Venit hosts gathering for board members and candidates
Opportunity for candidates to get to know each other, board members
By Chip Bertino
Six current Ocean Pines Association (OPA) board members and six OPA board candidates mingled informally last Thursday evening at the home of board member Mark Venit.
The intent of the gathering, according to Mr. Venit, was for everyone to meet one another, share ideas and ask questions to learn about the "issues behind the issues" important to the community.
In addition to Mr. Venit, incumbent board members Dan Stachurski, Heather Cook, Glenn Duffy, Tom Sandusky and George Coleburn were there. Among the ten declared candidates running for the two available positions on the board, Janet Kelly, Norm Katz, Ron Leidner, John Reid, Reid Sterrett and Chris Wareing attended as did some members of the local media.
The event was casual. There was no agenda, no program and no speeches. Candidates and current board members talked about various topics throughout the gathering that lasted a little more than two hours.
The idea to hold such a gathering was something Mr. Venit felt was important so that candidates could begin to get a handle on the issues before the community and the responsibilities of serving on the board. However his decision to hold such an event drew criticism from some of his fellow board members.
Prior to the gathering a dust-up occurred between Mr. Venit and Ms. Cook. In response to the e-mail invitation sent out by Mr. Venit on May 31 to the candidates and also sent to board members and local media, Ms. Cook voiced opposition to holding such an event.
In her reply Ms. Cook said "to try to create an equal playing field for all the candidates to learn from each other and the Directors by hosting an informal get-together in your home is setting precedent with which other Boards may not agree and with good reason."
In a return e-mail Mr. Venit dismissed the concern that such an event would be precedent setting saying, "So what?" and further questioned whether setting a precedent was "unlawful, immoral or fattening?"
According to Mr. Stachurski, OPA board president, there are no bylaws regulating the behavior on sitting OPA directors during a campaign. They are, by definition, qualified OPA property owners and have the same rights and privileges as any other property owner with respect to electing new directors.
Continuing in her response to Mr.Venit's e-mail, Ms. Cook said she could not imagine candidates desiring to meet with fellow competitors in an informal setting to share their ideas during the campaign. She also questioned if at least four directors attend the gathering would that constitute a quorum in which the board president would preside.
Mr. Venit responded that "apparently five candidates feel differently." Six candidates ultimately attended.
With regard to the assertion that if a quorum were present the board president would have to preside, Mr. Venit responded that if that were the case the Veteran's Memorial dedication that took place Memorial Day should have either been cancelled or four directors should have stayed away so as not give the appearance of a board meeting.
In a subsequent e-mail, Mr. Sandusky questioned whether the meeting was in violation of the Maryland Homeowners Association.
The Annotated Code of Maryland Real Property, Article Title 11B, Maryland Homeowners Act has no provisions discussing what constitutes a meeting.
In her e-mail, Ms. Cooke questioned Mr. Venit as to whether he really wanted to go through with the event and wrote, "Let the cream rise to the top and whoever is victorious, then the Board should welcome [them] with open arms and assist in their training as was done last year."
Mr. Venit responded that his view was different than Ms. Cook's and that he would have preferred that the board as a whole had hosted such an event.
During a conversation with The Courier prior to the gathering Ms. Cook said she believed that it was inappropriate to hold such an event in a board member's home and that it was patronizing to the candidates and was an attempt to the influence them.
However, the day after the gathering Ms. Cook said that she thought "it was a nice social gathering for the board and candidates to meet each other." She went on to say that based on the wording of the invitation the candidates may have had the expectation of something more structured.
She said that in talking with the candidates she believes that all have something of value to bring to the board if they are elected.
Mr. Stachurski said the gathering was a good idea and expressed appreciation to Mr. Venit for "dreaming it up and making it happen." He also believes it should be an annual function hosted by the board.
Candidate Janet Kelly said the evening was fun and relaxed and that it was nice to see board members in a different venue.
Mr. Leidner found the evening informative and interesting while John Reid said it was nice to meet people he did not know.
Mr. Katz said he hopes the gathering is the start of a clean campaign. He also said some of the candidates need to do more homework on the issues confronting the community.
Mr. Sterrett said that he enjoyed himself and that it was nice seeing "everyone as human beings."
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