OPA Releases Investigative Reports

OCEAN PINES – The Ocean Pines Association released two investigation reports last week detailing allegations made against the board’s president and concerns regarding a movement to oust the general manager.

Last week, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) released two investigation reports – one involving a review of the management team and another involving a recent complaint against President Larry Perrone.

Earlier this month, the association’s board directed legal counsel to draft both reports after community members raised concerns about how the investigations were handled. Director Frank Daly told the association’s membership at the time the statements would “provide maximum transparency to the community.”

The following is a summary of the items discussed in both investigation reports.

Complaint Highlights Discord Between Phillips, Perrone

In January, Director of Amenities and Operational Logistics Colby Phillips filed a complaint against Perrone alleging he had violated Resolution B-08, which addresses director and officer ethics and misconduct.

Following an investigation into the matter – and a closed board meeting in late January to discuss the complaint – the board found no violation had occurred. Phillips submitted her resignation on Feb. 16, ending a nearly seven-year tenure with OPA.

But in the days that followed, community members called on the association’s board to address its treatment of Phillips throughout the investigation process. There was also a motion to hold a special meeting for Perrone’s removal, though it was later withdrawn.

A summary of the investigation released last week shows Phillips submitted a B-08 complaint against Perrone with allegations the board president had yelled at her on multiple occasions and spoke to her in a “condescending manner.” Her examples of interactions with Perrone date as far back as last June.

“On January 4, 2021, Ms. Phillips had a meeting with Mr. Perrone, the General Manager, and another Ocean Pines employee to discuss the Bainbridge project,” one complaint reads. “Ms. Phillips recalled that Mr. Perrone asked a series of questions in a yelling voice. Ms. Phillips reported she pushed back stating to Mr. Perrone, ‘Why are you always yelling at me?’ Ms. Phillips recalled Mr. Perrone continued to disagree with her about the project in an aggressive and condescending manner.”

Phillips also alleged Perrone insinuated she was behind a smear campaign to get rid of General Manager John Viola and stated she could never be general manager because of her lack of financial background.

“On January 11, 2021, Ms. Phillips attended a meeting with the General Manager, Mr. Perrone, Ms. Horn, and the Human Resources Manager to discuss the management review report received by the Board,” another complaint reads. “Ms. Phillips found it objectionable that she was being counseled about allegations raised by other employees about her that were found to be unsubstantiated. Ms. Phillips felt the only reason she was being told the information was to make her feel bad and get her to quit.”

For his part, Perrone denied the allegations that he had yelled at Phillips, but acknowledged that he did make statements about her ability to hold the general manager position and expressed concerns about the Bainbridge improvement project.

“He acknowledged asking direct questions about the project,” the summary reads. “He believes that Ms. Phillips often failed to address his questions. He believes it is his duty as a Board member to scrutinize the project thoroughly to protect Ocean Pines.”

In January, Viola directed Michael Neary of Lerch, Early & Brewer to investigate the allegations. His findings – supported by witness statements from employees, the human resources manager, Viola, and Directors Doug Parks and Colette Horn – were submitted to the board on Jan. 28.

“The Board met in closed session on January 29, 2021 to consider the B-08 complaint filed by Ms. Horn,” the summary reads. “The Board found no B-08 violation. The Board announced the finding at a brief public meeting on February 4, 2021 as required by Resolution B-08.”

Report Probes Management Team, Effort To Undermine GM

Last August, the board authorized a review of management operations under Viola after hearing concerns employees and community members were working together “to oust the general manager.”

Neary’s report, submitted to the board in early December, included findings from his review with each member of the management team.

“The management report concluded that all members of the management team were working to support the General Manager and the interests of Ocean Pines,” a summary of the report reads. “Several members of the management team, however, expressed concerns that Ms. Phillips may have been involved directly or indirectly with OPA members’ efforts to undermine the General Manager leading up to the last election of the Board of Directors. No direct evidence corroborated the concerns raised.  The circumstantial evidence was insufficient to find that Ms. Phillips worked to undermine the General Manager.”

The summary also highlighted concerns from five employees that suggested Viola favored some departments over others.

“One group believed the General Manager favors the Golf Department and Recreation and Parks Department over Public Relations/Marketing and Amenities and Operational Logistics,” the summary reads. “Whereas another group reported the General Manager favors Amenities and Operational Logistics over others.”

The report also states Viola had no knowledge of any team member working against him, but noted some prior and current board members “were critical of him.”

“The General Manager did report concerns about confidential Ocean Pines information appearing in the press,” the summary reads. “Two specific incidents where confidential Ocean Pines information made it to the press involved information only disclosed to a core group of senior managers. No direct evidence pinpointed any member of the management team in particular as having leaked the confidential information to the press …”

The summary continues, “All members of the management team believed the team was working well together since the last Board election in August. The uncertainty surrounding whether a new Board would retain Mr. Viola seems to have fostered some of the suspicion and discord amongst staff.  The outcome of the election appeared to have been a calming influence on the management team.”

The summary continues, “The Board believed Ms. Phillips should know this information to allow her to take it into account as she continued to progress within the organization given that, at the time, she still sought advancement to the General Manager position.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.