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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

October 7, 2015


The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:03 pm by Chairperson Rand H. Fishbein.

Present: Commissioners Fishbein, Winegar, Coyle, Ethier, Fonoroff, Mays, Rahmani, Stone, Zajic, Fine, Don Weinstein (11).

Absent: Commissioners Brandes, David Weinstein, Cromwell (3).

Also attending: Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson, OCP Director Eric Friedman, CCOC Staff Peter Drymalski, Konstantin Fegeding, Asadur Ozkanian, Dallas Valley, Charles Bruno, Vicki Vergagni, Larry Dorney, Leslie Baldwin, OCP staff Marsha Carter.
            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the September, 2015, meeting were unanimously approved as drafted with the exception that the paragraphs must be renumbered (Fonoroff, Rahmani abstaining).
            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:
            Ms. Vergagni requested that the CCOC hold a seminar with representatives of the US Bankruptcy Court to discuss community association concerns.  She stated that the trustees will not enforce the law requiring that bankruptcy petitioners resume paying debts falling due after the filing date.  She also knows of a case in which the petitioner did not report all his income to the court as required.  She stated further that something must be done because at least 5 condominium associations in her area are near bankruptcy themselves.  The Commission will consider holding an educational seminar.
            Mr. Fegeding complained about his association’s failure to hold its annual election when promised in the mediation agreement.  He now has a new case pending on that issue.
            Mr. Bruno complained of an unduly long delay in a CCOC panel’s ruling on a proposed decision in a case involving his neighbor.  He claimed he had sent a letter to the CCOC Chair.  Mr. Fishbein stated he had not seen any such letter, but he would reply to the one delivered by Mr. Bruno.
            The CCOC took up the staff’s Case Summary in #15-15, Kobernick v. Fallstone HOA.  Mr. Wilson concurred in the staff’s recommendations.  The Commission voted unanimously to dismiss the claims against board members as individuals, and also to dismiss the claim of invasion of privacy.
            Mr. Stone moved to dismiss the entire complaint for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the decisions complained of were within the board’s business judgment.  Several members replied that the CCOC has jurisdiction if the complaint is not only about the board’s proper exercise of discretion, and that the homeowner was alleging that the board’s decision was in conflict with the governing documents.  After considerable discussion, the Commission voted 9 to 2 (Stone, Mays) to accept jurisdiction of those parts of the complaint not already dismissed.
            The hearing panel for #15-15 will be Ethier, Zajic and Winegar and the case was set for November 18, 2015.
            4. STATUS REPORTS
            Dr. Fishbein summarized the recent meeting between CCOC representatives and Ms. Connie Latham representing the County Executive.  They discussed the CCOC’s staffing and IT needs, and explained the CCOC’s side of misinformation that they felt had been provided to the County Executive’s Office.  He referred to a summary he prepared for Ms. Latham which is part of the CCOC packet.  He added that after the meeting, County Attorney Marc Hanson, who was also present, sent an email in which he attempted to define the authority of the CCOC versus that of the OCP and the Executive.  This memo was under discussion because it was intended as an internal communication.
            Mr. Stone attempted to read Mr. Hanson’s letter out loud.  Mr. Wilson cautioned him that if he did so, the letter might not be protected from public disclosure.  Ms. Ethier moved to close the discussion.  Mr. Stone stated that some members of the CCOC had exceeded their authority by “lobbying” for more staff in opposition to the County Executive.  In response, Mr. Wilson advised that while the CCOC cannot “lobby” it does clearly have an advisory function, and that Section 10B-6 says that the CCOC “must” advise the Executive and the Council as it finds necessary. 
            Mr. Stone challenged the right of some commissioners to write the letter to Ms. Latham, saying that Mr. Hanson made it clear that implementation of the mandatory training law was left with the OCP director.  Mr. Fonoroff responded by stating that the CCOC chair has the right to write a memorandum summarizing the substance of a meeting which he attended.
            Mr. Wilson advised that the real issue is how much authority the CCOC can delegate to its committees.   A CCOC committee need not obtain CCOC approval for every detail which that committee might discuss or take a position on, although the CCOC could instruct the committee on such a matter.  He stated further that if the CCOC wanted to deal with other levels of government outside of the County, it should do so through the Office of Intergovernmental Relations.
            Mr. Friedman stated his opinion that Dr. Fishbein’s letter of September 10, 2015, to the County Executive did not make clear if he represented the full CCOC instead of only himself and a few other members.  Mr. Stone stated that he objected to the substance of both of Dr. Fishbein’s letters on the grounds that they intervened in matters which were only within the discretion of the OCP director.
            Mr. Fonoroff moved: that the CCOC endorse the Chairperson’s efforts to advise other County agencies of what the CCOC believes to be necessary to carry out its statutory mandates.  The Commission approved the motion by a vote of 9 to 1 (Stone voting no; Mays abstaining).
            Mr. Fonoroff moved to approve the “Reaffirmation” drafted by Ms. Winegar.  Mr. Stone opposed the motion on the grounds that the actions being reaffirmed represented improper lobbying by the CCOC.  He conceded that responding to questions posed by the County Council was not lobbying, but that contacting council members to arrange meetings to press the CCOC’s positions was improper lobbying.  Mr. Friedman said he agreed that the September 9, 2015, letter was improper lobbying.  Mr. Fonoroff then amended his motion to approve the “Reaffirmation” provided that the committees kept the CCOC informed of their activities; Mr. Coyle offered an amendment that the committees should not represent that they speak for the full CCOC without prior approval to do so.  The CCOC voted 9 to 2 (Stone, May opposing) to accept the Reaffirmation with those two conditions.
            Mr. Wilson advised that the Reaffirmation need not be filed with the Chief Administrative Office because it was a matter of internal procedures, although the CCOC could do so if it wished. 
            Ms. Winegar presented a draft of a new procedure under which all new CCOC cases would first be reviewed by the full CCOC for jurisdiction before the staff sent out the complaints to the respondents.  This decision would be a preliminary one, and if the CCOC voted that it had jurisdiction, the responding party could still file an objection and a motion to dismiss.  Although the CCOC expressed interest in the proposal, due to the lateness of the hour, it voted to table further discussion on it until the November meeting.
            The staff summarized the final decisions in #24-14, Prue v. Old Georgetown Village, and #28-14, Kelly v. Longmead Crossing Condominium.
            Mr. Wilson reported he was reviewing the draft panel decision in #57-14, Torres v. Top of the Park Condominium.
            7. STAFF REPORTS:
            Mr. Drymalski reported that revised enrollment figures from DHCA showed that  the total number of enrollments will probably exceed the estimated number by about 10,000 units, which should bring an additional $30,000 in increased CCOC fees.
            Mr. Friedman distributed a list of all pending CCOC cases, noting that there was a backlog of older cases.
            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:
            9. OLD BUSINESS:
            10. NEW BUSINESS:
            Ms. Winegar proposed that the CCOC meet with representatives of the Housing Opportunities Commission to discuss HOC’s participation in the associations in which it is a member, and in particular HOC’s compliance with the associations’ architectural rules.  The CCOC voted unanimously to adopt this proposal.
            Ms. Winegar also proposed that the CCOC meet with representatives of the Zoning Office to discuss possible procedures for ensuring participation of the community association in member requests to install accessory rental apartments or home-based businesses.  The CCOC voted unanimously to adopt this proposal.
            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday,  November 4, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, December 2.
The Commission voted to adjourn at 9:30pm.

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