Update on January 8th, 2023: Owen Brown CA Representatives Mr. Andy Stack, Wilde Lake CA Representative Mr. Bill Santos, and Long Reach CA Representative Ms. Janet Evans have all voiced their opposition to the press release that was issued by the CA Board on January 6th and said they were in the minority that voted against it.
Mr. Stack stated the following in the monthly report he provides to Owen Brown Community Association:
“The CA Board put out a press release regarding working with the CA President/CEO. I voted against this press release as I don’t believe that it adequately reflects the situation.”
Mr. Stack did not specify what about the press release he views as inadequate, whether he thinks parts of it are incorrect or misleading, or whether he thought it omitted information relevant to the public’s understanding.
Asked for comment on Mr. Stack’s statement, Mr. Santos stated “Andy and I are of the same mind on this matter.” Similarly, when reached for comment, Ms. Janet Evans stated that she also agrees with Mr. Stack's statement.
Mr. Santos commented publicly on The Merriweather Post’s facebook post sharing this article, writing:
"Although I cannot comment on anything that the CA Board has done in closed session, I want to express the following opinion as a resident and decades long follower of CA Board meetings: this blog post is essential reading for all CA residents, lien payers, and members. Please share with your friends."
It is unclear whether other CA Board members also voted against this press release. This post will be updated if other board members make their position public. At least five (and potentially seven) board members must have either voted for the press release or abstained from voting.
Mr. Stack and Mr. Santos are the two CA Board members who have explicitly expressed their support for Ms. Boyd since questions about her job security have come into public view over the last several months. Their vocal dissent from the press release seems to corroborate the analysis provided in this article (below). Additionally, their dissent further calls into question the true stance of the CA Board of Director’s towards Ms. Boyd, the board’s decision to debate the press release behind closed doors, as well as the candor of the CA board members who voted in favor of this press release.
Original Article (posted January 7, 2023)
Columbia Association’s (CA) Board of Directors issued a press release the afternoon of January 6th regarding its relationship with CA President and CEO, Ms. Lakey Boyd. The statement was provided by CA Chair Eric Greenberg:
“The Board of Directors of the Columbia Association is aware of numerous false rumors and speculations surrounding the employment status of the Columbia Association President and CEO, Lakey Boyd. The truth is that the Board of Directors seeks to improve the relationship and communications between Ms. Boyd and the Board, and has presented a plan to Ms. Boyd to accomplish that goal. The Board is hopeful this plan will foster a productive working relationship and positive changes. The volunteer members of the Board of Directors are dedicated to continuing to devote substantial time and energy to ensuring the success of Columbia Association.”
This statement is the first time the Board has publicly acknowledged the issue after (1) not answering a question from Ms. Boyd about her job security during an open meeting in October; (2) months of articles on The Merriweather Post on the subject ; (3) increasing attention from professional media (Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Banner, etc.); (4) hours of testimony from residents at CA Board meetings, and (5) a press conference by non-profit leaders that all raised concerns about Ms. Boyd’s job security. This press release is clearly a response to that attention. While the statement should be taken at face value, it is worth reading carefully to understand what it actually says and does not say. Ultimately, without more information and explicit statements from the board of directors, this statement leaves significant questions about Ms. Boyd’s long term job security.
Approval of the Press Release
A statement from the board of directors on this topic is long overdue and the fact that they issued anything is a step in the right direction. However, it is not clear where or how the statement was approved by the board of directors. It was not approved in any open meeting. The board is known to have held a closed meeting the evening of January 4th and the timing indicates the statement could have been approved then; however, all CA Board business is required to be conducted in open meetings unless the purpose of the board’s business falls into a narrow selection of categories outlined in Maryland’s HOA Act. “Approving a press release” is not one of the issues that can be done behind closed doors according to Maryland’s HOA act. While “the plan” identified in this press release may meet the criteria for closed door discussions (more on this below), a press release regarding the plan would not be.
Whether this press release was inappropriately approved and discussed in a closed meeting is not just an academic point. The way it was released makes it unclear if this statement is supported by all or only some of the members of the board of directors and the public was unable to observe any discussions that would have provided insight into where our village representatives stand on the statement.
The Merriweather Post asked CA’s Senior Manager of Media Relations & Communications, Ms. Dannika Rynes, to identify when the discussion regarding the press release took place, whether it was a closed meeting, and which board members voted in support of this release (if there was a vote). Ms. Rynes referred our questions to the board of directors and stated “Staff was simply directed to release it.” The Merriweather Post asked CA Board Chair, Mr. Eric Greenberg, the same questions but he did not immediately respond (this article will be updated if we receive additional comments).
The press release states the board “is aware of numerous false rumors and speculations surrounding the employment status of… [Ms.] Boyd.” It does not actually specify which rumors the board believes are false. Importantly, the press release does not state that the board intends to have Ms. Boyd complete her four-year contract or that no board member has suggested or contemplated firing Ms. Boyd. It also avoids directly addressing several facts that have contributed to the perceptions this statement seems to dismiss as “rumors:”
The palpable tension and occasional hostility between many members of the board and Ms. Boyd during CA Board meetings
The conversation that took place between Inner Arbor Trust President, Ms. Nina Basu, who is in regular contact with several CA board members, and current CA Vice President Dennis Mattey that was described by Ms. Boyd as Ms. Basu asking Mr. Mattey if he would serve as interim President of CA with some sense of urgency.
Ms. Boyd directly asked the board about her job security
All but two board members have refused to explicitly state their stance on Ms. Boyd’s job security for over two months and running
The Board has had at least nine closed meetings about a conflict with Ms. Boyd since June that they did not publicly disclose, potentially in violation of Maryland law
The board chose to release this statement via email to media outlets. Board members could have just as easily made this statement at any of the board meetings over the last few months and had candid discussions about this topic with residents who have been expressing concern over Ms. Boyd’s job security. The board’s choice to release this as a press release indicates that the board is more concerned about how they have been recently represented in professional media than they are concerned about providing residents and constituents transparency and information.
The press release does not address the fact that, through November, the board of directors has spent over $42,000 of community money on outside counsel to support them in a dispute with Ms. Boyd. It does not indicate when or how that dispute will be resolved and why spending so much of the community’s money on that dispute benefited Columbia.
The statement references a “plan” that “seeks to improve the relationship and communications between Ms. Boyd and the Board” and states that this plan has been “presented” to Ms. Boyd. The statement does not describe what that plan is, whether Ms. Boyd agrees with the plan, or whether Ms. Boyd provided input to the plan. Importantly, the statement does not indicate that the board believes they have any responsibility to improve the relationship and communications between the board and Ms. Boyd. The Merriweather Post has documented the board’s own contributions to the negative relationship and poor communications through the board’s conflicting and inconsistent guidance, failure to follow policies and legal requirements, rampant attempts at micromanagement, and a general misunderstanding of the roles and responsibilities of a board of directors. Instead, “the plan” is likely a directive from the board dictating actions they demand Ms. Boyd take.
When asked for comment, Ms. Rynes stated that Ms. Boyd had been presented the plan the morning of January 6th – the same day as the press release. Ms. Rynes was not able to comment on whether Ms. Boyd agreed with the plan. The Merriweather Post asked Mr. Greenberg if he could provide the plan; he promptly replied saying he couldn’t provide anything beyond what was provided in the press release. Even though the statement doesn’t explicitly describe the plan, the information regarding the details of the plan that the board is withholding indicates that “the plan” falls squarely on Ms. Boyd to execute.
Hypothetically, a plan to improve communications between the board and the president could clearly outline the decisions the board reserves for itself, what information they need the staff to provide to make those decisions, and an agreement not to micromanage Ms. Boyd regarding other issues. That type of plan, however, would not qualify as a “personnel matter” and should be available to the public. Based on the board’s pattern of behavior, the possibility that the board is unlawfully withholding information from residents can’t be ruled out; however, presumably, Mr. Greenberg’s decision to withhold “the plan” means it addresses “personnel matters.” A “personnel” plan, which can be lawfully withheld from the public, would be directed at Ms. Boyd individually and could be akin to a performance improvement plan used in organizations to document deficiencies in underperforming employees. If that is the case, it is possible that the board could use Ms. Boyd’s ability/willingness to execute the terms outlined in this plan, whatever they may be, as grounds for termination in the future.
Without further information from the board, this press release does not represent an explicit statement from the board that Ms. Boyd’s job is secure. Instead, it could be an indication that the board has formalized a plan that Ms. Boyd is unable or unwilling to comply with that the board could use as cause for termination.
If this analysis is incorrect, the board should speak openly and candidly with residents and local media (as well as doughy middle aged men who occasionally write blogs about their community after they put their kids to bed instead of watching Netflix) about Ms. Boyd and how they as a board intend to address their own shortcomings and improve their own ability to function properly, provide the high-level strategic guidance CA needs, and empower the President and CEO to lead the organization.
About the author: Michael Golibersuch is a Columbia resident and believes increased awareness of CA Board Meetings can benefit the community. He appreciates the time all CA board members spend volunteering on behalf of a community they love. It brings him no pleasure to publicly highlight anyone’s shortcomings; however, he believes his neighbors deserve to know whether their representatives are effectively serving them. He does not believe that being a poor board member reflects poorly on an individual’s character and he encourages everyone to be kind to all their neighbors. His participation in this effort does not indicate he agrees with all opinions expressed in The Merriweather Post.