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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

September 3, 2014


The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:05pm by Chairwoman Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Mays, Zajic, Kabakoff, Fishbein, Coyle, Ethier, Fonoroff, Brandes, Weinstein, Cromwell, Winegar (12).

Absent: Commissioners Dubin, Stone (1 position vacant) (3).

Also attending: Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson; OCP Staff Ralph Vines, John Lewis, Peter Drymalski; Steven Muse, Larry Dorney, Vernard McBeth (who signed in as “Vernard Canseco”) and Miriam Castro.

Mr. Drymalski introduced John Lewis, a veteran county employee currently serving as a Consumer Protection Investigator.  He also has experience serving in the Housing Code Enforcement Division and in the Office of Landlord Tenant Affairs.  Mr. Lewis is being assigned part time to assist the CCOC as additional staff.

            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the August meeting were approved as corrected (Cromwell, Winegar, Coyle, Mays and Weinstein, abstaining).  (The correction was that Mr. Fonoroff and not Mr. Fishbein was appointed to the panel for #28-14.)

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:

            Mr. Steven Muse requested permission to speak about his experiences dealing with the CCOC dispute resolution process in his recent complaint (#67-12).  He expressed a number of concerns including that his case was consolidated with Mr. McBeth’s case over the objections of both complainants and that he was not able to get reimbursement of his $50 filing fee because he didn’t win on all issues (questioning how  “a majority of the issues in a case” is determined).  He questioned how the panel chair could dismiss some of his claims when the full Commission accepted them.  He noted that the case took too long, 2 years, (including one hearing cancelled because there was no court reporter present; another panel chair interfered with his hearing).  He stated that one evening the panel chair would not allow parties to leave until the hearing concluded rather than continuing the hearing for another night; he was not allowed to subpoena all the witnesses he wanted to. In his opinion the process does not work for homeowners.

            Mr. McBeth also spoke and made essentially the same comments as Mr. Muse.  His case was #52-12, which was heard with #67-12.  He also was concerned that the panel refused to order the homeowner association to abide by the mediation agreement that it had originally offered to him.

            Ms. Molloy thanked them for their views and said the CCOC would look into the CCOC’s dispute resolution process to see what improvements could be made.


            The Commission unanimously voted to accept jurisdiction of and to issue orders of default in, ##31 & 32-14 (Greencastle Lakes v. Langert), #42-14 (Greencastle Lakes v. Bokro), and #44-14 (Greencastle Lakes v. Hernandez), and to refer them all to a hearing panel for further proceedings pursuant to the Default Judgment Procedures.  The hearing panel will be Molloy, Mays, Zajic.

            The staff withdrew #50-13, Greencastle Lakes v. Rinde-Thorsen, so that the complainant can re-investigate whether the violations have all be cured.

            The Commission unanimously agreed to dismiss, without prejudice, #56-14, Dorney v. Grosvenor Park IV, at the complainant’s request (Mays abstained).

            The Commission unanimously voted to accept jurisdiction of #60-14, Lebowitz v. Arora Hills Condominium, and to refer it to a hearing panel for further proceedings with the recommendation that the hearing panel order mediation (Mays, abstaining).  The hearing panel will include Fishbein and Winegar.

The Commission also voted unanimously to refer the motion to dismiss to the hearing panel for consideration (Mays, abstaining).


            The staff reported that at the request of the Flower Hill Central Corporation, it will write to the 190 members of the South Ridge HOA, which is a member of the FHCC and which currently has no board of directors, to encourage them to hold an election to re-create their board and resume the proper operations of their HOA.  FHCC has offered to assist any interested South Ridge members with calling and holding the election.


            No decisions were issued in August; one has been written and is under review by the County Attorney; another is in the process of being written.


            Mr. Wilson presented the revised draft of the Audio and Video Recording Guidelines for CCOC meetings.  In response to a question, he said that the Guidelines give the CCOC chair the authority to deal with disruptive audio or video recording practices.  The Commission voted unanimously to adopt the Guidelines.

            Mr. Wilson informed the Commission that the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board had received a complaint from Gordon Klang alleging violations by the CCOC of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  On behalf of the Commission, Mr. Wilson filed a response with the Board defending the CCOC’s right to close the meeting to receive his legal advice and the procedures it used to close the meeting.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:

            The staff circulated its statistical report for August, 2014; and also circulated a draft of the Summer newsletter for review and comments.  Mr. Fonoroff reported that at a recent seminar conducted by Rees, Broome, the CCOC’s decision on open meetings was a major topic, especially that part of the decision which held that meetings purely for the purpose of discussion did not have to be open meetings.

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

            Ms. Ethier and Mr. Fishbein reported for the Ad Hoc Committee.  They have met with OCP Director Eric Friedman with the main goals of obtaining more staff support for the CCOC and of increasing the CCOC’s role in future planning and budgeting.  The immediate concern is to find out where the CCOC’s money goes: how much is withheld by the Department of Housing and why, and how is OCP spending the remainder?  Mr. Friedman promised to set up meetings with the Finance Office and then later the Budget Office and the County Executive’s Office.

            The committee pointed out to Mr. Friedman that the OCP’s last budget presentation described OCP’s “significant accomplishments” but failed to mention the CCOC or its activities as part of those accomplishments.  The committee wants greater support from OCP for its educational projects.

            Another goal is to create objective means by which to measure the CCOC’s performance.

            The committee also discussed OCP’s support for the goal of revising the County Code so that it can continue using panel chairs who practice before the CCOC in other matters.  Mr. Friedman expressed doubt that such a proposal would be considered seriously.

            The committee will next meet with Mr. Friedman on September 12, and it intends to schedule more meetings with him in close succession.

            There were no reports from the Education or Annual Forum Committees.

            The Legislative Committee reported that it had just had a long discussion with Chris Gillis, of Councilmember Leventhal’s staff, on two bills Mr. Leventhal wishes to propose.  The first is a law that will require all board members to take training in community association management.   The committee suggested that the bill not specify any specific training method but rather appoint the CCOC to create one.  The other bill would allow the County to revoke or deny a rental license if a landlord were in default on his assessment obligations.  The consensus of the Commission was to support the general concepts of the proposals and to have further discussions on them after written drafts can be circulated.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

            Several commissioners expressed concern over the criticisms made early by Mssrs. McBeth and Muse.  A “dispute process” review committee was formed and Commissioners Mays, Fishbein, Coyle, Ethier and Weinstein volunteered for it.

            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday, October 1, 2014, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, November 5.

            The Commission voted to adjourn at 8:58pm.

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