The 24-hour period beginning on the evening of Wednesday January 26, 2023 and ending with the CA Board Meeting on Thursday, January 27, 2023 marked a significant moment in Columbia Association's history. This period marked the end of Lakey Boyd's tenure as President and CEO of the Columbia Association, announced via a joint statement from Ms. Boyd and CA's Board of Directors at approximately 5 P.M. Thursday.
The events left many residents with a mix of strong emotions: some expressing anger, disappointment and betrayal towards what they perceive as an unprofessional, unresponsive, and uncaring board of directors; and others feeling dejected and defeated following the departure of Ms. Boyd. Many residents hope these events will serve as an inflection point that spurs renewed community interest in the governance of the $70 million resident-funded organization whose mission is to enhance quality of life of Columbia's diverse community.
Others are more skeptical and view these events as yet another repeat of an incessant pattern of CA dysfunction. Most residents are, at best, vaguely aware of these events and their impact on the thousands of dollars they pay to CA each year.
This article describes the activity that occurred immediately leading up to and after the announcement of Ms. Boyd's resignation.
Tension amongst the CA's Board of Director's and between the board and the now former CA President and CEO, Lakey Boyd, has been building for several months. That tension made it clear that multiple board members did not want Ms. Boyd leading CA. Ms. Boyd publicly confronted the board about her job security at the October 27, 2022 meeting. For several months, the board refused to directly address the concerns of Ms. Boyd and dozens of CA residents who expressed support for Ms. Boyd. In early January, the CA Board and Ms. Boyd issued separate statements about their relationship that indicated the conflict was coming to a head. At the January 12th, 2023 meeting, board members Andy Stack (Owen Brown) and Bill Santos (Wilde Lake) made a last ditch effort (which seemed to have already been discussed in a closed meeting) to convince the board to take a more collaborative instead of adversarial approach to improving their relationship with Ms. Boyd - the other members of the board rejected those efforts.
January 25 Closed Meeting and Resignations
The CA Board held a closed meeting on January 25th. The discussions have not been disclosed but the Board and Ms. Boyd issued the joint statement announcing Ms. Boyd's resignation the next afternoon. Earlier in the day, CA's website was updated to show that the Long Reach position on the CA Board of Directors is vacant, which informed the public that Janet Evans (who also supported Ms. Boyd) had resigned (presumably during this closed meeting).
Additionally, CA's General Counsel, Michael "Wes" Aniton, also resigned from his position.
The details of these resignations have not been disclosed. The nature of the Ms. Boyd's and Mr. Aniton's position - whether the resignations were tendered willingly, the result of a negotiated settlement, or offered due to coercion or under threat of termination - is not known to the public. Additionally, it is not publicly known if Ms. Boyd or Mr. Aniton's departure included severance agreements and/or commitments to refrain from legal action against CA or individual board members in the future.
The CA Board has offered no explanation to reconcile Ms. Boyd's departure with the Board's recent statement that dismissed concerns about Ms. Boyd's job security as "false rumors." Ms. Boyd's resignation appears to confirm that this statement did not adequately reflect the situation, a characterization of the statement voiced by CA board members Mr. Stack, Mr. Santos, and Ms. Evans. The board's denial that Ms. Boyd's job was in danger clashed with readily observable tension and was met with skepticism in the community. The candor of the Board's statement - and the board in general - has been cast further in doubt by Ms. Boyd's resignation.
CA has not announced whether and/or when an interim CA President will be selected. Throughout the 26 January board meeting, both Senior Vice President of Administrative Services Susan Krabbe and Vice President of Community Operations Dennis Mattey answered board questions on behalf of the remaining CA senior leadership.
January 26 Board Meeting
The CA Board held a regularly scheduled open board meeting the evening of 26 January which began two hours after the announcement of Ms. Boyd's resignation. Approximately 40 residents attended the meeting in person (large by CA Board meeting standards) with several expressing their frustration and disappointment in CA's Board due to the resignation of Ms. Boyd. During the meeting the board took several actions related to the CA President and CEO:
The board approved a recommendation to obtain mediation to help resolve conflict between the board and senior staff. Confusingly, the recommendation for mediation was obviously intended to facilitate communication and cooperation between Ms. Boyd and the board and, according to Mr. Santos and Mr. Stack, the board had previously rejected calls for that mediation. The board did not reconcile the discrepancy between the spirit of the recommendation they accepted (to facilitate cooperation with Ms. Boyd) and the reality that they had just accepted her resignation after several months of rejecting recommendations to obtain mediation.
The board voted to issue an RFP to acquire a talent search firm to conduct a global search to identify candidates to be the next CEO and President. Mr. Stack and Mr. Santos voted against this decision due to concerns that the board should fill its own board vacancies first as both the Long Reach and King's Contrivance representations on the CA Board are currently vacant. The Kings Contrivance Village Board has appointed Keith C. O'Neil to the be their new Columbia Council representative, but he has not yet been officially appointed to the CA Board of Directors. That should happen at an upcoming CA meeting. Mr. Stack (and several residents) recommended that the board hold off on hiring a new CEO until after the CA Board elections in April. Mr. Stack believed the board needed to regain the trust of the public before making such an important decision and thought waiting until after the elections would be prudent.
Dick Boulton (Dorsey's Search) wanted to hold a discussion to "clear the air" and discuss the selection of an interim CA President. Board Chair Eric Greenberg (River Hill) did not allow that conversation due to time concerns. Mr. Boulton also recommended the board schedule an extra meeting to provide the board enough time to address all the issues on their plate.
Mr. Stack's Statement
Immediately prior to the 26 January board meeting, Mr. Stack distributed a personal statement regarding the resignation of Ms. Boyd that conveyed his disappointment with the board.
I am disheartened by the resignation of Lakey Boyd as CA President/CEO. Lakey is an impactful leader who, in her short time at CA, had many accomplishments (see the various articles on the CA Blog website www.columbiaassociation.org/category/news/ ). I wish her success in the future and thank her for her accomplishments.
Lakey was committed to the ideals upon which Jim Rouse founded Columbia and by her accomplishments and community involvement showed that she could take CA and Columbia into the next 50 years. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that a majority of the CA Board did not share my views.
For many months, I have urged my colleagues on the CA Board to bring in a neutral, third party to focus on having all of us work in a collaborative manner. During the summer, over my objections, a majority of the CA Board chose to hire a lawyer. In my opinion, one hires a lawyer when your focus is adversarial; one hires a facilitator when one’s focus is on collaboration and finding mutually agreeable solutions.
I believe that the loss of Lakey under these circumstances has a negative impact on Columbia, on CA, and on the CA Board of Directors. The community is upset (just view the Resident Speak-out at the CA Board sessions since November) and yet there has been a distinct lack of communication from the CA Board even acknowledging this fact. The lack of communication from the CA Board, particularly the CA Board leadership, to the Columbia community goes against the need for CA, and particularly the CA Board, to be open and transparent.
What is required now, in my opinion, is a change of focus (maybe even a change of heart) by the current CA Board of Directors. The CA Board must understand and acknowledge that the relationship between Board members and between CA staff including the CA President must be collaborative and not dictatorial. CA has a very capable and respected staff. We need to allow them to do their job. The CA Board must understand that its role is policy and not management; that the Board’s focus must be on the betterment of Columbia as a whole and not on individual needs and desires.
I believe that one way to begin improving relations with the community is to have a fair, open, and transparent process to hire a new CA President/CEO. Perhaps this Board should even defer hiring a new CA President/CEO until a new CA Board is seated after the April elections.
No other board member has offered public comment on Ms. Boyd's resignation. The Merriweather Post will post updates if that changes.
Other January 26 Board Discussions
The board addressed several other topics at the CA board meeting, briefly described below. While not detailed below, the meeting shared the characteristics of all recent CA Board meetings: poor organization, an undisciplined approach to decision-making, distrust of staff advice, and mixed levels of preparadness among board members.
The board accepted many recommendations of the Audit Committee but did not accept the Audit Committee's recommendation regarding conflicts of interest with IAT and village boards instead choosing to table that item for further discussion after multiple board members objected to it.
The board discussed but did not take a stance on the county's general plan update. Most of the discussion was procedural regarding whether the board had adequate time to prepare for the conversation (the General Plan update has been ongoing for over a year).
The board adopted a policy dictating that CA will cast its votes as blank ballots in CA and village elections to help villages avoid the need to meet their quorum requirements through resident participation.
The board discussed CA's overall Watershed Plan and the Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project. They asked CA's Watershed Advisory Committee to provide input on the Watershed Plan and will be inviting relevant county stakeholders to a future CA meeting to discuss stormwater management. They also discussed CA's role in providing oversight of the planning and execution of the Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration project. The conversation demonstrated a lack of understanding of the project - which was previously approved by the board themselves. Mr. Stack, Ginny Thomas (Oakland Mills), Alan Klein (Harper's Choice), Mr. Boulton, and Lin Eagan (Town Center) were on the board when the Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project was approved and voted in favor of it. Mr. Santos, Mr. Greenberg, and Brian England (Hickory Ridge) were not on the board at the time.
The board received a briefing of the draft budget for next fiscal year from CA CFO Susan Krabbe. The board asked that Ms. Krabbe provide an abbreviated briefing and opted not to ask questions about the budget at the meeting. The board's decision to place significantly lower priority on the budget discussion compared to other issues is noteworthy because overseeing and approving the budget is one of the board's most fundamental responsibilities. The board's authority over the budget is their primary mechanism to provide strategic guidance, governance, and oversight to CA. The board's lack of attention to the overall budget (as opposed to individual projects) continues a longstanding trend of the board's general disinterest in - or inability to -providing strategic governance and oversight to CA. The board's lack of focus on the budget also demonstrates that their conflict with Ms. Boyd was never about staff or Ms. Boyd inhibiting the board's ability to provide oversight of CA.
About the author: Michael Golibersuch is a Columbia resident and believes increased awareness of CA Board activities 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.