Pines Considering New Election With Motions Hearing Postponed

OCEAN PINES – With no action taken at a court hearing this week, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors is now considering a motion to conduct a new election.

In an ongoing legal battle to determine the eligibility of disqualified board candidate Rick Farr, a hearing was scheduled in Worcester County Circuit Court on Monday to consider motions for dismissal and summary judgement.

But before arguments could be heard, Judge Sidney Campen and the attorneys agreed to postpone the hearing over procedural matters. As a result, the court did not take any action on the motions.

“Clearly, you are not ready to move forward with your motions …,” Campen said.

In the meantime, the association’s Board of Directors held a special meeting on Thursday to consider a motion to conduct a new election, but with ballots featuring the name of the three remaining candidates – Frank Daly, David Hardy and Stuart Lakernick.

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“Candidate Farr was ruled ineligible during the conduct of the 2021 Board of Directors election,” the motion reads. “The Ocean Pines community has made it clear to several board members that they want their 2 votes to count. Holding a new election of the 3 eligible candidates will give the OPA community a chance to vote again with 2 valid votes.”

While the meeting was held too late to be included in this week’s paper, President Larry Perrone said in an interview on Tuesday that the board had agreed to wait for Monday’s motions hearing to proceed with the election process.

“If the judge ultimately rules Farr to be eligible, the board will have to decide what to do at that point …,” he said. “I’ve heard enough from the community that they want a new election with the three eligible candidates and that their votes should count. I don’t disagree with that.”

In July, Association Secretary Camilla disqualified Farr, one of four candidates in this year’s board election, after receiving an anonymous tip about the candidate’s homeownership status in the Pines. That same month, the Board of Directors voted in closed session to proceed with this year’s election and ballot count, 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 was not an owner of record, but a successor trustee to the property listed on his candidate application, while 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.

In August, Farr’s attorney, Bruce Bright, filed a complaint in Worcester County Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the election until the court could rule on his client’s eligibility status. While the suit was initially filed as a class action complaint, it was later amended to include the names of several co-plaintiffs in the case.

“These voters all voted for Mr. Farr before his candidacy was disqualified (in closed session of the Board) and the Board decided (in closed session) to proceed with the election and counting of all votes except those cast for Mr. Farr,” Bright said in a recent letter to the editor. “The effect of that (closed session) decision by the Board, in my view, partly disenfranchised those voters who had already submitted a vote for Mr. Farr.”

Within a day of filing suit in circuit court, Judge Beau Oglesby signed off on a temporary restraining order prohibiting the counting of ballots and the certification of election results while the court considers the complaint brought against the association and its Board of Directors.

That order expired on Aug. 30, the same day the court denied Farr’s motion for a preliminary injunction. While that action allowed the association to proceed with its election count, the Board of Directors voted to wait until this week’s motions hearing before moving forward.

Perrone said this week that pending litigation between Farr and the association could take months, or possibly years, to resolve. He said not only would the new election address the co-plaintiffs’ concerns, but would allow the community to seat new directors.

“Our goal is to do what’s best for Ocean Pines,” he said. “Protecting our bylaws is what this is all about. Seeing that this could take months or possibly years, it’s time to move forward with holding an election and getting new board members seated.”

If approved, Perrone said new ballots could be mailed out within two weeks. He noted a new election could cost the association anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000.

“The court has ordered that we maintain ballots from the original election,” he added. “That has been done and they will be maintained in a secure location.”

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.