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Thompson, OPA Board, grapple over golf decision

(March 5, 2015) Two hours into an especially active Ocean Pines Board of Directors meeting on Saturday, work ground to an halt as General Manager Bob Thompson asked for clarification on the recent decision to replace Billy Casper Golf with Landscapes Unlimited as management of the golf course.
Thompson said he had both a concern and a responsibility after being asked a number of questions by association members.
“My concern is decisions were made and I don’t believe we did any background checks with the final company that was chosen,” Thompson said. “That’s strictly [the] board’s decision, but I think we need to know we didn’t do the same level of scrutiny that we did when we made the last selection of our golf folks. My big concern … is making these decisions without actually doing enough homework. We’re not only impacting the longevity of our course, but also of our members who are paying the rates.”
Thompson said the absence of background checks, coupled with the fact that no one from the selection committee visited any courses managed by Landscapes, differed greatly from “what we’ve done in the past.”
“I just need to understand how to answer that to our membership and I’m struggling a little bit,” he said. “I just don’t know how to answer those folks and I need some input, some insight, some understanding.
“If a mistake was made … it’s not making the mistake that matters it’s what we actually do in light of making it,” Thompson continued. “I’m not saying I’m above making mistakes, I do all the time, but when I’m made aware of them, I try to correct them and I think that’s kind of a measure of where we are. I’m a little concerned here and I’m just not sure how to answer my membership and quite frankly how to understand this myself … and any clarity the board can give to me would be helpful.”
Board President Dave Stevens replied that he was not completely sold on Casper when the board selected them four years ago.
“I didn’t think they were the best choice, but I thought they were the most reasonable given our circumstances … and I wasn’t alone,” he said. “At the time of the decision, we had to make the best decision [based] on the information that we had.”
Stevens said the comparison between the previous decision and the current one was not “apples to apples.”
Thompson, meanwhile, pressed on.
“How much research went into that company before we made the decision?” he asked. “That’s what concerns me. I’m not making light of it. I’m not hoping that it was wrong, but I’m trying to go back and get my arms around it and reading everything because I’ve been asked to support it, and as I read through it, it does not appear we did our due diligence in the same way that we did when we brought a different company in.”
“Basically there’s no other way to break this down, Bob, but to say you are challenging, questioning a decision that’s already been made by the board of directors,” Stevens said.
Thompson said he had spoken to two board members who encouraged him to bring the matter up to the entire board.
“You are not bringing it up to the board,” Stevens said. “You are bringing it up to the public. You’re bringing it up in public in which the board has already made a decision and you’re challenging it.”
Thompson insisted that was not his intent.
“Well, that’s what you accomplished,” Board Treasurer Jack Collins said.
“If you wanted to bring it up to anybody, you could have brought it up to us and that would have been appropriate and we would have passed it on,” Stevens said.
Stevens added that he thought Thompson was undermining the work done by the board, as well as by the selection committee.
“If there was a time to bring these things up it was during the evaluation process, not after the evaluation process,” he said. “Let’s end at that.”
Following the meeting, Thompson sounded a conciliatory tone.
“I attempted to do the right thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, by some, it’s perceived adversarial even though it wasn’t meant to be.”
Stevens declined to comment further on the record.