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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

November 4, 2015


The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:02pm by Chairperson Rand H. Fishbein.
Present: Commissioners Fishbein, Winegar, Zajic, Don Weinstein, Coyle, Brandes, Fonoroff, Cromwell.
Absent: Commissioners Stone, David Weinstein, Fine, Ethier (there are 3 vacancies).
Also attending: Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson; CCOC staff Peter Drymalski; OCP Director Eric Friedman; DHCA Director Clarence Snuggs; Konstantin Fegeding, Leslie Baldwin, Patricia Martinsen, Dallas Valley, Lawrence Dorney, Joan Kuchkuda, Joan Neale.
            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the October, 2015, meeting were approved as drafted with the amendments offered by Mr. Wilson.
            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:
            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of Nos. 09-15 and 41-15, Fegeding v. Walnut Grove Condo.  Mr. Wilson stated his opinion that the settlement of #09-15 did not bar that complaint or #41-15 from proceeding because the wording of the settlement agreement stated that the dispute was resolved only if and when both parties complied with it, and there was a dispute over whether in fact the Condo had complied.  The cases were referred to a single hearing panel for further proceedings.
            The Commission voted unanimously (Cromwell abstaining) to accept jurisdiction of #42-15, Bishow v. King Farm Village Condo II.  Mr. Wilson advised that the decision of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights not to proceed with the case was not a legally binding determination of the parties’ rights and therefore did not prevent the homeowners from proceeding with their dispute before the CCOC.  The Commission strongly recommended that the panel hold a prehearing conference for this dispute.
            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of Issue #1 in #29-15, Chaney v. Kimberly Place Condo, and of Issue #6 unless the Condo, within 30 days, provided proof that it had obtained or at least ordered the annual audits.
            Dr. Fishbein reported that the Executive has completed the assessment it promised early in the year.  The Executive has made 4 recommendations for the CCOC: 1. Require mandatory mediations in all CCOC disputes; 2. Modify the membership of the CCOC so that it has 5 public members; 3. Transfer CCOC to DHCA; and, 4. Increase the CCOC fees by $2/unit so that it can hire two new staff members.  Mr. Friedman stated that the Executive would follow these recommendations with specific amendments to the County Code. 
            Mr. Friedman spoke at length about the advantages of mediation and the talents of Michael Lang, a voluntary mediator for OCP.  The Commissioners had several questions on the proposal to change the composition of the CCOC.
            The County Council will hold a joint PHED/PSC committee hearing on the proposals at 1pm November 16, 2015.
            6. NEW CASES:
            Mr. Friedman circulated a report on the 7 new cases received in October.  He has assigned all the new cases to himself and has made other changes to standard CCOC new case procedures.  He has not put his new procedures into writing and he did not consult with the CCOC or its staff or the County Attorney before making his changes.  He sends out the complaints by email and he immediately attempts to arrange mediations before the respondent answers the complaint.  He stated that he can resolve cases more quickly with his procedures than the CCOC can.  He referred to one case involving lack of hot water, which was resolved by the Office of Housing Code Enforcement and closed as “Resolved before Mediation,” and to another case involving compliance with a debt collection agreement, which agreement had been made as part of a case handled by the Office of Consumer Protection, which was also closed as “Resolved before Mediation.”  In two of the 7 cases he has refunded the CCOC filing fees to the complainant.  He said it was not necessary to obtain a formal response to the complaint if the complaint showed that the complainant already knew what the response was.
            Dr. Fishbein stated that the new policy conflicted with the one under consideration by the CCOC  in which the full CCOC would review every case for jurisdiction before accepting the complaint and asking the other party to respond to it.
            8. STAFF REPORTS:
            Staff circulated its statistical report for October, 2015.  Subsequent to Mr. Friedman’s report on his activities and his departure from the room, there was a discussion of whether his new procedures complied with Chapter 10B.  Mr. Wilson agreed to look into the matter and discuss it with Mr. Friedman.
            9. COMMITTEE REPORTS:
            10. OLD BUSINESS:
            Ms. Winegar reported that CAI will meet to discuss proposals for third-party training on November 19.  She said the CCOC lacks the resources to conduct live training and that CAI is much better equipped to do so.  Other groups might fill special needs, such as translating the CCOC program into Spanish.
            Her concept on third-party training is that the trainer must be an attorney or a PCAM-certified manager.  The live training will not require a test.  The Commission voted to authorize Ms. Winegar to present a final version of a policy statement on licensing third-party training programs in January.
            Ms. Winegar also stated that DHCA has not yet agreed to change its annual surveys or “profile updates” in order to gather the information that  the CCOC feels is more important.
            Finally, Ms. Winegar stated that neither OCP nor DHCA has given a detailed statement on how they will support the training class after the law goes into effect on January 1, 2016.
            Mr. Zajic moved that the Commission authorize Dr. Fishbein and Ms. Winegar to draft a reply on behalf of the Commission to the Executive’s four proposals and to state the CCOC’s needs and proposals, and to present both to the County Council.  The Commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.
            11. NEW BUSINESS:
            Ms. Winegar asked the staff for ideas on how to reduce the pending case backlog.  After some discussion, the Commission agreed to ask the OCP director to free up surplus CCOC funds for the purpose of hiring a process server to deliver complaints, decisions, and other legal documents when needed by the staff.
            All other new business was postponed until December , 2015.
            12. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday,  January 6, 2016, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, February 3, 2016.

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