(Oct. 5, 2017) The Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors on Friday postponed a motion on bulkhead work while the association attorney looks into the matter.
Last October, then interim general manager and director Brett Hill signed a contract for bulkhead work with Hi-Tide Marine Construction that appeared to grant the West Ocean City company five-year, exclusive rights. Hill resigned from the board last month.
However, Board President Doug Parks said last month the contract was for emergency bulkhead work – and not necessarily replacement.
“The intent was to have a contractor on retainer to address issues if/when they arose,” Parks said at the time. “The bulkhead replacement initiative is a separate long-term effort to address the requirements for maintaining the bulkheads as they approach the end of their product use life.”
The agenda of the regular board meeting on Friday included a motion, to be introduced by Director Ted Moroney, that would have notified Hi-Tide “they are to continue with emergency work but are not to incur any other costs other than emergency work costs at this time.”
The motion continued, “The GM shall develop a proposed Bulkhead Replacement plan, review the existing and proposed (if any) Bulkhead contract(s) and report back with a status report in sixty days.”
The background explaining the motion said, “A contract was issued that was represented as emergency work only. A review of the contract indicates that it covers all bulkhead work for the next five years.”
In the motion, Moroney wrote the contract was not specific in its terms and conditions and “exceeded the spending authority allowed without Board approval.”
“It is in the best interest of OPA to continue emergency work, while allowing the GM to review in detail the specifics of what is being provided, and report back to the Board,” the motion stated.
Ocean City attorney Steve Rakow was present during the meeting, representing both a homeowner and Hi-Tide. Rakow said the homeowner’s bulkhead had not been repaired or replaced in nearly two decades.
“It had been promised for over a year now that Ocean Pines would take care of this and nothing has been done,” Rakow said. “Repeated attempts to work through Mr. Hill last year were simply met with a lot of stonewalling, delays and excuses.
“This board has a fiduciary duty to make sure that all those bulkheads are replaced in those areas that Ocean Pines is responsible for,” he said. “Since my client has owned the house, [for] over 18 years, no work has been done on his bulkhead. It is failing. It needs to be done.”
Rakow said Facilities Manager Kevin Layfield told him “permits were approved and Hi-Tide was ready to go” to fix the issue.
He added, “There is an enforceable contract between Hi-Tide and Ocean Pines that Hi-Tide has the emergency repair work for the bulkhead.”
“That’s a valid, enforceable contract executed by Mr. Hill in his apparent authority to act on behalf of the association and Hi-Tide intends to enforce that contract,” Rakow said. “I would encourage the board to follow through on that.”
When the motion came up for discussion, Moroney moved to table it until “after our closed session to discuss contractual obligation.”
Roughly three hours later, the directors came back into open session and Moroney moved to “postpone action on the bulkhead motion, indefinitely.”
There was no discussion and the vote was unanimous. Director Cheryl Jacobs then moved to adjourn.
Following the meeting, Parks, attempted to explain what occurred.
“The information that was presented in closed session, from legal counsel, allowed us to rethink the approach in a much more effective way,” he said. “The way we had thought we wanted to address the issue, by this motion, was actually advised by counsel that there was a better way to do it.
“At the end of the day, counsel is taking care of it on his end and this motion is basically just going to say ‘tabled indefinitely.’ It may eventually get cancelled, but for right now, until we can get more information … we’re just going to leave it on the table,” Parks added.
Parks said Ocean Pines legal advisors were on the phone during the closed meeting.
“There’s a different way to address the emergency repairs,” he said. “We’re following counsel’s advice and that is being addressed as we speak … that process is now moving forward a little bit differently, with the same goal of addressing the emergency repair.
“That was the intent of the original motion – we’re just going to do it in a little bit more effective and appropriate way,” he added.
Whether Hi-Tide would be a part of that is “TBD (to be determined) at this point,” Parks said.
Rakow, reached for comment on Monday, said he was not part of the closed session and declined to comment further.