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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

July 2, 2014

(Approved)

The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:00 pm by Chairman Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Dubin, Weinstein, Mays, Zajic, Fishbein, Kabakoff, Coyle, Winegar, Ethier (10).

Absent: Commissioners Brandes, Cromwell, Alkon, Stone, Fonoroff (5).

Also attending:  Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson; CCOC staff Ralph Vines and Peter Drymalski; Gianna Rahmani, Janice Flug, John Bafford, Ana Portillo, Larry Dorney, Michelle Portillo, Duc Butcher, Charles Stubbs, Jean Huynh; OCP Director Eric Friedman.

            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the June, 2014, meeting were approved as drafted (Mr. Coyle, abstaining).

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:

            Eric Friedman, Director of the Office of Consumer Protection, addressed the CCOC. 

            He congratulated the CCOC on being a recipient of a 2014 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties.

            He then reviewed the use of the funds collected by the County from CCOC’s annual registration fees of $3 per unit.  Of those funds, OCP pays for 1.9 full time staff assigned to the CCOC and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) pays for 0.5 full time staff to perform the registrations.  Ms. Molloy asked about the availability of the $30,000 in funding specified by the county council for additional CCOC education efforts and he replied that it was part of the $37,000 in miscellaneous funds under Item 6A099 in the budget breakout.

            Mr. Friedman stated that the CCOC needed more staff but that at the same time the CCOC’s dispute resolution process had become too complex, too expensive and too time-consuming, and that the CCOC was becoming more of a court and moving away from its role as alternative dispute resolution.  Ms. Molloy responded that the CCOC had many advantages over the court process: its hearings were conducted in the evenings, the parties did not need lawyers, its hearings were less formal than a court’s, and it offered mediation. 

            Ms. Molloy stated her concerns that OCP and CCOC needed to bring on new staff not only to handle the CCOC’s current and future workloads but to prepare properly for the transition when the current staff retires.  She added that the final report of the Committee Evaluation and Review Board had recommended  increased publicity for CCOC hearings and that the CCOC continue its current operations.

            Ms. Molloy added that the CCOC wanted to be more involved in the creation of CCOC budgets so that it could better assist OCP in the process.

            Ms. Molloy stated that she had heard from an attendee at the June 21 training seminar that it was difficult to register for the class on line, and she  asked if citizens wishing to pay for CCOC classes could do so online.  Mr. Friedman said no, that OCP does not have credit card capability online.

            Ms. Molloy stated that she would like OCP to keep the CCOC abreast of any complaints about the CCOC by other agencies and any communications to the County Executive that involve the CCOC.

            Mr. Friedman made the following suggestions for improvement:

  • make mediations mandatory
  • allow electronic filing of complaints
  • waive the requirement that all governing documents be filed
  • associations should offer maintenance services to homeowners at low costs who need to maintain their properties
  • associations should use the Office of Housing Code Enforcement before filing CCOC complaints

            The CCOC agreed to create an ad-hoc committee (Dubin, Ethier, Fishbein) to discuss these proposals with Mr. Friedman, and also to raise and discuss larger issues facing the CCOC such as the need to obtain appropriate funding and staff for the CCOC.

            3. NEW CASES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW:

            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of, and to issue orders of default against the Respondents in, #47-13, Greencastle Lakes Community Association v. Adane and Robi, #51-13, Greencastle Lakes Community Association v. Portillo; and #52-13, Greencastle Lakes Community Association v. Gumpper.  Commissioners Ethier, Coyle and Winegar will be the hearing panels for all three cases.

            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #26-14, Stalbaum v. Ashley Place at Tanglewood HOA.  Dinah Stevens will chair the panel, and Commissioners Mays and Zajic will also serve as the panel.

            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of ##48-14-51-14, Huynh  et al. v. Falls Farm Homes HOA, to consolidate the cases for a hearing with one hearing panel, and to refer the Respondent’s motion to dismiss to the hearing panel for consideration.  Mr. Fishbein raised the question of the Respondent’s right to proceed with the case when the validity of the Respondent’s board of directors is an issue.  Mr. Wilson responded that the hearing panel can deal with that issue at the appropriate time, but that at this time, the board is presumed valid and the burden of proof is on the complainants to show that the board is not valid.  Charles Fleischer will chair the panel and Commissioners Winegar and Kabakoff will also serve on the panel. 

            4. REQUESTS TO THE COMMISSION:

            In response to a letter from Steven Muse complaining of inaccuracies in a recent Commission Decision (##52 & 67-12), the Commission agreed to issue a statement of errata, to be drafted by Mr. Wilson.

            5. DECISIONS AND ORDERS ISSUED; OTHER LITIGATION:

            None.

            6. COUNTY ATTORNEY'S REPORT:

            Mr. Wilson reported that he had investigated whether any other County agency had a policy on videotaping it public meetings and found none.  He will draft a model rule for the Commission based on the Open Meetings Act Compliance Manual for consideration at the next meeting.

            Mr. Wilson stated that the Open Meetings Act did not apply to the Commission’s dispute resolution hearings, so that the Commission could bar the videotaping of such hearings.

            Mr. Wilson emphasized that the Maryland Open Meetings Act applied to government agencies only, and not to meetings of community associations.

            Ms. Ethier asked if the Commission could regulate how the videotapes were used, so that they fairly and accurately represented Commission meetings.  Mr. Wilson said no.  Ms. Molloy asked if the Commission could require those wishing to make video recordings not to misrepresent that the Commission was only discussing claims in a case and not making any findings of fact.  Mr. Wilson said that although the Commission could request a person to sign such a statement, it could not require the person to do so.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:

            Mr. Drymalski reported that the 2014 edition of the Staff’s Guide to the Procedures and Decisions of the CCOC was complete and would be released later this month.

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

              Ms. Molloy reported for the Education Committee. She stated that the June 21 CAI/CCOC training seminar went very well, and she expects to repeat it in other locations throughout the County.  40 people attended.

            The Legislative Committee had no report.

            The Annual Forum Committee had no report.

            Mr. Zajic questioned whether there were any developments on a proposed bill to regulated pesticide use in the County.  Mr. Drymalski responded that there were none at this time.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

            The Commission voted unanimously to close the meeting under the authority of Section 10-508(a) of the State Government Article in order to discuss with the County Attorney the Commission’s response to the Ethics Commission ruling that the Commission’s use of panel chairs who practiced before the Commission violated the County’s Ethics laws.

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

            None.

            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday, August 6, 2014, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, September 3, 2014.

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