OCEAN PINES – A group of residents is threatening a lawsuit if the Ocean Pines Association doesn’t hold a referendum on board spending.
An attorney representing START, the advocacy group started by former association board member Slobodan Trendic, sent the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) a letter Oct. 6 stating that a lawsuit would result if steps weren’t taken to hold a referendum. In August, Trendic submitted a petition asking the board to hold a referendum to reduce the board’s spending authority. OPA’s legal counsel deemed the petition invalid because of its wording.
“The OPA Board is in direct and clear violation of the By-Laws,” attorney Bruce Bright states in the Oct. 6 letter to OPA. “It has failed and refused to ‘hold a public hearing’ on the subject referendum.”
Members of START, which stands for Strategic planning, Transparency, Accountability and Trust, spent the summer collecting signatures on a petition to lower the board’s spending authority. Though OPA’s legal counsel determined that it had the necessary number of signatures at 808—more than the required 10%—OPA attorney Jeremy Tucker deemed the petition invalid because of its wording. Essentially, Tucker objected to the use of the word “should” in the petition question.
Bright’s letter points out that Trendic’s wording was based on the board’s own resolution related to petitions, which provides a format and sets forth a sample that uses the word should in the same manner it’s used in Trendic’s petition. The letter goes on to state that the 60-day period the board had to act on the petition expired Oct. 9.
“In my judgment, the Board’s position on this matter completely lacks any good faith basis, and the OPA and/or its Board members therefore have exposure to punitive damages and/or attorney’s fees incurred by my clients in this matter, including in any legal proceeding that my clients may be forced to file,” Bright’s letter reads.
Bright asks OPA to take steps to present Trendic’s question for referendum vote.
“Please respond to this letter within three business days with a substantive proposal as to how the OPA will resolve this matter and take steps to present the subject question for a referendum vote, at a properly convened meeting,” Bright writes. “If we do not receive a satisfactory response within that time frame, my office will proceed promptly to file suit and seek all available remedies.”
OPA officials confirmed they’d received the letter but declined to comment this week. According to Maryland’s online case search website, as of Thursday a lawsuit had not yet been filed.