OPA Considers Changes To Annual Meeting, Voting

OCEAN PINES – The allowance of a hybrid annual meeting and provisions for electronic voting highlight proposed changes to the association’s governing documents.

On Wednesday, members of the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors had before them a motion to approve revisions to Resolution B-03, which establishes the procedures for holding the community’s annual meeting. Association President Colette Horn noted the proposed changes would allow OPA to hold the meeting in a hybrid format, with both in-person and online attendance.

“In light of the challenges we have experienced garnering sufficient member participation at our annual meeting using the in-person model, it has been proposed that the 2022 annual meeting be conducted as a hybrid meeting,” she said. “The authority to do so resides in a revision to the Maryland Homeowners Association Act.”

Officials noted the proposed motion asks the board to incorporate language from the Maryland Homeowners Association Act into the community’s governing documents. Director Doug Parks said he supported the idea of a hybrid meeting, but questioned how the association would differentiate between members of the public and members of OPA.

“How do you differentiate someone that’s attending publicly that may not be a member of the association and one that is?” he asked. “How are we going to validate and verify that the folks attending the meeting virtually are dues-paying members of the association?”

Ocean Pines Elections Committee Chair Carol Ludwig said her group had proposed a timeline for verifying virtual participants.

“The committee talked about it and thought that 48 hours before the meeting people have to, via email, verify and tell us what name they will use at the virtual meeting,” she replied.

Board members, however, questioned what would happen if participants forgot. Director Larry Perrone added that the process of a hybrid meeting brought up too many issues.

“The attendance at the meetings have deteriorated once we started announcing the results of the election prior to the meeting,” he said. “And my opinion is this is just going to make it worse. I think there are problems as we just discussed here … While I understand it’s allowable, I think it’s a bad idea. The annual meeting is too important to do it virtually, and I don’t think I can support this.”

Director Amy Peck said a hybrid meeting would be beneficial to part-time residents, but disagreed with any change that would allow for an all-virtual meeting.

“The only issue I have with this is at the very beginning it says annual meetings of the association can be held as a virtual meeting or a hybrid of a virtual meeting …,” she said. “I think we have to make sure we’re not disenfranchising anyone in the neighborhood, so I would ask for that language to be changed.”

Going back to Parks’ concerns, Director Frank Daly questioned if a link to the hybrid meeting could be sent to those who provide identification prior to the annual meeting. Perrone, however, said that would not meet the definition of an open meeting.

“The meeting has to be open,” he replied. “We can’t just send a link to the people who registered.”

After further discussion, officials agreed to work with the elections committee to address the board’s concerns.

“We can revisit it next month,” Horn said.

Board members this week also had before them a first reading to amend Resolution M-06.

“The changes and amendment to M-06 will allow the Ocean Pines Association to contract with a vendor to conduct electronic voting for annual elections and referendums,” Perrone said.

In February, the Ocean Pines Elections Committee presented the OPA Board of Directors with a presentation on electronic voting for future elections, as well as cost estimates from four online voting vendors.

Officials noted the changes to Resolution M-06 would allow the association to move forward with the process.

“We need to get a second reading done fairly quickly so that we can get a contract drawn by the contractor and submit it for approval,” Perrone said.

Ludwig noted that if approved, the hybrid voting system would give association members the option to either vote online or by mail.

“They can’t vote both ways,” she added.

Peck agreed.

“Nobody will be able to vote twice using this system,” she said.

Association member Joe Reynolds questioned how the association would handle a recount under a hybrid system. Officials noted there would be a record of electronic votes.

“Why don’t we just ask the company how they handle a recount?” Daly added. “I would like to believe Ocean Pines isn’t the only association in the United States of America that could have a recount.”

Parks added that the resolution should also include instructions for how and where ballots should be stored. Officials noted those questions could be addressed before the second reading.

“We’ll also bring a contract forward as part of second reading …,” Perrone said. “I’m assuming we’ll do a special meeting to get this wrapped up so the elections committee can hit the ground running.”

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.