The shame is that the Oasis pool in Ocean Pines might have gone on operating as an adults-only facility for another 30 years if the board of directors hadn’t been made aware that the exclusion of children violated the Fair Housing Act.
Even then, if the Ocean Pines Association were to be cited at some point, no great legal difficulty would have ensued. The real danger in such cases is not the federal government, but the legal expense of fighting an unwinnable case.
The better option in that instance would be to agree immediately that the rules were wrong, to correct them accordingly and then pay the first-time offense fine of $16,000, per the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the act.
But that approach won’t work now, as the consequences of knowingly discriminating against “familial status” (households with children) might be different than pleading ignorance.
That’s why Board of Directors President Doug Parks did the smart thing Monday, when he said little about the Oasis Pool Working Group’s recommendations, other than to suggest that the proposed “behavior aspects” of the rules be pursued.
The act requires that pool rules apply equally to everyone, and that’s what the group, as advised by attorney Jim Almand, appears to have done with its recommendations.
Yet, the board and its other advisors should vet these suggestions carefully before committing to anything. Now that the directors know the law, pleading ignorance or even good intentions won’t provide any legal cover if a complaint is made.