On October 14, 2021, Ashley Vaughan became the Harper's Choice representative on the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors, replacing Alan Klein, who was removed from the CA Board following an ethics violation. Now, six months later, Klein is challenging to win back the director position - Klein and Vaughan are the two Columbia Council candidates in the Harper's Choice election to select a representative to sit on the CA Board member for a two-year term.
The Columbia Association provided the following statement about the circumstances that led to Alan Klein leaving the CA Board:
"In June 2021, CA staff discovered that CA Board member Alan Klein had removed a statement from the Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy signature pages, which are required of all CA Board members and senior management. The statement he removed was “I agree that I will conduct myself in accordance with those standards.” Upon further review, it was discovered that he had similarly altered, signed, and submitted the signature pages for at least the three preceding years. Mr. Klein did not have authorization to alter the policies or the signature pages. Upon discovery, staff reported this information to the CA Board of Directors in accordance with protocol. Any processes and decisions undertaken after the information was submitted are confidential. Effective September 7, 2021 at 9:30pm, Mr. Klein resigned from his position as the Harper's Choice Village representative to the Columbia Council."
When asked for comment, Klein declined to answer my question about why he left the CA Board, stating:
"Unfortunately this all happened in closed meetings, so I am not ethically able to say anything about it."
Never the less, back on September 9, 2021, Klein sent the following e-mail message to the Hobbit's Glen community listserv where he admitted to the ethics violation, confirmed he was removed, and explained the circumstances:
“Unfortunately, I did something that I shouldn’t have done as a Columbia Association Representative and an ethics charge was filed and upheld against me. As a result, the CA Board voted to remove me from their Board and to ask the Harper’s Choice Board to choose a new representative.
Though the Harper’s Choice Board could have chosen to send me back as the Village’s representative to the CA Board, they chose to uphold the CA Board’s decision. My last day was this past Tuesday, September 7th.
This outcome was certainly not my intention when I “did the deed” and it seems to me to be disproportionate to the deed. However, that was not my decision to make and I don’t fault those who believe it was a bigger deal than I think it was.
It has been my honor and privilege to represent you and the rest of Harper’s Choice Village these past seven and a half years and I look forward to continuing to be an active part of Harper’s Choice Village and the rest of Columbia.
Thank you all for your faith in me. I hope I have served you well. I am sorry to see it end this way.”
It required a 2/3 vote of the CA Board to remove Klein as a director, according to the provisions for removal of a director in Section 2.03 of the CA bylaw. Following his removal from the CA Board, the Harper's Choice Village Board requested Klein's resignation, to which he complied.
Existing policies do not permanently ban a Board member who is removed from the CA Board, setting up the current situation that enables Klein to seek election. The CA Board will consider revisions to ethics policies during the April 14, 2022 board meeting.
This isn't the first time that Klein has faced an ethics compliant. Back when news organization covered Columbia, the Baltimore Sun reported in 2015 Ethics compliant lodged against Columbia Association board member.
The Columbia Council elections are April 23, 2022, but Harper's Choice residents can submit absentee ballots now. Voting information, including how to submit an electronic or mail-in absentee ballot, is available here. The Harper's Choice Community Association is hosting a virtual candidates' night at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13th. You can also read my Q&A article with responses from Alan Klein and Ashley Vaughan to reader submitted questions.
Jeremy's Note: It gives me no joy to report this information, and frankly, makes me a bit uncomfortable - this isn't the type of story I like to cover as a blogger. But, after many readers asked me if I knew the circumstances regarding the Harper's Choice election and in the absence of a real news organization covering the Columbia Association and stories like this, I felt it important to make these inquiries and report my findings so the community is aware of this situation ahead of the upcoming CA elections.