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Golf course talks range off course

(Dec. 18, 2014) A flurry of internal memos between Ocean Pines Association board members, General Manager Bob Thompson and others left plenty of confusion over whether the association canceled its contract with the current golf course management company, Billy Casper Golf.
A memo sent by Thompson to the directors on Dec. 3 ignited a chain of responses.
Allegedly, board President Dave Stevens informed Golf Director John Malinowski earlier that day that the board would terminate its contract with Casper at its next meeting in January.
Thompson said Stevens called him the previous day and informed him of the board’s intent, adding that the decision stemmed from a unanimous vote by a review panel.
Stevens supposedly told Malinowski that Casper would have the opportunity to negotiate a new contract while the board considered proposals from two other companies, one to manage and one to lease the course. A fourth option included allowing the board to self-manage.
Thompson, in the memo, called the actions “incomprehensible,” arguing that conditions had drastically improved under Casper. He said the panel had not reviewed all the information available to it and had not consulted him, and went on to decry what he labeled a “continued lack of professionalism, decorum and common courtesy.”
Thompson also said in the memo that an early termination of the Casper agreement would come with a $25,000 cancelation fee in accordance the contract.
Attorney Joe Moore was included in the correspondence.
On Dec. 5, a letter sent to Malinowski, apparently drafted by Moore and signed by board Vice President Marty Clarke, attempted to clarify the board’s position. According to the provisions in the managerial agreement, dated Oct. 2010, the board has the authority to terminate the agreement in in writing 30 days after receipt of the course’s final determination of net operating income, expected to arrive on Dec. 18.
No formal board vote had taken place, the letter continued, but if the net operating income did not meet budget requirements, the board would maintain its right to terminate the contract without penalties.
Stevens sent an email to the directors while on vacation in Bali, saying director Sharyn O’Hare had called him at the airport, asked for further clarification and urged him to contact board Parliamentarian Tom Terry. Stevens refused, saying O’Hare “has a very poor understanding of what is or isn’t ‘urgent.’”
Stevens added that he would continue his communications with other board members during his vacation, expected to last most of December.
When the Bayside Gazette contacted Malinowski for comment, he acknowledged reading the Moore/Clarke letter, but said he had read no other communications.
“Our contract, at least as far as we know, ends April 30 so we’re just business as usual,” he said. “My understanding is that we’ll get to meet with the Ocean Pines board sometime in January to discuss the details of the contract.”
Malinowski said it was not his place to comment on internal communications from the OPA, but that he anticipated continuing his role at the golf course.
“We’ve had a great year,” he said. “Things are moving forward. We think that once they sit down and talk to us and look at all the numbers they’ll feel the same way.
“The course is just in wonderful shape,” Malinowski continued. “The comments that we’ve gotten from outside play has been phenomenal, from the people that book the packages have been great, the people that have been playing are loving it. Ocean Pines residents are talking about how great things are. Our members are saying it’s the best they’ve seen the golf course in at least 30 years – maybe longer. To get that kind of feedback, it makes you feel like you are doing something right.”
Relations between the board and Casper have been tenuous. In March, members of the community formed a coalition and called on the directors to either lease or franchise the course. The board responded by calling for proposals to that effect in October.
Malinowski, for his part, said he makes it a point to avoid controversy.
“I work in the Pines, and when I leave work, I want to play with my kids and spend time with my family,” he said. “I really just don’t spend any time paying attention to any of that.”