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OPA owners can see audit report

By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer

(June 6, 2019) The final chapter of one of the more painful episodes in Ocean Pines Association business has been written and property owners will be able to see for themselves next week what its authors, a team of forensic accountants, found in their year-long examination of the association’s books.

The forensic audit, ordered a year ago by the board of directors amidst rumors of theft, malfeasance and mismanagement, has been turned over to the board, which, in turn, have made the report available to property owners as of this Wednesday.

During the monthly board meeting last Saturday, the directors agreed with Director Frank Daly’s motion “To make arrangements for a controlled distribution of the complete forensic audit, without redactions, to all assessment recipients beginning June 10, 2019.”

The audit was ordered last April after former acting General Manager Brett Hill made accusations of widespread theft, corruption and fraud within the association’s management ranks. These allegations resulted in the board authorizing the Baltimore accounting firm Gross, Mendelsohn & Associates to examine the food & beverage operations as well as the Public Works Department.

Apparently, the firm’s investigation firm found no criminal behavior, or if it did, no announcement to that effect has been made. Altogether, the financial probe cost about $200,000, according to Daly.

“The purpose of a forensic audit is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed,” he said. “It’s done. It’s time for you to read it. I want you to read it. I don’t want one sentence redacted. I don’t want one name redacted. I don’t want one word redacted, because the most important thing that you can have is faith and trust that, when you give us money … it has been handled properly and efficiently, and to your best interest.”

Director Tom Piatti opposed Daly’s suggested delivery methods and suggested “a different pathway to get this out to the public.”

Piatti proposed an amendment to Daly’s motion “To direct the general manager to have staff print a minimum of 25 copies of the forensic audit report for pickup by members at no cost, starting on Wednesday, June 5, and for copies to be mailed to members upon written or emailed request.”

The audit will not be available for residents to review on the association website, with Piatti contending it would not be proper to post the full report online. But, he continued, his approach to making the information available would keep Ocean Pines in compliance with the Maryland Homeowners Association Act.

President Doug Parks, however, argued that such delivery methods differed from similar practices regarding contracts, and would set a precedent “that doesn’t need to be set.”

“There’s a mechanism in place … both from an OPA perspective and a Maryland HOA perspective that, if you want information, you request it and it’s provided to you,” he said. “At the risk of diminishing the importance of the forensic audit, I treat it as just another one of the documents that’s collateral for this organization.”

Directors voted 4-1 for the original motion as amended, with Parks opposed.