That was a savvy call the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors made this week, when it decided not to count the ballots in this year’s board race until after a court hearing on Sept. 27.
By postponing the count, the board hedged its bets a bit while it waits to see how Circuit Court Judge Sidney Campen rules on the matter of would-be candidate Rick Farr’s property ownership status.
6Farr, who was initially certified to run in May, was disqualified in late July after the board ruled that he did not own his residence at the time of his filing. The legal title holder of the property at that point was a family trust of which he was a member, but did not lead.
Although Campen told the board at a hearing last month that it could proceed with its post-election tally, that put the directors in the awkward position of having to decide whether to count all ballots cast — including those for Farr — or just those of the candidates it viewed as legitimate.
The problem with the first scenario is the possibility that Farr racked up enough votes to win one of the two seats in the four-person contest, despite his board-declared ineligibility. The directors’ other option would be to stand fast on its disqualification decision, count all votes except Farr’s, and hope Campen doesn’t rule against them.
No matter which way the board might proceed with a ballot count, it would risk being embarrassed by: 1. having a legally ineligible candidate besting legitimate contenders; 2. having to recount the ballots to include those cast for a court-certified candidate, who wins; or, 3. Having a candidate declared qualified, but who loses, and then blames the loss on the board’s actions.
The are two ways the directors can come out of this looking good: the court disqualifies Farr and his vote totals remain unknown, or he is ruled to be eligible, but loses convincingly. Either could happen and is why the directors’ safest course politically is to do nothing until Campen issues his ruling.