By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(March 23, 2022) In uncharacteristically strong opening remarks, Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors President Doug Parks began the March board meeting Saturday by taking issue with the aggressive tactics some advocates for Justice for Gavin have been employing recently.
He acknowledged the heartache that the family has experienced because of the loss of their 14-year-old son, Gavin Knupp, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on July 11 last year.
“No one can imagine the grief and suffering being endured by the parents at the loss of their child. As the investigation into this tragedy is ongoing, it is no surprise that frustration is growing as the time passes without official action by the state attorney and the state police conducting the investigation,” said Parks.
While he said he did not oppose targeting businesses and conducting protests and boycotts, he did object to some aggressive actions such as “bullying of the business staff, bullying of children at school and threatening organizations, customers and OPA board members. Their actions demonstrated a move away from justice to a support for vengeance.”
Using a prepared statement, he said harassment led the Ravens Roost organization to move their fundraising event from the Yacht Club to another venue.
When asked later about other examples, he said, “In one instance that was shared, a high school student who worked at the Yacht Club was told by some other students that he should just go kill himself since he worked there.”
“The Veterans Memorial Fundraising event was disrupted by this group as the planned entertainer backed out from performing,” he said. He added that organizers were told if the event was held at the Yacht Club, the memorial would be vandalized.
A police report concerning that threat was shared with board members, two of whom received threats via text messages.
Parks said he welcomed a conversation with representatives from the Do It for Gavin group to “understand why they want to disrupt the Ocean Pines community and how their actions would serve to move forward with justice.”
Parks suggested that the group should be focused on those in charge of the investigation, not Ocean Pines and its amenities. He added that activities such as those directed at the Veterans Memorial fundraiser could have a financial impact on the community.
“Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors and talk to other association members to let them know these situations are taking place and that this group is promoting a level of disruption to our community that at some point will affect us financially, which in turn will most likely lead to an increase in annual assessments.”
Parks later noted that the board and he had been approached by OPA members asking what was being done to address these matters. “As the leadership group it was our responsibility to ensure the concerns of the membership were made public.”
Parks, who said his statement was spurred by the Veterans Memorial issue and complaints from the community, shared it with board members in advance. Five of the seven board members supported Parks reading it in public as his president’s remarks, he said.
The other two had concerns with the tone and tenor of the statement.
The larger-than-normal crowd that had gathered for the board meeting erupted in applause at the end of his statement.
Social media pages related to Gavin and Ocean Pines blew up over the weekend with debate over Park’s statement.
Efforts to contact Gavin Knupps mother went unanswered at press time.
The Knupp case also affected the election of one candidate for an OPA committee position.
Sherrie Clifford volunteered to be on the OPA’s Search Committee, but a debate ensued because of her support for the Justice For Gavin group. Board member Stuart Lakernick objected to her appointment, claiming she openly endorses boycotting our food establishments.
“Her name appears on a petition,” Lakernick said. “How can you be on a committee to work to better our town when you openly endorse hurting our town?”
“The applicant served on the search committee last year,” Colette Horn responded. “She successfully carried out the functions of the job, which were essentially clerical. She has done a lot of work to better this community. To quote our chair, we do not turn away volunteers.”
Added board member Steve Jacobs, “My overall view is that boycotts are an acceptable form of social protest, as long as they are not violent. This [search] committee has nothing to do with the amenities.”
Frank Daly agreed, saying, “There is no legitimate reason why they cannot serve on this committee.”
The committee rejected her nomination for the Search Committee by a 4-3 vote.