Commentary by Joe Reynolds
The Ocean Pines Board of Directors seems intent on breaking the letter and spirit of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act -- Section 11B-111 of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
At the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors regular meeting on November 16, 2004, the board passed a motion to hold a private executive meeting to discuss issues related to the Comprehensive Plan. This decision was made as the board and community embark on a debate about new buildings in Ocean Pines -- a debate that could commit the community to an $11+ million construction program over the coming years.
The motion to hold the private meeting was made by OPA President Dan Stachurski and seconded by Director Mark Venit. It called for the meeting to be held on January 31, 2005 at an “off-site” location. The purpose of the meeting would be to discuss various issues related to how the board may proceed with implementation of the Comprehensive Plan, including new infrastructure additions like a community hall, swimming pool, gymnasium, etc.
The motion was amended after Director Coleburn said going into private session had to be done from within a public session. The amendment essentially provided for legal counsel to provide an opinion about Coleburn's concern. The amended motion passed unanimously, with Directors Cook and Carey absent.
Assuming Coleburn is correct, the board could face a situation where it would meet someplace in Ocean City, for example, open a public meeting and then agree to go into closed executive session. Another option would be to hold a public meeting at the Community Hall, then drive over to
This idea of an off-site private meeting of the board to discuss the Comprehensive Plan is a bit troubling in many respects. Dan Stachurski said the board would justify the private meeting on the basis of (4)(viii) of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act that states a private meeting may be held if:
On an individually recorded affirmative vote of two-thirds of the board or committee members present, some other exceptional reason so compelling as to override the general public policy in favor of open meetings;
How on earth could a board discussion of what it might recommend or do in regard to new buildings be something "so compelling as to override the general public policy in favor of open meetings?" Such discussion is exactly the sort of activity the Act intended to keep from being held in private.
At root in all this may be a desire of the board to work out a public board policy relative to the Comprehensive Plan in private so it is not faced with having any potential disagreements aired in public. This violates the letter, intent, and spirit of the Homeowners Association Act.
Certainly there are valid topics for a closed meeting, but those should be spelled out in very specific detail prior to a closed meeting and the meeting should be limited to only those specific topics. In making a motion to hold the executive meeting, President Stachurski was anything but specific. He suggested the closed meeting would be for purposes of "reviewing what we have, where we are, where we stand." It doesn’t get any broader in scope than that.
As it stands, the executive closed session is essentially open to any and all discussion of the Comprehensive Plan -- a clear abuse of the intent of 4-viii of the Homeowners Association Act. It is also a violation of the trust of Ocean Pines Association members who elected these directors. The OPA Board of Directors should reconsider this ill advised private meeting.
Joe Reynolds, a 14-year resident of Ocean Pines, is founder of OceanPinesForum.com. Contact Joe at