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Collins has differing view of board

(July 9, 2015) There are two sides to every story, so the saying goes, and in Ocean Pines, there are two sides to the discussion of how the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors should govern.
Following last August’s election, it appeared those two sides would be a voting bloc formed by newly elected Pat Renaud and Dave Stevens and returning directors Marty Clarke and Jack Collins. One the other side of the aisle would be previous board president Tom Terry and directors Bill Cordwell and Sharyn O’Hare.  
General Manager Bob Thompson was caught in the middle following an election where Renaud and Stevens spent a fair amount of time criticizing his contract and his perceived abundance of influence.
Then, somewhere along the way things got fuzzy.
Treasurer Jack Collins, elected to the board in 2013, said he and Clarke and been ignored by Terry and the previous majority.
“I tried to reach out to Tom and a couple of the rest of them to some degree, and I was only to get one thing done that entire year,” he said. “The budget and finance committee wanted to get more involved in the budget process, and I put forward a motion to do that.
“It got watered down, but that was the one thing I got done,” Collins said. “That was it. Someone asked me what I should call it, and I said it was a ‘sense’ by the board that we should do that.”
With Renaud and Stevens coming on as secretary and president, respectively, Collins hoped the board would become “more focused and more organized.”
Collins set his sights on resolving the issue of golf management in Ocean Pines. Last year Billy Casper Golf was four years into running the community course, but had lost more than $1 million dollars during that period.
“The goal was to determine if we were doing the best by the members, not only for the golf club members, but for the members in general that were subsidizing the course, and create more open reporting from our manager,” Collins said. “And when we dug into it, what we found out was Casper was providing a hell of a lot more information – but we never saw it.”
Those reports, Collins said, went to Thompson, but never reached the board. Frustrated, several directors moved to replace Casper and eventually settled on Nebraska-based Landscapes Unlimited.
“The only time we received real information on golf was during budget, Collins said. “ [Casper] had marketing surveys, they had secret shopper, but we never saw any of that stuff. We never even knew they were doing it. It was going to the general manager, but it was never going anywhere else. If Bob had just been respectful of the board members and shared that information with the board, Casper would still be the manager. There’s no doubt in my mind. There was no need for a change.”
The ordeal brought into sharper focus the widening rift between Thompson and certain members of the board of directors, including Collins.
Then, Renaud became involved in a controversy near the end of the selection process when, during a public meeting, Thompson openly challenged the board.
“It was brought forward as we were not doing our due diligence,” Collins said, referring to a report that a similar community had been burned by Landscapes.
The information came from a member to Thompson, who, Collins said, called Renaud.
“I was totally in the dark. I was dumbfounded,” Collins said. “I got up with Dave and said, ‘what the heck is going on?’ And he said, ‘Pat called me at nine o’clock the night before the meeting and went through this routine. Dave said, ‘we’ll get to the bottom of this,’ and when I found out the details I jumped right on it.
“The reality was that [Landscapes] had sold the property to investor, and they maintained a degree of control of the property until they were paid, because they helped finance the course,” Collins said. “The person that these people were talking to had badmouthed Landscapes because, I guess, if you owe somebody money sometimes you’ve got to squeeze a little bit. That’s the only negative thing we ever heard, and that was the explanation. It was a sold golf course and they were pissed off at them. It was plain and simple as that.”
Collins said he also wondered why Renaud didn’t call him rather than go to the general manager.
Eventually, Collins said, he came to the realization that Renaud had greatly softened his stance on the general manager.
 “Tell me if I’m wrong, but allowing the general manager to do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it however they want to do it is not in the best interest of Ocean Pines,” Collins said.
Terry, according to Collins, had been a “top down manager” during his career in the private sector, and operated under the same system while serving as board president.
“It just became a compliant board,” Collins said. “Tom acquiesced, as Bill Cordwell did, as Sharyn O’Hare did, the authority of the board to the general manager to go in the overall direction that the GM wanted. That was their management style.
“The other management style is to spread it out, to utilize the expertise of that board, bring in the general manager to leverage that expertise for the welfare of the folks, and even take input of the membership,” Collins continued. “You tap into everything available, and you create a continuity where the board and the GM form a partnership. The board sets policy and direction and priorities, the general manager is on board, and you’re all working together.”
Today, as Collins sees it, one side of the board wants to give Thompson absolute power, while the other wants to fire him.
“I think it’s that simple,” he said. “The problem is I don’t want to get rid of him. If he can do his job, why do we want to go through all that stuff?
“I think there are enough various personalities on the board that would allow us to operate on a two-way street,” Collins continued. “The question is would the GM allow that to happen?”
The coming election, Collins said, is an important one.
“I think the people have to make their own choice, and I hope it’s an informed choice,” Collins said. “They’re going to have to determine whether they want the priorities to come from the board, or from someplace else like the general manager.”
While Collins said, “it’s up to Dave” whether the current president returns to the same position after the election, he admitted, “we probably need to look at someone else.”
Would he, then, take the job?
“Only if the folks want me to,” he said. “It’s not important to me. It’s not one of those things I’ve got to do. If the board in its infinite, collective wisdom thinks the person to run this board should be Joe Shmoe, I don’t care. I’ll support them.
If he were selected, however, Collins said he would like to see the board go back to holding work sessions that suspend Robert’s Rules of Order and gather public input.   
“The other thing that I would open it up to [is] the board and I would say, ‘I want each and every one of you to come up with three top priorities – what you want to accomplish this year.’ Bring them to an orientation meeting and, as a board, let’s pick our top three priorities,” he said. “If we get through those three with time to spare, go to the next three, then go to the next three. Let’s get something done.
“Marty Clarke said the smartest thing I’ve ever heard, and he’s right. The problem with this board and the problem with the association is no one knows how to get a spade in the ground,” Collins added. “Get it going. Move it. Even if it’s only one or two things a year, get it done.”