Voices From The Readers

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Rental Overcrowding Needs Examination

Editor:

It is so good to hear that Ocean City officials are finally going to look into the number of persons who rent a single family residence in the residental parts of Ocean City.

For too many years, one person rents a house and fills it with untold numbers of renters. My hat is off to OC, if they finally do something about this.

If they don’t act, many of these areas will become slums in the future.

Joseph M Marx Sr.

Ocean City

Editor:

We live in a world where we can’t always count on honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, we have grown to distrust people, and even doubt the leaders and institutions we should be able to trust. We know from polls taken after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina that ethics still matters to the American people, but how do we restore trust once it has been lost?

As the Executive Director of Worcester County G.O.L.D. (Giving other Lives Dignity), Inc., I know that our fundraising challenge is made more difficult because donors are skeptical, or have been burned by well-meaning (or perhaps not so well-meaning) people who have taken their money and never made any effort to account for those funds. Fortunately, there is now a way to chip away donor skepticism and general public discontent with good nonprofit management.

Worcester County G.O.L.D. is proud to be one of the very few nonprofits on the Eastern Shore to be awarded the Seal of Excellence by the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations (Maryland Nonprofits). The award was given as a result of a rigorous review conducted by Maryland Nonprofits and a team of independent peer reviewers. The review found that Worcester County G.O.L.D. complies with the lofty standards outlined in the Maryland Nonprofits Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence lists 55 specific standards based on honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility and accountability.

Our small staff of two part-time directors and our Board of Directors spent six months working diligently to demonstrate compliance with these challenging Standards. We had the opportunity to integrate the comprehensive Standards into all of our activities and undergo an extremely rigorous review process. We are proud of the efforts of our board and staff which has led to Worcester County G.O.L.D. being awarded the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations Seal of excellence for successfully completing the voluntary certification program. I hope to see more organizations pursue compliance with the Standards for Excellence and help restore the public’s trust in nonprofit organizations.

Deborah S. Cole

Darlene Onley

(Cole is the organization’s director, while Onley is its assistant)

By-Law Package Deserves No Vote

Editor:

The by-laws revisions originating over 3 years ago was supposed to be to be only superficial changes to eliminate redundancy and clarify some language. But it has evolved into a complete rewrite. Three or four different Boards of Directors have snipped and picked and pulled apart our by-laws and substantially diminished our rights while substantially enhancing their own powers.

I would be the first one to agree that we have elected our Board to do a job and we should not hinder their ability to manage and maintain our infrastructure and amenities.. However, in my opinion our by-laws are the property owners “Bill of Rights”. That entitles us to some checks and balances.  The proposed by-laws revisions fail to advance that principle and in fact are regressive to that concept..

For example: By-laws section 5.14 defines the Board’s discretionary spending. Essentially it says the Board under various circumstances can spend up to 20% of annual charges (assessments) without requiring a referendum.

In 2000, Ocean Pines assessments were approximately $4 million and the 20% spending limit without triggering a referendum was approximately $800,000. Today our assessments are close to $7 million and the 20% spending limit without triggering a referendum is approximately $1.3 million. That far exceeds inflation. The referendum trigger will continue to grow as more lots are developed and with future increases in assessments. In addition, proposed language changes within the revisions will enable the Board, with just a little bit of creativity, to completely evade the 20% spending limit.  So in reality, if the by-laws revision is passed, the sky is the limit.

During public hearings on the by-laws a number of property owners and at least two Board members urged a revision of the referendum triggers. Suggestions made included a dollar cap on new projects and/or a lowering of the referendum trigger to 10% on new projects, and/or an index to inflation. Not one of the suggestions that were made would curtail the ability of our Board and GM to manage the affairs of the Pines and maintain our infrastructure.

Sometimes I get the feeling the Board thinks they are spending their money. But it is the property owner’s money they are spending and when it gets into the millions we should have a say on how they spend it.

The Board is looking into the possible sale of our Ocean City bayside property. I am not saying that is good or bad. But as it now stands, if the appraisal of the property is below 1.3 million dollars the Board can sell the property without a referendum. I want the right to vote pro or con on that or similar situations like another pool cover.

Proposed by-laws revisions also eliminate all standing committees and their term limits that are prescribed in the current by-laws. In my opinion the prescribed standing committees are part of our checks and balances. At the very least they enable input from knowledgeable property owners.

A good example of the fallacy of that proposed revision is an Ocean Pines incident of a few years ago. Although prescribed in our by-laws, our Board permitted our Risks Management Committee to fade away into obscurity by not appointing new members. As a result Ocean Pines insurance polices were renewed without adequate coverage.

Then an ex-employee sued us for a million dollars. Fortunately he lost his case. Had he won, it would have been a million dollars out of our pocket. After the fact, adequate insurance was acquired and an ad-hoc committee was appointed to review our risks and make recommendations. If we had an active standing Risks Management Committee as prescribed in the current by-laws that situation would have never come up.

The standing committees prescribed in our current by-laws are part of the property owner’s checks and balances. The standing committees are our implied watchdogs and they should not be taken away from us.

There are some good provisions in the proposed revisions. However, we must vote either yes or no on the entire package. In total, the negatives far outweigh the positives. I can’t give the proposed by-laws revisions a vote of confidence, so I will vote no. I think the by-laws revisions have to go back to the drawing board. In the words of Nancy Ragan, “just say no”.

Norman Katz

Ocean Pines

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