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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

July 1, 2015


The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:04 pm by Chairperson Rand H. Fishbein.
Present: Commissioners Fishbein, Winegar, Coyle, Cromwell, Ethier, Fonoroff, Rahmani, Stone, Weinstein, and Zajic.  (10)
Absent: Commissioners Dubin, Molloy, Brandes, Mays (4).  One position is vacant.
Also attending: Walter Wilson, Associate County Attorney; Peter Drymalski, CCOC Staff; Mark Fine, Dallas Valley.
            The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming Mr. Fine, whom County Executive Leggett has nominated to the CCOC.  The County Council will take up the nomination later this month.
            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the June, 2015, meeting were approved unanimously as corrected..
            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:
            The staff presented Case #97-14, Valley v. The Tiers in Silver Spring and recommended that the CCOC accept jurisdiction.  Mr. Wilson concurred that the Commission had jurisdiction as the case involved a complaint about failures to properly conduct elections and to give proper notice of meetings.  Ms. Ethier noted that the complaint was complex and asked if a commissioner could meet with the complainant to help him to organize the complaint more effectively.  Mr Wilson said no.    The commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of the dispute and to refer it to a hearing panel for further proceedings, with the recommendation that the panel order the parties to go to mediation.  The panel will consist of Ethier, Coyle, and Cromwell.
            Ms. Ethier reported that she prepared an extensive reply to Mr. Muse’s criticisms of the way the hearing panel handled his complaint and circulated a draft reply
            The staff reported that it had a request from the Greater Olney Civic Association to attend its annual forum and make a presentation.  Ms. Winegar volunteered to attend and to assist the staff with the presentation.
            Mr. Fishbein reported that he had been interviewed on the Harold Fisher Radio Show at Howard University, where he had discussed the CCOC and the needs of common ownership communities.
            The staff reported on the recent decision in Huber v. Thayer Towers.  In that case, the panel held that a tenant could file a complaint about a disputed election if the tenant was affected by it.  In this case the tenant later became a member of the association and was elected to the board, and was subject to what he believed to be ongoing violations by the association of proper election and meetings procedures.  The panel also held that it would not invalidate an election if there was no evidence that the improper procedures affected the results of the election.
            Dr. Fishbein reported on the joint meeting of the Council’s housing and public safety committees regarding the CCOC.  Only the directors of Consumer Protection and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs were allowed to testify. Councilmembers Leventhal and Floreen questioned claims that the CCOC dispute resolution process had failed and what progress had been made on the “assessment” that the County Executive had said was necessary in his reply to the report of the Office of Legislative Oversight.  The committees asked the two directors to produce the “assessment” by September, 2015, for the Council’s review.  Ms. Ethier asked the Council to require that the CCOC have a voice in these discussions and reports on the CCOC’s operations and its future, and the committees agreed to this.
            Mr. Fonoroff questioned comments that Consumer Protection did not want the CCOC, saying it was not clear that this was the case.  Mr. Fonoroff asked where the CCOC could be housed, if not in Consumer Protection or Housing.  Dr. Fishbein replied that it could become an independent agency like the Human Rights Office, or it might be part of the County Council, like the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings and some other small offices.
            Ms. Ethier stressed that the CCOC must try to work closely with Consumer Protection and Housing in order to resolve the disputes over CCOC funding and relocation.
            Dr. Fishbein also reported on the status of the City of Rockville’s participation in Chapter 10B.  The City Council had a hearing on the issue and seemed favorable to the concept.  The City Manager promised to draft a bill for the Council’s consideration in September.  However, Dr. Fishbein suggested to the Manager that the City consider legislation that would bring the City under Chapter 10B on a temporary basis until the Council could consider a permanent bill, and the Manager seemed favorable to this as well.
            Mr. Zajic asked if the CCOC needed approval from the County in order to take public positions such as appearing before the Rockville City Council to support its coming back under Chapter 10B.  Mr. Wilson said under Chapter 10B, the CCOC could give advice to other governments without approval from any other agency and it did not need approval to support Rockville’s efforts to opt back into chapter 10B, but lobbying for a position that the County Executive opposes is a different matter.  Mr. Stone emphasized that there was an important difference between the CCOC giving advice, and the CCOC actively lobbying for itself, and warned that the CCOC had no legal authority to lobby for funding not recommended by the County Executive.  Mr. Wilson agreed, and stated that as to the allocation of resources, the CCOC cannot be in conflict with the Executive.
            The Commission unanimously agreed to support efforts by the City of Rockville to opt back into Chapter 10B.
            Mr. Wilson reported that the CCOC had voted by email to recommend that the County appeal the Circuit Court ruling in  #55-11, Baroni v. Avenel; the Commission then voted unanimously to ratify that vote.
            Mr. Wilson reported that although the County would not appeal the adverse ruling by the Circuit Court in #55-11, Baroni v. Avenel, the homeowner had decided to do so, and the case would go to the Court of Special Appeals.
            Staff reported that the Court of Special Appeals, in an unreported decision, had upheld the Commission decision in Brown v. Americana Finmark, #51-11, in which the panel ruled that the board had the right to decide the formula it would use to develop next year’s budget, and in which the panel also ruled that the board did not have to create a special report that combined two different reports, it only had to provide copies of its existing documents.
            8. STAFF REPORTS:
            The staff circulated its statistical report for June, 2015.
            9. COMMITTEE REPORTS:
            Ms. Winegar reported for the Education Committee.  She has prepared and circulated a draft of a policy statement on CCOC certification of third party training that meets CCOC standards for the mandatory education under Bill 45-14.  She also circulated a copy of the draft online course and asked for comments by July 10.  The Commission voted unanimously to support the draft training class prepared by the Education Committee, subject to changes later as necessary.
            Ms. Winegar also reported on CCOC registration efforts.  The current registration form used by DHCA is a “pain” to complete, nor does it attempt to gather all the information the CCOC needs.  It also must be revised to comply with the reporting requirements of Bill 45-14.  She has drafted a substitute form.  She and Dr. Fishbein will work with DHCA to improve its common ownership community data gathering practices.  The CCOC voted unanimously to authorize the Education Committee to use the draft form as the basis of its negotiations with DHCA.
            Ms. Winegar requested comments on the draft training certification and draft registration form by July 10.
            10. OLD BUSINESS:
            Dr. Fishbein reported that the CCOC has developed a new proposal to make to the Ethics Commission that would allow it to resume using panel chairs who practice before the CCOC.  Under this proposal, such panel chairs could be used if both parties sign a disclosure and waiver of potential conflict of interest.  Under County Code section 19A-8 and 19A-12(b), the Ethics Commission can issue waivers under certain conditions.  Dr. Fishbein sent the draft to all CCOC members and requested that they offer their comments by July 10 because the Ethics Commission will meet to discuss the CCOC proposal on July 21.  The CCOC will vote by email on the draft.  The CCOC voted unanimously to approve the draft proposal subject to changes agreed to before the next Ethics Committee meeting.
            11. NEW BUSINESS:
            12. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday,  August 5, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, September 2.
            The Commission voted to adjourn at 9:01pm.

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