As previously reported by The Merriweather Post, Janet Evans resigned from her position on the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors on January 26th. This was the day after the board had a closed meeting at which it accepted the resignation of Lakey Boyd as CA's President and CEO. Ms. Evans had long been critical of the majority of the board's handling of its business in general and its relationship with Ms. Boyd specifically. At the time, Ms. Evans made no public comment about her resignation but she allowed another Columbia resident, Joan Lancos, to read her resignation letter at the CA Board work session on February 9th. This article contains that letter - which is a scathing criticism of the board and its leadership - and some relevant commentary.
Janet Evan's Resignation Letter
I am resigning from the Columbia Association Board of Directors, effective immediately due to the majority of this board’s lack of accountability for their role in arriving at where we are now. I do not think our current outcome was inevitable. This is a failure that could have been managed if the majority of this board had chosen to do so and the board leadership had been in place to support it.
Outside legal counsel has been used in lieu of actual decision making or problem solving. The lack of leadership, accountability and transparency have rendered the board, at best, impotent and at worst, a risk for the community and the organization. My input has been routinely ignored which is not unexpected, but I don’t expect the same level of unresponsiveness within the organization and with the community on important topics. The inability of this board to communicate at a minimum to, if not with, the president/CEO in an actionable way and to the community around what the issues are and what steps have been taken toward resolution, is irresponsible.
I no longer choose to be a part of the board that has squandered months of time and thousands of lien payer dollars without full board approval nor any real plan or effort to shift the dynamic. In almost nine months, the CA board has accomplished no positive forward movement. We have not created strategic goals to align with and make progress toward the five-year strategic plan. We have not had a conversation as a board to discuss our aspirations for Columbia. We have not initiated action or made a plan to work through differences and there have been no proactive efforts from board leadership to encourage any real resolution. There has been no consultation or collaboration with the full board to try to find a way forward. The chair and vice chair alone have discussed scope with outside counsel, which has expanded beyond what was discussed with the full board. That lack of transparency and latitude to ignore what was agreed upon, have served to undermine the board and the overall organization.
I have watched topics raised then ignored and petty grievances blown out of proportion. I have seen conflicts of interest downplayed and board discussion contorted and used as an excuse to make bad decisions. I have listened to policies being dissected and then recreated out of context to be used to justify behavior. As a CA board member I had hoped that I could be part of something that celebrates and upholds all that Columbia and CA stand for. That has not been the case.
At this time, I do not want to be associated with this board, I do not trust its leadership and the opportunity to achieve a positive outcome has passed. This board has done a disservice to the community by not making a concerted effort to resolve the internal conflict and now the cost to the community is even higher. I believe that my time invested in this board could be more productively invested in an alternate civic engagement.
Commentary on Long Reach Selection
Ms. Evans resignation letter corroborates previous reporting by The Merriweather Post and aligns with general observations that the board of directors is operating in an incredibly dysfunctional manner. It paints a picture of a toxic environment without constructive communication nor a focus on solving problems for the community. It questions the transparency and forthrightness of the majority of the board. If accurate, her letter indicates unethical and potentially illegal actions by board chair Eric Greenberg and vice chair Ginny Thomas who Ms. Evans accuses of engaging legal counsel beyond the scope of what the whole board had authorized. It seems unlikely the current board will seek to hold its leadership accountable and has largely been complicit in those actions.
Notably, Ms. Evans is the third board member to resign from the CA board this year following the resignations of Shari Zaret and Kevin Fitzgerald; although they have not made public statements about their reasons for departing. The dysfunctional and toxic nature of the board also serves as a drag on community participation with multiple community members questioning why it is worth their time to engage with the board of directors or volunteer to be a member.
Replacement of Long Reach Representation
On February 8th, the Long Reach Village Board appointed Josh Friedman to fill the vacancy left by Ms. Evans for the remainder of the term (ending 30 April 2023). Mr. Friedman will likely be officially added to the CA Board of Directors just prior to their next meeting on February 23, 2023, and will participate in the last 5 Board meetings of this fiscal year.
Mr. Friedman has previously served as a member of Howard County's Democratic Central Committee and as a member of the Long Reach Village Board. He has made several online comments critical of Ms. Boyd's handling handling of the Symphony of Lights Settlement (sentiments shared by many other board members that were critical of Ms. Boyd). Notably, in his personal job as an attorney, Mr. Friedman provided legal counsel to the current Town Center representative Lin Eagan when she was accused of unethical behavior tangentially related to the Symphony of Lights Settlement (importantly, according to Mr. Friedman, Ms. Eagan was exonerated by almost the entire board). Mr. Friedman stated he only volunteered for the role because no one else did and does not intend to stand for election for the CA Representative position when it is up for election this April. He told The Merriweather Post his focus for the next few months is the renovations of Stonehouse.
The process Long Reach used to fill this vacancy differed significantly from the process recently used by Kings Contrivance following the resignation of Ms. Zaret. Kings Contrivance advertised the vacancy on their Facebook page and their newsletter for several weeks before interviewing at least two applicants and selecting Keith O'Neil as their new representative. Mr. O'Neil participated in his first meeting of the CA Board of Directors on February 9, 2023. The Kings Contrivance representative is also up for election this April.
Long Reach effectively did not conduct any advertising (only placing a listing on their website as far as The Merriweather Post can tell) and appointed a current member of their village board, Mr. Friedman, to the position after the website announcement had been posted for less than a week. Long Reach's approach to filling its vacancy has left multiple members in the community questioning whether the Long Reach Village Board was truly interested in soliciting interest from the entire village. Long Reach Village Board members likely felt the need to fill the vacancy quickly in order to ensure their village's equities were represented as the CA Board approves the budget for next year and in consideration that the appointment will only last for a few months before the the position is up for election.
Selection of Interim Columbia Association President/CEO
In other news, the Columbia Association Board of Directors has named Dennis Mattey the interim President/CEO of the organization effective Monday, February 13, 2023. Mr. Mattey has spent his entire career with CA - he started as a lifeguard in 1974 and he currently serves as the Vice President of Community Operations. He will act in the role of Interim President and CEO until the search and selection process to hire a new Columbia Association President/CEO is complete. Mr. Mattey will not submit his name for consideration for the permanent President/CEO position.
Below is the press release issued by the Columbia Association with more on this announcement:
Dennis Mattey is Named Interim President/CEO for CA COLUMBIA, MD. - The Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors has named Dennis Mattey the interim President/CEO of the organization effective Monday, February 13. Mattey currently serves as the Vice President of Community Operations, overseeing CA’s commitment to open space maintenance, sustainability efforts, event logistics and real estate services. Mattey has been with CA for nearly 50 years in a variety of roles. Mattey will hold the title of interim President/CEO until a President/CEO is selected and hired by CA’s Board of Directors. “I am ready to step up in this capacity in the immediate term to continue the incredible work that’s been started,” Mattey said. “Particularly as we see a surge in community engagement and interest in CA, I recognize the importance of providing steady leadership to our team and our community in the months to come.” At its January 26 meeting, the CA Board voted to start an RFP (request for proposals) process to hire an executive search firm, which would assist in the recruiting process. After a competitive bidding and selection phase, the Board will work with that firm to identify candidates for the President/CEO position. The search and selection process for the last CA President/CEO took approximately 8 months, but there is no definitive timeline for the latest process at this time. Mattey will not submit his name for consideration for the permanent President/CEO position.