Referendum Passed Limiting Ocean Pines Board Spending

OCEAN PINES – A referendum to reduce the board’s spending authority passed last week.

Last Friday, the Ocean Pines Elections Committee announced vote totals for the 2021 referendum, which asked homeowners to vote on a proposed bylaw change that limits board expenditure spending to $1 million without a referendum.

In a manual count held last week, the Elections Committee reported 2,531 votes in favor of the referendum and 1,358 votes against.

“The referendum has passed,” Elections Committee Chair Steve Habeger said.

According to the community’s bylaws, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors can spend up to 20% of assessments – which totals roughly $1.8 million in fiscal year 2020-2021 – on capital expenditures without a referendum. But last month, ballots were mailed to homeowners asking if the bylaws should be amended to lower that threshold to a fixed $1 million.

Ballots were due back on May 13 and counted at the Ocean Pines Community Center the next day.

“I want to take a second to thank the Elections Committee for the hard work they did in this process …,” President Larry Perrone said in a meeting of the association’s board last Saturday. “That committee was there from 10:30 counting ballots until 4 p.m. yesterday, and they did it all by hand. They did an outstanding job. I want to thank Steve Habeger and his team for a job well done.”

In 2019, former board director Slobodan Trendic filed a lawsuit against the association after its board rejected his petition to hold a referendum to lower the capital spending limit. And late last year, a Worcester County Circuit Court judge ruled the petition met OPA requirements and that the association was required to put the question to a vote.

Slobodan said this week the results of the referendum demonstrated the community’s desire to be involved in major financial decisions.

“In the last year board election, a total of 2,759 ballots were counted and in 2019 a total of 3,073,” he said. “And for this referendum a total of 3,889 ballots were counted. It is very telling that so many more members took part in the referendum process than in each of the two previous board elections. From my perspective it clearly says the members want the opportunity to voice their opinion on how the association’s money is being spent. And they wish to have some control on large capital expenditures over one million dollars.”

Slobodan added he was grateful for the support he received over the past two years and vowed to continue to advocate for important community matters.

“I would also like to extend a special thanks to my attorney, Bruce Bright,” he said. “His legal expertise made it possible for the members to successfully defend our petition in court. I truly feel that the outcome of this referendum is an important collective accomplishment for all of us.”

In an interview this week, Perrone said the association’s attorney was working on an amendment that will be added to the bylaws.

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.