Mary Chewning, the embattled president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association, resigned yesterday, charging that board members and residents had spread derogatory rumors about her personal life and accused her of being a puppet for a developer.
"I have been the target of vicious rumors meant to smear my character and color my motives," she said in her resignation letter, adding in an interview that she "did not want to be around rude people.
"Since my election to the GOIA, many longtime officers and members of the association have treated me with a stunning lack of common decency and with great suspicion," she wrote.
Chewning, who became president last week, was elected amid a storm of controversy about her ties to a Silver Spring developer building Seven Oaks, 4,700 homes under construction in Odenton.
The Halle Cos. used a membership loophole last November to pack an election and get its slate of candidates elected.
In an unsigned flier distributed before the election,the company backed Chewning and three people running for the association's 12-member board of directors. Chewning defeated association-backed Sally Shoemaker by two votes. Two other Halle-backed candidates also won.
Halle officials and Chewning said the improvement association has been out of touch with residents, made decisions without consulting its membership and failed to get involved with social issuesin the Greater Odenton area.
The association "is an inclusive, cliquish organization that forwards its own agenda to the exclusion of many citizens of the Greater Odenton area," Chewning wrote.
Betsy Russell, head of land acquisition for Halle, said yesterday that the company's bringing in 18 people to vote never should have swayed the election of an association with more than 400 members.
"The whole situation has developed into kindergarten," Russell said. Halle officials "cannot believe what this has developed into," she added. "The bottom line is Mary never should have won in the first place."
Pat Wellford, immediate past president of the association and a board member, would not comment on the resignation or the accusations Chewningmade in her letter. "The board has not received her resignation," she said.
Once the board receives Chewning's letter, Wellford said the first vice president, Norman Myers, will become acting president. Wellford said the board of directors can appoint a successor for the remainder of the term, but the appointment must be approved by the general membership.
Chewning said she first thought about resigning after last Wednesday's meeting, where she was sworn in as president.
At that meeting, board members criticized her for seeking the advice of a private attorney to review a set of bylaw revisions enacted by the outgoing board three weeks before she took over as president. She has said the revisions stripped her of power and were a personal attack on her character.
In her letter, she said she has been victimized by residents and board members who have circulated rumors throughout the community.
"These rumors have included my having an extramarital affair with the developer of Seven Oaks and his alleged paying of my family's medical expenses," she wrote. "These slurs have been uttered to my face and behind my back. These rumors are completely untrue, and most of all cruel and despicable. I can only feel pity for the individuals who spread these rumors and sorry for those who believed them."
Russell said yesterday that the president of the development company, Warren E. Halle, was in Washington and unavailable for comment. "I wouldn't even bother contacting him about it," she said. She also called the rumor about paying Chewning's medical bills "absolutely outrageous. We have no comment on that."
Chewning also accused the board of being unprofessional. As examples, she claimed the board took positions without consulting the general membership and said a board member showed up at last week's meeting impaired by alcohol.
"One of the board members reeked of alcohol, became very irrational and began slamming things around and kicking the table where we had convened as a board," Chewning wrote.
In an interview, Chewning would not identify the member. Five of the board members present at the meeting said they neither noticed anything unusual nor saw anymember acting irrational or kicking the table.
Gladys Twardowski,a board member who was on Halle's slate of candidates and is a friend of Chewning, said she was surprised to hear of the resignation. Twardowski said she did not know if she would remain.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," she said.
Dan Thomlinson, who was elected secretary and also was on Halle's slate, could not be reached for comment.