The legal question notwithstanding, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors’ decision to punish former director Tom Janasek for his outburst at the Yacht Club in May was something it had to do.
When one member of the association accosts another in a community-owned facility and unleashes an unrelenting verbal assault on that individual, the board can’t sit on its hands and say, “Oh well.” It has to show that such behavior will not be tolerated on its property.
A different argument might be made if two people got into an argument that escalated into a screaming match, but in this instance Janasek got in the face of and berated an unsuspecting club patron — then-Director Josette Wheatley.
Special circumstances do not apply because Wheatley was on the board. She was just as entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of this amenity as anyone. It is a given that elected officials will be subjected to more verbal abuse and criticism than the average person — especially these days — but that doesn’t mean society or the board, in this instance, should adjust their definition of acceptable behavior to reflect these increasingly confrontational times.
Maybe the board’s decision to revoke Janasek’s amenity privileges for 90 days was too much and maybe it wasn’t, but the severity of the punishment isn’t the argument before the court in Janasek’s lawsuit.
The question is whether the board has the authority to do anything beyond a public reprimand. If the parties fail to reach some kind of settlement in this debate, as ordered by Circuit Court Judge Beau Oglesby, he will decide what the board can and can’t do.
What the court will not decide, however, is whether the board has a moral responsibility to protect all citizens under its jurisdiction from aggressive and threatening behavior from other citizens. It absolutely does.
Again, the extent of its reaction to this circumstance may be debatable, but its responsibility to take some kind of action is irrefutable … even if the court sees things differently.