OCEAN PINES – A temporary restraining order halting the Ocean Pines board election has been extended through Aug. 30.
Last Thursday, Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Beau Oglesby granted plaintiff Rick Farr’s motion to extend a temporary restraining order prohibiting the counting of ballots and the certification of election results as the court considers a complaint against the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) and the Board of Directors.
“Upon consideration of the Motion for Extension of Temporary Restraining Order and Waiver of Bond, and Defendant’s response, it is this 19th of August 2021, by the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Maryland, ordered that Plaintiff’s Motion for Extension of Temporary Restraining Order and Waiver of Bond is hereby granted,” the order reads, “and the Court further finds and orders as follows: 1. The Temporary Restraining Order previously entered on August 10, 2021, is hereby extended through August 30, 2021; 2. The requirement of bond is waived; and 3. A preliminary injunction hearing is to be held August 30, 2021.”
Earlier this month, Farr’s attorney – Bruce Bright – filed suit against the OPA and the Board of Directors seeking a temporary restraining order until the court could rule on his client’s eligibility status in this year’s board election.
In July, Board Secretary Camilla Rogers disqualified Farr from the 2021 election after receiving an anonymous tip about the candidate’s homeownership status in the Pines. The board then voted in a closed session on July 30 to proceed with the election, but to invalidate all votes for Farr.
According to the association’s bylaws, candidates must be a recorded property owner within Ocean Pines on Jan. 1 of the year in which the election is held.
The OPA contends that Farr is not an owner of record, but a successor trustee to the property listed on his candidate application. However, Farr’s attorney asserts he has been the “equitable and beneficial owner” of the property since 2000, based on his status as a beneficiary of the Farr Living Trust.
On Aug. 9, Bright filed a complaint in Worcester County Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the board election. The case, he noted in his complaint, was not only filed on Farr’s behalf, but also as a class action on behalf of voters “disenfranchised by the Secretary and Board’s decisions.”
Oglesby granted a 10-day the temporary restraining order the next day.
“The Court finds that, in the absence of immediate injunctive relief as set forth herein, harm may result to the integrity of the election results that will be irreparable in that: if the election proceeds unabated during the pendency of this case, by the time the issues in this case (which the Court finds to be facially meritorious) have been fully and finally adjudicated, and in the event Plaintiff’s claims are sustained or partly sustained, the election results will have already been certified and publicly announced, votes for Plaintiff will not have been counted or included in the vote count, voters having cast a vote for Plaintiff will have been disenfranchised, and purportedly elected candidates other than Plaintiff will have been already confirmed as Board members and perhaps Officers,” the order reads.
Oglesby adds, “The Court also finds that, even in the event that Plaintiff’s claims are not sustained, based on what is before the Court, if the election proceeds unabated during the pendency of this case, some voters may suffer irreparable harm, specifically partial disenfranchisement, based on having voted for a candidate listed on the ballot but subsequently disqualified; and candidates (other than Plaintiff) who are not elected may assert that the vote totals were tainted unfairly against them by virtue of voters voting for a subsequently disqualified candidate.”
In addition to the extension of a temporary restraining order, the court last Thursday set a date of Aug. 30 for a preliminary injunction hearing. Farr’s attorney did not return interview requests this week.