OCEAN PINES – The resident whose petition for a referendum was declared invalid is now suing the Ocean Pines Association.
In August, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) board of directors rejected a petition submitted by resident and former board member Slobodan Trendic regarding the board’s spending limit. Bruce Bright, Trendic’s attorney, has now filed a lawsuit in Worcester County Circuit Court to force the association to hold the referendum.
“The OPA board is in direct and clear violation of the bylaws and, in regard to plaintiff’s referendum petition, has acted in a manner directly and starkly inconsistent with its own Resolution B-07…,” the complaint filed by Bright reads.
Several months before August’s annual meeting of the association, Trendic and members of the advocacy group START (Strategic planning, Transparency, Accountability, Respect, Trust) started collecting signatures on a petition for referendum.
“Should OPA Bylaws Section 5.13.(d)(1) be amended to read ‘if the total estimated cost, capitalized in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, of any single capital expenditure exceeds One Million Dollars the proposed single capital expenditure SHALL require approval of the members by a referendum?’” read the question on the petition.
In the days following Trendic’s submission of the petition at the annual meeting, Jeremy Tucker, OPA’s legal counsel, said it did contain 808 validated signatures—a sufficient amount to trigger a referendum—but was worded wrong and so was being rejected. Tucker objected to the use of the word “should” in the petition.
Bright wrote to Tucker and the board in October stating his client’s intention to file suit if plans for a referendum weren’t made. The lawsuit was filed Friday in Worcester County Circuit Court.
The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief outlines the actions, or lack of, on OPA’s part, that led Trendic to take the issue to court. Bright writes that the petition met all of the necessary requirements.
“The purported ‘legal analysis’ of Tucker as adopted by the OPA board based on the use of the word ‘should’ in the petition is patently unfounded and, upon information and belief, is contrived to achieve the board’s desired (but improper) objective, which is to avoid a referendum vote on the question presented,” the complaint reads.
The complaint brings up the fact that Larry Perrone, a board member, discussed the petition effort at a town hall meeting in October and said that the board would not “voluntarily” go forward with a referendum because it did not support a reduction of the board’s spending limit.
“…this public admission by Perrone reveals that, whatever (incorrect) technical grounds may have been advanced by the board for refusing to recognize and act on the subject petition, the board is principally driven in its decision-making and actions on this matter by its opposition to the proposed spending limitation/threshold that’s at issue in the petition,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit asks for an injunction requiring OPA to hold the referendum as well as up to $75,000 to cover legal fees.
“… plaintiff, like the hundreds of other signers of the petition and all other members of the OPA, will be disenfranchised as to a matter of utmost importance to them, specifically the monetary threshold ($1 million) above which the board must obtain member/referendum approval for expenditures of OPA funds,” the complaint reads.
Doug Parks, OPA president, said that at the advice of its attorney the board did not comment on pending litigation.