bailey came aboard after being selected from a pool of roughly one hundred applicants developed during a yearlong search. Bailey left the position in February.
During the town hall on Saturday, several people called for Colby Phillips to be appointed general manager. Currently the director of aquatics, parks and recreations and racquet sports, Phillips has helped oversee operations since Bailey departed, while Finance Director Steve Phillips has also seen his role elevated.
“We felt that, because of the success of the transition management team and Colby’s role, [golf director] John Malinowski’s role, Steve Phillips’ role and [Police] Chief [David] Massey’s role where that level of decision making on the day-to-day operations has been moved to the department head level, we’ve had tangible success that things are going well,” Parks said on Saturday.
“The idea here is, we didn’t want to upset the apple cart,” he continued. “Part of the reason of that success is because of Colby’s understanding and Steve’s understanding of both of them working together … there’s a lot of synergy there and the fact that that’s producing results, we felt like all we needed to do is have some oversight of that at a very hands-off level.”
Viola added he would have the authority to reevaluate the management structure, hinting Phillips could still see her role elevated.
“I will be making a recommendation on the management level once I assess it. That’s something you can expect,” he said.
Parks noted anyone appointed to the general manager role, even on a temporary basis, has the full authority of that office.
“We’re not limiting the role of the general manager in anyway, because we have to comply with our governing documents,” he said.
Hill was seemingly appointed on a temporary basis said to last only a few months, but then stayed on for more than a year. During his tenure, board members were hands off for the most part and the results were disastrous, as poor budgeting caused the association to accumulate a deficit in excess of $1 million.
Asked what, if any, safeguards would now be imposed, Parks noted a request for proposals had already gone out to outsource management.
Horn said the board would also look into a search firm “to possibly hire a GM, so we’re not just looking at management company options, we’re going to be looking at individual manager options.
“There will be a motion on [April] 6 regarding that,” Horn said.
“We’re not sitting on our hands this time. We recognize and learned from the sins of the past the importance of addressing the issue as soon as possible,” Parks said. “We have to adhere to the temporary notion and what we’ve created as the environment as per our governing documents.”
Viola added a time limit probably would be imposed during an internal staff meeting on Monday, “as well as the communication to make sure that this type of role that the board is looking at … is communicated, so that the community and the membership understands what I would be doing and that it would be different than a normal GM.”