BERLIN – In a tumultuous week in Ocean Pines, the general manager has been terminated, a board member has been appointed to temporarily take his place and another board member has resigned.
On Friday, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors voted 4-3 in closed session to terminate the management agreement between the association and General Manager Bob Thompson. Brett Hill, one of three board members elected in August, was appointed as interim general manager. Just days later, former board president Pat Renaud resigned from the board, citing personal reasons but admitting that he was not in favor of Thompson’s removal.
“I think it’s a mistake,” Renaud said Tuesday. “I thought he did a good job.”
Thompson, a longtime Pines resident and former board member himself, was hired as general manager in August 2010. Similar to what happened last week, shortly after the annual election in 2010, the board voted to terminate then-general manager Tom Olson’s contract. Though the board’s president did briefly serve as interim general manager, less than a week after Olson’s termination Thompson was named his replacement. He resigned from his position on the board and closed his financial practice to take the job.
Though his contract was renewed multiple times over the course of the next six years, several of the 12 candidates in this summer’s election were critical of Thompson and said the board needed to take a larger role in the management of the association.
Election results, revealing that Hill, Slobodan Trendic and Pat Supik would join the board, were announced Aug. 13. Thompson’s contract was terminated in a special meeting less than two weeks later.
While Thompson did not say he was surprised, he did point out that the vote came just as the Ocean Pines Association had completed one of its most successful fiscal years. He said that during his six years as manager, the only notable deficit had been the one created by the extensive work on the golf greens that resulted in lengthy course closures. He says he appreciates the opportunity he’s had to serve the community he’s spent 26 years in and is glad he’s leaving the association on a high note.
“I’m proud of my time as general manager,” he said. “I’m really proud of the team we were able to build. Even though I’m moving on I leave behind a team able to move forward in a positive direction.”
Thompson, who has a background in banking and finance but also devoted many years to military service, hasn’t decided what he’ll do next. He has time to think about it, as the terms of his contract allow for him to continue to receive a salary and benefits from the association for another nine months, according to board member Cheryl Jacobs.
“There were options in terms of how to handle the general manager’s contract,” she said. “The option that was selected was to terminate for convenience which will cost the association a good bit of money. There was an option in the contract to renegotiate. That was not chosen.”
When asked why the board came to appoint Hill as the interim general manager following the vote on Thompson’s contract, Jacobs said she didn’t know.
“I have no clue,” she said. “That was the president. It was an interesting choice given he’s the only board member currently employed full time.”
When asked why Hill, the CEO of a telecommunications real estate investment trust, was chosen, Herrick said he was suited to the task.
“When a general manager is removed from office, the president, or any other director or any other person, may assume the duties of the general manager on a temporary basis,” Herrick said. “It is believed Brett Hill has the proper background, skills and credentials that would be best suited to resume the role of general manager at this time.”
Hill, who moved to the Pines fulltime in 2015, said he would not be participating in interviews this week but issued a statement on his Facebook page thanking residents for electing him to the board and expressing his confidence in the direction the association was headed.
“When I was elected two weeks ago, I would never thought in such a short period of time my peers would ask me to step up and serve the community as an interim general manager,” he wrote. “I am very confident in the staff of our association and I firmly believe that the community is in a strong position. This community is not run by one person, but a large staff that possess a wide range of skills and deep knowledge base… That staff will still be here, as it was during the last general manager change, continuing to support our daily operations.”
He said the next few months would allow the community to take a fresh look at its future plans.
“I believe the short tenure of the new board has already shown we have a great leadership team,” he said. “We took aggressive steps early in the board year to start setting our financial plans, commenced budget reform and project evaluations, and we implemented measures to begin moving our community forward. I am honored to work with a team of such fine individuals, and know with their support, we will quickly move to bring the best solution for the management of the association.”
According to Herrick, Hill has met with association employees to explain what transpired Friday.
“The board will, during the next few weeks, collectively assess our needs and move our community forward by quickly deciding on the best solution for the management of the association,” Herrick said. “During this time, the board and staff will continue to act and complete all projects already in progress.”
As for the board vacancy created by Renaud’s resignation, Herrick says it will be filled by a majority vote of the remaining board within 30 days. In the past, the next highest vote getter in the latest election has been offered the position.