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OP mulls new rules for media relations, committee reports

(Oct. 22, 2015) The Ocean Pines Association leadership could be changing the way it communicates with its advisory committees and the local media, following a meeting last Monday to discuss both matters.
Director and former president Dave Stevens said the session was an extension of the board orientation meeting in September. Five of the seven board members attended, with Tom Terry and Bill Cordwell being absent.
“We discussed board relations with the committees and board relations with the media,” Stevens said. “It was an attempt, and I think a relatively successful one, to come up with a mutual agreement.”
Stevens admitted the meeting was not formal, but added, “this is the way we think we ought to deal with these things.”
Regarding the committees, Stevens said the group, which included General Manager Bob Thompson, discussed having board liaisons provide a committee meeting report that would become part of the formal packets handed out before board meetings.
“It’s not as easy as one would think, because they write them when they write them,” he said. “Moreover, looking at the timing of the meeting and the timing of the board meeting, it might come a couple days before a board meeting.”
He added the reports were not intended to be report cards and said he also suggested making the minutes from the committee meetings easier to find on the association’s website.  
As for how the OPA would deal with the media, Stevens said the group discussed having questions submitted in writing, by email, and giving each director the opportunity to weigh in.
“It is not useful to provide opinions to the media without including the rest of the board,” he said adding, “I’ll wait and see whether or not it changes anything or not.
“The whole point is somebody can put in an opinion and you print it and I read it, but that’s not a board opinion,” Stevens added. “And moreover, [if] it’s wrong and I disagree with it, do I wait until next week and say, ‘here’s the real scoop?’”
Stevens said questions from the public are generally shared between each director.
“If I get one and let’s say Tom Herrick answers it, just as an example, I can look at it and see what he says and I can say, ‘I see where Tom is coming from, but you also should consider this,’” Stevens said. “Now everybody knows at the same time and it’s pretty much real time, and the person getting the answer will know there are different ways to look at it. All that’s very good.
“What we talked about was, well, how can we do that with the media?” Stevens continued. “I think what we’re trying to do is make a balanced approach to the media.”
Over the last year, Stevens said, multiple directors have not been given the chance to weigh in on some topics reported in the local press.
“My personal opinion is that it’s a serious problem,” he said. “You can’t misquote an email – that’s one thing – and you can’t taper your opinion over an email. And, more specifically, the opportunity for a response is there because an email is instant, whereas a newspaper article isn’t.”
He added the policy would necessitate a certain degree of “self monitoring” from the other directors.
“I think this board is trying hard, including the general manager, of course, to be more respectful of different opinions and cautious in what we say,” Stevens said.
Board President Pat Renaud, on vacation, did not return calls asking for a comment. Thompson also did not respond to requests for comment.
Vice President Cheryl Jacobs, asked to comment on the story, requested that questions be send to her via email.
“Speaking for myself, it is desirable when we communicate with the media, that we wish not to be ‘misquoted,’ which unfortunately can happen when speaking ‘off the cuff’ with reporters, and we would like everyone on the Board to be apprised of the communications with the media, so that was a long way of saying, yes, it is preferable that questions and responses are handled by way of written email Q & A and that they be shared with the entire Board,” she wrote.