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OP Director Renaud defends role

(July 9, 2015) To some in Ocean Pines, 76-year-old Pat Renaud is a hero. To others, he’s a Benedict Arnold.
Last August Renaud was the leading vote-getter during the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors election. A first-time candidate, he and Dave Stevens were swept into office and quickly moved to restructure, the balance of power on the board and the way meetings operated.
According to Renaud, he was recruited to run by Marvin Steen.
“He and his group said they wanted somebody they thought would be responsible and intelligent to run for the board, and my name was suggested,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised, because I wasn’t really political and I had never thought about it. I said I’d think about it, and after about two weeks I went from, ‘Why me,’ to, ‘why not me?’
“I had experience on boards before, both as an executive director, like [General Manager] Bob Thompson is, and also as a chairman of the board,” Renaud continued. “I thought, well, with that experience, I probably could add something.”
Following the election, the other five members on the board elected Renaud secretary. Stevens became president and because of their joint campaign it appeared a new voting bloc was in place.
“The central issue [during the campaign] was Dave and I felt that the board was not in the control of the directors,” Renaud said. “I started going to board meetings when I signed up and my impression was that the board meetings would always start with [former president] Tom Terry, and all of a sudden Bob Thompson was taking over with slide presentations and all that kind of stuff. So I thought, ‘Wait a minute – is this for the general manager or is this for the board of directors?’”
Renaud suggested all of the directors receive a general manager’s report at a minimum of three days before each meeting so they would have a better understanding of the issues that would be debated and decided. Stevens, he said, took things a step farther.
“What Dave wanted was to make sure that the board was in control of the [department directors] rather than the general manager,” he said. “He started reading the general manager’s report at meetings and I thought to myself, ’that’s not his report – that’s Bob’s report.
“Then, Bob would interject something at a meeting Dave or [Vice President] Marty [Clarke] usually slapped him down and said, ’this is not your meeting, this is the meeting for the directors,’” Renaud continued. “I didn’t agree with that. That’s when my first streak of independence came through.”
In the following weeks it became apparent that Renaud would not be an automatic vote for anyone.
“When I didn’t get in lock step with [Stevens] we had a meeting shortly after the first or second board meeting in which he chastised me and [Treasurer] Jack Collins for not voting on his issue,” Renaud said. “We both told him that we’re independent voters and we didn’t think his issue was a good one. That set it up right there that he knew I was not a part of the team, per say, and I said, ’that’s right, I’m not.’”
Renaud said he spent the first six months in office “pretty much sitting tight and watching what’s going on.” Then, when things threatened to reach a boiling point during hearings for the fiscal year 2016 budget, Renaud redefined himself as a swing voter.
“That was an unusual situation because nobody was taking charge of it,” Renaud said. “They were just sort of floundering and nobody was doing anything about it. Tom Terry and I happened to meet one day and he was on one side of the issue and I was on the other. And I said, ’you know, what we ought to do is get together and make a compromise.’”
According to Renaud, Terry was at the higher side on assessments, approximately $945, while Renaud favored a proposal that lowered the annual fee to $909.
“We hammered out our points, I gave up some, he gave up some, and the next thing you know we came to a compromise,” Renaud said. We looked at every single line item and we ended up at $921, which I thought was good.”
The compromise did not go over well with Clarke, who walked out of at least one budget meeting in disgust, and vowed not to run for reelection if the budget passed.
“He wanted to get rid of all the reserves, which I am not in favor of at any time,” Renaud said. “He was on one side of the issue and Dave tried to come in with a third alternative at one of the board meetings, but it didn’t make any sense. He didn’t come up with any solid plans.”
The budget passed 4-3.
“That was the real big break more than anything else,” Renaud said. “I know that made Marty very mad, and Dave sort of followed along with that. Things began to sour on that situation.”
It also became apparent, according to Renaud, that several of the board members were hell-bent on ousting Thompson.
“As I told Bob Thompson the first time I met him, ‘you have a lot of problems. I know that, but I’m not here to get rid of you,’” Renaud said. “I’m here to try to make sure you do the right job. If you don’t do the right job, I’ll be the first in line to get rid of you, but that’s not my purpose. My purpose is to try to make things run smoothly and not be an aggravation. But the other [board members] did not believe that.”
Renaud’s own opinion of Thompson has changed dramatically since the last election when, he said, he thought the general manager was “trying to take over the board.”
“It’s become very frustrating for him because [the other directors] will talk about his actions, but they won’t ask for his opinion, and I think that’s wrong,” Renaud said. “If he’s doing something and you don’t like it, you ought to ask him for his opinion about it.
“He is part of the organization,” Renaud added. “He is not the eighth man on the board, but he is certainly the part that carries out the policy. We’re the ones that make the policy – that’s true – but without the person that’s carrying it out we don’t know what’s going on.”
As an example, Renaud cited the negotiations with Sandpiper, which appeared to be moving forward under Thompson’s last year before talks stalled.
 “That was a total waste, in my mind, because he was doing a good job in December,” he said. “He already had several meetings and he was moving along, and all of the sudden Dave and Marty pulled the rug out from under him and said, ‘you’re done.’ And we didn’t do anything for six months.”
During a recent meeting Director Bill Cordwell motioned to have Thompson reinstated as chief negotiator. A closed session was held to discuss the issue, and eventually the directors voted unanimously to give the reigns back to the general manager.
“I think Bill Cordwell did a good job by raising the issue and saying, ‘let’s get back to the table,’” Renaud said. “We were saying we’re not really harmed because we’re paying the same rate as everybody else on the outside, [and] that’s very true, however we are harmed because we’re not doing our due diligence in making sure the people in Ocean Pines get what they should have.”
According to Renaud, Thompson opened up a new dialog with Sandpiper last month and negotiations are finally moving forward.
“They said, evidently, ‘please come back to the table, but don’t bring that guy Marty Clarke along,’” Renaud said. “It’s that kind of a situation.”
Renaud believes several of the current candidates for the next board of directors share a common desire to marginalize or remove Thompson from the general manager position.
“There are certain members of the candidates that, if they get elected to the board, Bob Thompson won’t be around very much longer,” he said. “That’s my feeling.”
His own role in the election, Renaud said, has been fairly limited. He had a long lunch meeting with former police officer Thomas Herrick, who asked for advice, and was host of a gathering, along with Cordwell and Terry, with the three female candidates: Cheryl Jacobs, Terri Mohr and Carol Ludwig.
“I invited the three ladies for coffee and donuts, and all we talked about was the issues and about how to get elected – how to have signs out in the street, where you can go get them,” Renaud said. “Cheryl [Jacobs] took a lot of notes, and she actually followed through and has the most signage out there.
“I truly want to have a woman on the board,” Renaud added. “At least one, because I think they bring a levity that we don’t have if it’s all male. An old man’s club, I don’t think, is going to work.”
Renaud said he is not planning to endorse anyone because he believes that would be unethical considering his position as board secretary and as liaison to the elections committee.
He did, however, offer some opinions on the board presidency, on the current presiding officer Stevens and whoever might replace him on the new board following the elections.
Stevens, he said, acted too slowly on issues such as golf management and Sandpiper, and rarely met with the general manager to go over key issues.
“It took Dave eight and a half months to meet with [Thompson] on a regular basis,” Renaud said. “I thought that was a crime. If I, or anyone else, was president, I would insist you meet with them on a regular basis. Dave’s answer to that was, ‘I didn’t think it was necessary.’
“I think it is necessary to meet regularly and go over where he is on all the issues that are going on in Ocean Pines. Just to hold them fast at once a month meetings and to chastise him about this or that is the other is not the answer,” Renaud said.
Renaud said he heard talk that Stevens would promote Collins as the next president and admitted that he would take the job himself if it were offered to him.
“I have had people tell me that they would support me,” he said. “The only reason why I would do it is because I think I could be fairer, and I would spend more time with the general manager. I would keep some of the things like the general manager’s report, but [Thompson] would have much more of a presence at the board meeting than he does now. He wouldn’t have no presence, which he almost doesn’t now.”
He also said he would like to end the bickering at board meetings.
“Maybe when Marty goes that goes away,” Renaud said. “I like Marty, but he keeps fighting and fighting, and Dave is almost as bad. They keep going on and picking on people, and it’s just not working at all. We need to change that, and I have a feeling that the people in Ocean Pines are not happy with that either. They look at us as a ‘do nothing’ board, and I kind of have to agree with that.”