By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
A lawsuit filed by Tom Janasek in Worcester County Circuit Court Tuesday contends that the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors has no power to ban him from association amenities for three months as punishment for his verbal attack on board member Josette Wheatley last month.
The board imposed the sanctions on June 9 in response to Janasek’s behavior at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club on May 20, when he accosted Wheatley and unleased a profane tirade.
Janasek, a former board member, acknowledges that his outburst at the club was out of hand, but argues in the suit that the board’s suspension of his privileges goes beyond its authority.
“The majority of the thing we’re suing for is to end the ban and to prove that they were wrong because there’s no legal right for them to do what they did,” Janasek said. “They even say so (in their findings. They essentially say,) ‘There’s nothing in the bylaws that says we can do this but we’re doing it anyway.’”
The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to stop the OPA from enforcing the suspension until after the litigation has ended. As of Tuesday, the suspension stood.
“I mean, honestly, it’s been boiling for a long time. The powers on that board weren’t happy with me with the (director Rick) Farr situation,” Janasek said, referring to the extensive litigation last year over Farr’s eligibility to be on the board of directors.
Janasek said he favored dropping that case because it was turning into a cash pit.
In his court case, Janasek said it’s more of the same — hundreds of thousands of dollars could be spent to litigate something that the association has no legal means to enforce.
Janasek claimed that costs for the Farr case were so exorbitant that the amount association members would have saved on the annual assessment for 2022-23 was compromised.
Ocean Pines General Manager John Viola denied the allegation.
“OPA was represented by legal counsel appointed by OPA’s insurance carrier in the Farr litigation,” Viola wrote in an email. “The legal fees incurred in the Farr litigation did not have a material impact on OPA’s budget overall or on setting the annual assessment for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.”
As he’s stated in the past, Janasek said the conflict between him and the directors is personal.
“This isn’t about the argument at the yacht club,” he said. “There was no physical violence or police calls. I wasn’t arrested. I argued with someone and I was asked to leave — proper protocol at any bar anywhere. That’s what should have happened and should have been the end of it. The board went beyond their authority and they did it because it was personal.”
“I’m not proud of the fact that I was asked to leave the yacht club. What I did was out of hand, but the simple fact is they (club management) did what they were supposed to do based on their contracts and policies. The board is only interfering because it’s me.”
The lawsuit also seeks less than $75,000 in damages.
Attorney Bruce Bright, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Janasek, stressed that that price tag should not be construed as either a specific amount or the point of the case.
“The priority is the relief and injunction we’re seeking,” Bright said. “As a priority, what Tom is seeking is to have this purported ban declared invalid and enjoin the OPA and board from enforcing the ban. Oftentimes parties also seek damages, but that is the priory of the case — the declamatory injunction and relief.”
“We wouldn’t be bringing (this case) if we didn’t believe in its merits. We believe they’re strong, the board acted improperly, but the court ultimately gets to decide who’s right.”
Viola said the OPA does not comment on pending litigation, and association attorney Jeremy Tucker could not be reached for comment.
This story appears in the print version of the Bayside Gazette on June 23, 2022.