By Stewart Dobson
The ramifications of a May 20 confrontation at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club between former Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors member Tom Janasek and current member Josette Wheatley continued this week with a board hearing scheduled, an ultimatum emailed and the yacht club management’s response to what it perceived as a threat.
In a special meeting tonight (Thursday), the board will consider a motion by Director Frank Daly to suspend Janasek’s privileges at the club and other amenities. In addition, Ralph DeAngelus, managing partner of the Matt Ortt Companies, which runs the yacht club and other food venues for the OPA, has responded to what he considers to be a threatening email from Director Amy Peck, who said she would hold him and the club personally responsible were she to experience any abuse from Janasek at an Ortt-managed venue in Ocean Pines.
The May 20 incident unraveled when Janasek confronted Wheatley and her husband at the yacht club tiki bar. The ensuing argument escalated to the point that yacht club staff escorted Janasek off the property, although he allegedly returned later.
The upshot of that encounter was that the board began discussions of banning Janasek from OPA amenities, and Wheatley obtained a District Court order on May 25 that prohibited Janasek from having any contact with her through Dec. 1.
In the interim, however, Peck, “as a homeowner, not as a director,” sent an email to DeAngelus and the company that declared she did not feel safe at the Matt Ortt food venues in Ocean Pines unless “I know Josette is going to be in attendance and her protective order would make Janasek leave.”
The order, however, does not prohibit Janasek from being present wherever Wheatley is, including the yacht club. All it provides for is that he is not allowed to have contact with her — even though the two might occupy the same space. Nevertheless, Peck added that if she experienced any abuse from Janasek at the yacht club and the OPA venues the company overees, she would hold DeAngelus and the company responsible.
Below is the response from DeAngelus.
As you know, we received an email from Director Amy Peck regarding her opinion about what Ocean Pines Association “policy” should be for Tom Janasek, which contained clear misstatements and a direct threat to me personally, my business partner, and my company.
Frankly, I’m baffled by her e-mail. She says that the Matt Ortt Companies should set a policy that bans Tom Janasek from all OPA food and beverage properties. However, she is on the Board, and she knows we don’t have the power to arbitrarily set OPA policy. She also knows that I was directly told by General Manager John Viola, President Collette Horn, Vice-President Frank Daly, Police Chief Leo Ehrisman, and OPA attorney Jeremy Tucker that, in response to the incident, we handled the situation exactly as we should have when we walked Mr. Janasek off the property after his encounter with Board member Josette Wheatley. But, apparently our actions, although they were appropriate to most, weren’t enough for her.
In addition to directing us to take arbitrary action, Ms. Peck said in her e-mail that should she get harassed by Mr. Janasek, she is going to “hold us personally accountable.” How is this even possible? I am not aware of any issues she has had with Mr. Janasek, and even if I did, how can she hold us accountable for someone else’s actions?
It seems abundantly clear that she’s trying to bully us into doing something that she knows would open us up to civil litigation. She is a board member and, as such, is in control of our livelihood. She has the ability to vote for or against new contracts — contracts that would keep our company and its 200 OPA employees working, or not working, for years to come.
It is unclear what she is trying to accomplish by bullying a vendor that has worked so hard every day to better the Ocean Pines community — a vendor that, through Covid’s darkest hours, had its entire management team personally deliver thousands of family meals, at their own expense and in their own vehicles, to Ocean Pines residents who were too worried to go out.
At best, she’s created a hostile work environment; at worst, she has a vendor that sits back and has to think to themselves why are we working so hard for someone who cares so little about us.
Being a Board member is a great honor as well as a great responsibility; however, her words in that email were neither honorable nor responsible. Now, I understand that she was chosen for the position by Board members as an alternate, and not voted into the position by the residents of Ocean Pines. However, if she took on the responsibility of a Board member, she should live up to it, and living up to it starts with an apology, at a bare minimum.
We here at Matt Ortt Companies have been asked many, many times our thoughts on OPA politics. Throughout our entire tenure here in Ocean Pines, we have said over and over again that we only run the food and beverage operations, and that it’s not our place to give our advice or opinion on politics. We stand by that to this day.
We are a vendor, working for Ocean Pines. A vendor that, as of April 30, 2022, set an all-time record for combined food & beverage yearly profits. A vendor, whose hard work has not only paid off financially for Ocean Pines homeowners but has brought the Yacht Club to the highest levels of customer satisfaction it has ever achieved.
That’s what we stand behind. And we are very proud of it.
This story appears in the print version of Bayside Gazette on June 9, 2022.