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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

March 02, 2016


The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7 pm by Chairperson Rand H. Fishbein.
Present: Commissioners Fishbein, Winegar, Coyle, Ethier, Fine, Fonoroff, Weinstein, Zajic  (8).
Absent: Commissioner Brandes (1).
Also attending: Walter Wilson, Associate County Attorney; Eric Friedman, Director, Office of Consumer Protection; Peter Drymalski, CCOC Staff; Dallas Valley, Karen Couvillon, Mabe Cantril, Ron Bridge, Larry Dorney.
            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the February, 2016, meeting were approved as drafted (Fonoroff abstaining).
            2. OFFICERS’ REPORTS
            Ms. Winegar discussed the surveys mailed to community associations by the DHCA.  She noted that the surveys were sent to board presidents, rather than to association managers, and the latter is the better practice.  She noted that the survey questions on rental units was overly burdensome.  Finally, she noted that the online survey form itself was not compatible with the computer programs of many associations.
            Dr. Fishbein reported he had sent two letters to the County Council dated February 4 and 12, stating the Commission’s positions on Bill 50-15.  The Council will hold a work session on the bill on March 10. Although the work session is public, no one can speak unless invited by the Council to do so.  He has asked the committees for the right of the CCOC to respond to any amendments proposed by the Council staff but has not yet received a reply.
            The Commission considered a motion by Ms. Winegar that teachers of the third-party training classes be approved by the Commission and apply using a form supplied by the Commission, which will include the number of years of experience of the applicant.  The Commission will also set standards for the training to be used, the data collection the instructors must provide, the operational procedures to be used, and a training meeting for the instructors.  The motion  further requested that the Office of Consumer Protection publish the application form on its website.
            Mr. Friedman advised that in his opinion the Commission was not authorized to give approval to instructors, nor to allow the instructors to charge fees.  In his opinion the Commission’s authority was limited to creating the curriculum of the mandatory training but no more than that.  The motion passed unanimously.
            Ms. Winegar moved to approve several applicants as training instructors, provided that they take the CCOC training class first, and notwithstanding any subsequent changes to the contents of the class.  The names she offered were Chris Majerle, Eugenia Mays, Aimee Winegar, Gianna Rahmani, Marc Greenberg, Steven Wolf, Ronald Bolt, Charles Fleischer, Joseph Douglas, Ruth Katz, Kevin Kernan.  The motion passed unanimously  (Ms Winegar abstaining as to the vote on her own application.)
            Ms. Winegar presented a motion to request that OCP provide monthly lists of all persons who have successfully participated in the online training program.  The motion passed unanimously.
            3. COMMUNITY FORUM:
            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of ##36-14, 73-14, 93-14, and 01-15  (Greencastle Lakes v. Awol, Nwagu, Patricio and Copeland, respectively) and to refer them to the same hearing panel for further proceedings.  Hearings will be held April 12 and 14, beginning at 6:30pm and 8pm each night.  Commissioners Fine and Winegar will serve on the panels, with a panel chair to be appointed later.  Ms Ethier volunteered to serve as the panel chair but Mr. Wilson advised the Commission must first try to obtain a volunteer panel chair; and if it could not do so, it could appoint Ms. Ethier.  He further advised that the staff need to wait no more than 24 hours after soliciting for a chair, before it requested that the Commission appoint one of its members to serve as a chair.
            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #39-15, Promenade v. Malek, and to issue an order of default.  (Fonoroff abstaining.)  The panel will include Commissioners Fishbein and Winegar.
            The Commission voted unanimously to reject jurisdiction of #46-15, Cantril v. The Pines, and to dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction because the only issued presented was the authority of the board to make a decision legally within its authority.
            The Commission took up the Motion to Enforce the Automatic Stay in #04-16, Kreitner v. Grosvenor Park IV.  Mr. Wilson advised that the motion was improper, because if a party violated the automatic stay, it violated the County Code, and the staff could issue a civil citation carrying a fine of up to $500.  The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of the complaint and to request the staff to warn the Respondent that if it violated the stay, it would face legal action by the County.
            No one from King Farm Villages appeared to discuss the operational issues described in a recent report and the CCOC did not take up the matter.
            Staff reported that Fountain Hills had requested that the CCOC write to all the members of the HOA’s inactive associations to explain why they needed active boards of directors and to encourage them to attend annual meetings to elect their boards.  The Commission voted to issue such letter, provided that all the associations are in good standing with the CCOC and provided that the master association pay all the costs of the mailing.
            Staff reported that the Circuit Court had denied a motion to dismiss the appeal in #72-13, Potowmack Preserve v. Ball, and ordered the appeal to proceed.  Ms. Winegar pointed out that the Court might remand the case to the CCOC, and asked who would chair the hearing panel since its chairperson, Mr. Stone, had resigned.  Mr. Wilson reported that the CCOC could replace the panel chair with a different person, since the panel was only reviewing a decision recommended by the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, and had not held any evidentiary hearings itself.
            Mr. Wilson reported that he will ask the CCOC if it wishes to intervene in the pending Potowmack v. Ball appeal now that the Court has denied the motion to dismiss.
            8. STAFF REPORTS:
            Staff reported that Jerome Anderson, Esq., had applied to be a volunteer panel chair.  The Commission voted unanimously to accept his application.
            Dr. Fishbein moved to approve all sitting panel chairs for indefinite terms.  Ms Ethier and Ms. Winegar stated it was inappropriate to re-appoint panel chairs who were barred from service by the Ethics Commission ruling.  Ms. Ethier moved the reappoint all eligible panel chairs for indefinite terms until such time as they resigned, and moved further to remove from the list all panel chairs who were barred from acting as such.  The motion passed unanimously.  Mr. Wilson noted that the motion would require revision of the Commission’s panel chair guidelines and the staff will prepare the revisions at the next meeting.
            The motion proposed and approved states:
            Whereas the volunteer panel chairs are deemed by the Commission to be an
            essential component of the CCOC’s quasi-judicial educational and training
            programs, and
            Whereas, the fields of common ownership law and alternative dispute
            resolution are, today, highly specialized disciplines requiring unique training,
            understanding and years of experience to achieve proficiency, and
            Whereas, in excess of 95% of all Panel decisions appealed to the courts
            are upheld, an extraordinary accomplishment given the complexity of many
            of these cases and the finely nuanced argument and legal acumen needed to       achieve a just outcome, and
            Whereas, any attempt to diminish the role of volunteer attorneys in any phase
            of the Commission’s work would undermine the legislative intent behind the
            establishment of the CCOC, with that being to elevate understanding of common
            ownership law among members of the public and to apply the law to cases
            in a manner that is fair, impartial and just, and
            Whereas, the Commission takes great pride in its volunteer Panel Chairs and
            wishes to acknowledge the exceptional wisdom and judgment they bring to
            their craft.  The citizens of Montgomery County who live in common ownership
            communities are fortunate to be able to benefit from the commitment of these
            outstanding public servants,
            Therefore, the Commission on common ownership communities hereby
            RESOLVES that the terms of service of each volunteer Panel Chair be extended
            at the sole discretion of the Panel Chair.  The attorneys included in this motion
            are: Greg Friedman, John Sample, Douglas Shontz, Dinah Stevens, Charles
            Fleischer, Rachel Browder, Bruce Birchman, and Jerome Anderson.
            Staff reported on an advisory opinion issued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency in December, 2014, stating that it believed “super-priority” liens in favor of condominium associations violated federal laws giving priority to federally-guaranteed lenders.  This matter is now in litigation in other states.
            Staff noted that it reported the vacancy in Mr. David Weinstein’s residential position to the County Executive’s Office and asked that it be advertised as soon as possible; staff also requested that the Office forward to it the applications it received in January for positions as professional members.  The Office has not yet responded.
            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:
            Mr. Fine reported for the Legislative Committee on numerous bills pending in the General Assembly. 
            9. OLD BUSINESS:
            10. NEW BUSINESS:
            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Thursday, April 7, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, May 11..

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