By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Sept. 8, 2022) An evidentiary hearing in Snow Hill last month ended with presiding Judge Beau Oglesby setting a 25-day window from Aug. 26 to rule whether the Ocean Pines Association had the legal power to enforce a 90-day amenity ban on former director Tom Janasek.
If the ruling goes Janasek’s way, it would enjoin OPA from carrying out the ban.
The ban was OPA’s response to a May incident at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club that saw Janasek accost and verbally berate then-Director Josette Wheatley. Janasek does not deny that the incident occurred.
The lengthy testimony in the Snow Hill Circuit Courthouse featured multiple witnesses, including Janasek, Wheatley, OPA director Frank Daly, former OPA President Colette Horn and former OPA director Larry Perrone.
In making his decision, Oglesby referenced the August board elections as a reason for the 25-day window, in which the two sides of the lawsuit have the opportunity to work out a compromise.
Those elections shook up the OPA rank and file with the ousting of Wheatley and Amy Peck, who showed support for her colleague and the ban.
Director Doug Parks, who has been wary of a ban since it was voted on in June, has since taken Horn’s place as president. At least two of the three new directors have questioned the validity of the ban as well.
Throughout the hearing, OPA attorney Megan Mantzavinos made the case that the board is not limited to the language within the association’s governing documents, especially in matters of safety and protection.
Wheatley, in her testimony, minced no words in saying she feared what Janasek might do next during the altercation.
“I was scared out of my mind, quite honestly,” she told Mantzavinos. “I’ve never seen him that way. He has deep blue eyes but they were black. He was in anger mode. And I had seen that before, and I said, he’s going to hit us.”
Wheatley went on to claim that Janasek could be heard over the live music and up to 1,000 feet away, according to her own research.
Bruce Bright, Janasek’s attorney, said there are a “whole host of reasons” that Mantzavinos’s argument doesn’t hold water, but declined to elaborate, pending the exchange of closing arguments between their camps.
As far as their case, Bright said the evidence he wanted to present at the trial was presented. His witness questioning included nearly three hours on Horn alone. Bright’s argument generally revolved around that, despite Janasek’s colorful language and aggressive demeanor, the board simply lacks the authority to ban him because the governing documents don’t contain any justification to do so.
Bright also brought up the fact that Janasek went against the board majority in its pursuit of disqualifying director Rick Farr from the board last year, indicating that the ban at hand was retaliation for his position back then.
On Tuesday, Bright said his closing argument was already prepared. The two sides have until Sept. 20 to make a deal before an official decision.
A request for comment from Mantzavinos was not immediately returned.