OPA Proposes Changes To Candidate Verification Process

OCEAN PINES – Proposed changes to the candidate verification process were presented to association members last week.

Last Saturday, President Colette Horn presented the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors with the first reading of revisions to Resolution M-09, which establishes the roles and responsibilities of the Search Committee and the procedures for candidate search. Horn said the first reading also includes changes to the candidate registration form attached to the resolution.

“This is something I’m putting forth,” she said. “This pertains to the candidate registration process and the election process.”

Horn told board members last week revisions have been made to Section 8 of the resolution, which outlines the candidate search responsibilities of the association secretary.

The resolution would now require the secretary to use Worcester County land records or State Department of Assessments and Taxation records to verify a candidate’s property ownership. It also allows the secretary to seek information from an applicant regarding their registration form, though the secretary may not grant time to complete or correct a form that has already been submitted.

“The secretary can attach any information that resolves any questions,” Horn added.

The revision would also require the secretary to include their reason for rejecting an application when notifying applicants of their acceptance or rejection of a candidate application. The secretary must then submit the list of eligible candidates to the Elections Committee, and the list of eligible candidates and their registration form would then be released to the public.

“The new concept there is the release of the registration forms,” Horn said, “which we have not done in the past.”

Director Doug Parks, however, said he disagreed with the revision that would not allow an applicant additional time to provide information to the secretary.

“Suppose they have to go to the county to get information that was requested, and the county doesn’t get back to them in a reasonable amount of time ….,” he said. “If they didn’t have any particular fault on their part for not getting information in a timely manner, we are discounting people for what I consider an unreasonable reason. I can’t support that.”

Director Larry Perrone said it must also be made clear that a candidate’s eligibility would be based on county land records.

“With the recent litigation … the judge said ownership is basically inferred based on our membership roles, and that’s not the case,” he said. “Membership roles may not accurately reflect who is the owner of the property. So I would like to see added to this a resolution that the membership roles are not determinative of ownership, and that the secretary will rely on the county land records and not the membership roles maintained by Ocean Pines.”

Director Frank Daly told board members last week he wanted to schedule a special meeting in the coming days to present 14 proposed bylaw changes for referendum. He noted, however, that some of those proposed changes address board candidate issues.

“I think until we see those, and until you all have a chance to look at them, that some of the discussion on this should be held in advance,” he said, “because some of those proposed changes directly address these issues and would directly affect this form.”

Horn suggested delaying a second reading of the proposed changes to Resolution M-09. However, Jim Trummel, chair of the Bylaws and Resolutions Advisory Committee, said he did not recommend it.

“Bylaw changes may come into effect this coming election, but this resolution change will affect the election if you proceed with it,” he explained. “You’ve got a timeframe on the bylaw changes. That’s something out in the future. This affects candidate application, and that can be today. There’s no reason why a candidate cannot go and fill out a form and put it in today. Delaying M-09 and its consideration is not necessarily what you really want to do.”

Jeremy Tucker, the association’s legal counsel, agreed.

“It is not known whether the bylaws are going to be adopted or not,” he said. “So I would think moving forward with what is known and then revising with what may happen would probably be the best course of action.”

Perrone suggested adding the second reading of the resolution to the agenda for the special meeting.

“If Frank is going to call a special meeting to go over the bylaws next week, as part of that special meeting we can include a second reading of this resolution and make changes at that time, after the discussion takes place regarding the bylaws,” he said.

The first reading of revisions to Resolution M-09 comes weeks after a Worcester County Circuit Court judge ruled 2021 board candidate Rick Farr an eligible Ocean Pines homeowner. Farr was disqualified during the election process last year after an anonymous tip raised questions about his status as a homeowner of the address listed on his candidate application.

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.