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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

August 5, 2014

(Approved)

The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:10 pm by Chairwoman Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Dubin, Zajic, Fishbein, Kabakoff, Stone, Brandes, Fonoroff, Ethier (9).

Absent: Commissioners Alkon, Coyle, Mays, Cromwell, Winegar, Weinstein (6).

Also attending: Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson; CCOC Staff Peter Drymalski

            1. MINUTES.  Ms. Ethier proposed an amendment to the last paragraph of Section 2, to include the statement that the purpose of the ad hoc committee was also to discuss larger issues facing the CCOC, such as the need to obtain appropriate funding and staff.  The minutes of the July meeting were approved as amended (Brandes, Fonoroff abstained).

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:

            None.

            3. NEW CASES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW:

            The Commission considered #33-13, Inverness North v. Sun & Gu.  Ms. Ethier asked if the CCOC could order the parties to go to mediation.  Mr. Wilson replied that the CCOC could not do so, but the hearing panel could do so.  He pointed out that the hearing panel did not have to call a formal hearing to decide the case, nor did the panel have to meet in person, because this was a default judgment proceeding and no hearing was required, the panel could decide the matter on the basis of the record as filed.  The CCOC voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction, issue an order of default, and assign the case to a hearing panel (Ethier, Brandes, Fishbein).

            The Commission next considered #28-14, Kelly v. Longmead Crossing Condo.  Mr. Wilson stated that he concurred with the staff that the CCOC had jurisdiction over the dispute, and referred to sections of Chapter 10B that included the failure to enforce the documents, the authority of the association to spend its funds, and the failure of the association to maintain the common areas.  The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction and to refer the dispute to a hearing panel (Brandes, Fonoroff).

            4. REQUESTS TO THE COMMISSION:

            None.

            5. DECISIONS AND ORDERS ISSUED; OTHER LITIGATION:

            Staff reviewed the recent decision in Kim v. Montrose Woods Condo, #28-13.  Staff commented that the ruling was important because it is not only the first CCOC ruling to discuss the issue of fines in detail.  The panel held that the purpose of fines was to encourage compliance with the rules, and it invalidated the fines imposed in this case partly because the condo did not follow its own rules in setting fines, but because the fines themselves were unreasonable.  Once the homeowner began to comply in good faith with the condo’s decisions, the fines had achieved their purpose and were no longer necessary. 

            6. COUNTY ATTORNEY'S REPORT:

            Mr. Wilson presented a draft of a CCOC policy statement on the video and audio recording of CCOC meetings.  After discussion, the CCOC agreed to amend the proposal to clarify that it did not apply to CCOC hearings (as opposed to monthly meetings of the CCOC) because County law required that CCOC hearings be open to the public, but the State law allowing video recordings did not apply to CCOC hearings.  In addition, the statement will be amended to request that those wishing to record CCOC meetings should state their intention to do so, so that everyone present in the room (including any guest observing the meeting) is aware that the meeting is being recorded by a private party.

            Mr. Wilson also presented a draft of an amendment to Chapter 10B that will allow the CCOC to continue to draw on the talents of volunteer panel chairs who practice before the CCOC. 

            The Commission unanimously voted to adopt the draft amendment and to recommend it to the County Executive.

            Mr. Wilson reported that a member of the Bel Pre Recreational Association who attended a recent CCOC monthly meeting had complained to the State Open Meetings Compliance Board that the CCOC had violated the State’s open meetings law when it went into closed session to seek legal advice concerning its response to a letter from the Ethics Commission.  He stated that in his opinion the CCOC had properly followed the law and he will reply to the Compliance Board to that effect.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:        

            Staff gave some information on the status of its mediation efforts.  Its survey of over 40 recent mediations by Mr. Lang showed that 80% of them resulted in settlement agreements and only 10% had to be referred to formal hearings.

            The Interview Committee sent in its recommendation for a replacement for Mr. Alkon but we have not yet learned the Executive’s position.

           All CCOC decisions issued to date will be posted on the CCOC website by the end of August.

            Staff reported that it wished to create a new CCOC publication on the rights of homeowners and how to properly exercise them.  As an example, staff referred to the use of special meetings of an association to change rules that a majority of members no longer supported.

            Staff encouraged all CCOC members to take the open meetings training but especially anyone interested in the position of CCOC chair and vice-chair.  Ms. Molloy stated she had taken the training and received a certificate; she thought the training was very well thought out and could be a model for the CCOC and the Attorney General’s office to use for training board members.

            Staff discussed a proposal made in Florida to require board members to certify they had read their governing documents.  The consensus of the Commission was that such a proposal would discourage members from serving on their boards and would be a mere formality that would be very difficult to enforce as well.  There was little interest in supporting such a proposal here.  The consensus was to support the principle that directors should know their governing documents and that they receive training in their obligations; and that the Commission supported increased training opportunities.   Mr. Dubin suggested the County make financial incentives available to encourage associations to train their board members

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

            There were no reports from the Legislative and Annual Forum Committees.

            The Education Committee asked for volunteers to help write the scripts for the next round of videos.

            The Ad Hoc Committee reported that it would meet this month with Eric Friedman to discuss his proposals and to encourage the Office of Consumer Protection to be more of an advocate on behalf of the Commission.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

            None.

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

            None.

            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday, September 3, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, October 1.

            The Commission adjourned at 9:05 pm.

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