A coalition of community leaders announced potential legal action against the CA Board of Directors and called for Columbia residents of 5 Columbia villages to petition their village board to recall their CA representatives from the Board during a press conference held this morning by the People's Tree at the Columbia Lakefront.
Websites have been set up for residents of Dorsey’s Search, Harper’s Choice, Oakland Mills, River Hill, Town Center to sign a petition stating their current representation (Dick Boulton, Alan Klein, Ginny Thomas, Eric Greenberg, and Lin Eagan, respectively) do not represent the diversity of their constituents and have proven themselves to be indifferent to the pleas of Columbia residents who want the CA Board to behave legally and ethically. The petition furthers calls for Village Board to remove these representatives from their posts on the CA Board of Directors.
Speakers at the press conference included Erika Strauss Chavarria (founder of Columbia Community Cares and HCPSS teacher), Laura Bacon (founder of The 3rd and former HCPSS teacher), Ashley Vaughn (former Harper's Choice CA Rep), and Dr. Vernon Gray (former County Councilmember). In addition the call to action, speakers discussed the increased engagement from CA under the leadership of Lakey Boyd, the board's use of community resources to pay outside counsel to support their conflict with Ms. Boyd, the revelation that the CA Board has held 11 undisclosed closed meetings over the past several months to discuss options for their relationship with the President/CEO, and the importance of having a board that is representative of the community.
Here is a video of the press release, livestreamed by The Merriweather Post on Facebook.
Reporters from Baltimore Banner and WBAL were also in attendance. The Baltimore Banner has already published an article on the event. (See: Residents want recall of Columbia Association Board members, The Baltimore Banner, January 2, 2023)
Below is a press release provided by Erika Strauss Chavarria, founder of Columbia Community Cares.
Columbia leaders announce potential legal action against CA Board of Directors, urge community to push for a recall
COLUMBIA, MD - A coalition of community leaders in Columbia are calling for urgent and sustained action from residents and stakeholders in response to ongoing misconduct and dysfunction exhibited by Columbia Association's (CA) Board of Directors.
“To the Board of Directors, you should know that a growing number of individual residents of Columbia are strongly considering legal action against you for breach of duty of loyalty, breach of duty of fidelity, and inappropriate behavior,” Columbia Community Care (CCC) Executive Director Erika Strauss Chavarria said. “Please take this as a warning if you continue to ignore the demands of this community.”
Representatives from multiple community organizations and Columbia residents were joined by notable community leaders for a press conference Monday morning, aimed at drawing attention to the actions of CA's Board of Directors and the impact those actions have on the community.
This comes after multiple reports of the Board's attempts to terminate CA President/CEO Lakey Boyd without cause, squandering resources to do so.
"Since her arrival a year and a half ago, Lakey Boyd has been a constant presence in this community," The 3rd Founder Laura Bacon said. "She has made every effort to connect with and convene with everyone - all people of all backgrounds - on top of leading a highly functioning organization. Lakey has made and promoted positive change, nurtured meaningful partnerships, and brought more inclusive programming to Columbia. She is committed to listening to and serving our diverse community and working toward a better future."
The community recently learned that the Board has held 11 closed meetings in the last six months, the same number of open meetings held by the Board in that same time span. Boyd's performance and employment was discussed in 9 of those meetings. The Board is required under the Maryland HOA Act to announce closed meetings at the subsequent open meeting. Ten of the 11 closed meetings were previously undisclosed to the public.
Another closed meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 4.
“This Board does not believe in accountability. This Board does not believe in transparency,” former Howard County councilman Vernon C. Grey said. “This community was built on accountability, transparency and involvement of the people. We have to have new Board members who are committed to the values, the vision of Jim Rouse, and to this community as a whole.”
“The fact that the Board does not in any way, shape, or form reflect the rich diversity or demographics of the residents that they serve is unacceptable,” Strauss Chavarria said. “The current CA Board does not understand - nor do they have interest in - reflecting the community they serve. If they did, they would be fully supporting Lakey and the steps she has taken to create an equitable CA that serves all residents.”
Less than 1% of Columbia's population voted the current CA Board members into their positions, and those members have collectively served on the Board for more than 40 years.
“Because of disenfranchisement and the power of incumbency, this Board has continued to remain mainly older white men and women who have abused their power and remained unresponsive to the demands of the community,” Strauss Chavarria said. “This under-representative system perpetuates inequities and leads to community disengagement. On top of that, many of these Board members continue to overstep their responsibilities, micromanaging staff and blatantly ignoring the expert guidance offered to them. It's time for a change."
The Board has also spent more than $40,000 on an outside counsel (over the course of just three months) against the recommendations of CA staff. That attorney is still providing services to the Board.
"This is a disastrous waste of your CA assessment dollars," former CA Board member Ashley Vaughn said. "If the Board terminates Lakey without cause, the organization will also need to pay out the remainder of her contract. That decision alone would cost the organization half a million dollars. As a community, we get nothing from this financial burden. And what will this flagrant waste of resources lead to? Another round of layoffs? Will we see a decrease in free and accessible programs? Will pools be closed this summer? This Board needs to put the needs of our community over their own personal agendas.”
Those in attendance on Monday are calling on residents, business owners, annual charge assessment payers, CA members, and any other stakeholders to take immediate action. Websites have been created for five of Columbia’s ten villages where residents can send petitions to village board members and their CA Board representatives, urging them to initiate the recall process.
Residents are also encouraged to run for the CA Board of Directors in April. Nomination processes are unique to each village and begin in February.
The next open Board meeting takes place on Thursday, January 12. Resident Speakout takes place at the start of each of those meetings. You can sign up to participate here.