Conflict issue raised in CA Association hires man seeking seat on board

consultant gets $512

April 09, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Gary Glisan -- a former member of the Columbia Association's governing body now trying to unseat longtime CA gadfly Alex Hekimian -- was quietly hired by the association three months ago to study its computer system.

Glisan, a computer consultant, has received $512 for 11 hours of work. He based the charges on 11 months' worth of a family membership in CA's recreation facilities.

If he defeats Hekimian in the April 19 race for a seat on the CA board representing Oakland Mills village, Glisan would help oversee the organization that paid him.

And Hekimian is calling that a conflict of interest.

"This is out of bounds," said Hekimian, who last year unseated Glisan by 16 votes out of a total of 386 cast in Oakland Mills village for one of 10 seats on the Columbia Council. "It would really hinder his ability to be independent" of CA, he said.

Glisan, other members of the council and officials of CA -- the homeowners association that manages Columbia recreation and park facilities -- disagree.

"Are you asking me, is there a conflict of interest? Absolutely not," Glisan said in an interview yesterday.

Said Joe Merke, who represents Town Center on the Columbia Council: "A dollar amount like that, I don't consider that a conflict."

At least three members of the council -- Hekimian, Merke and David Berson -- said they hadn't been told that CA was paying Glisan for his computer consulting.

But Hekimian was the only one upset by that.

"I think Alex has a lot of good qualities," Berson said. "But I think he's stretching here, and he's making a political issue out of something."

At CA, some staff members say they receive more support of their policies from Glisan than from Hekimian -- who recently tried to kill the association's top project, a $6 million athletic club to be built in the Village of River Hill.

Since his bitter defeat a year ago, Glisan has attended every Columbia Council meeting, serving notice from the start that he intended to challenge Hekimian this spring.

He also has maintained close ties with CA officials -- at times seemingly closer than Hekimian, who has a long history of questioning CA's policies and spending even before joining the board.

Glisan said he normally charges $75 an hour for computer consulting work. He charged CA the equivalent of $46.50 an hour, according to CA records.

As a matter of CA policy, the 10 council members have traditionally received health club memberships while serving on the council. The otherwise volunteer positions often require more than 200 hours of work a year. Hekimian said his own membership does not interfere with his judgment.

The work in question involves CA's aging computer system.

Eventually, the association plans to spend more than $1 million in upgrades. Last year, CA officials drew up a rough plan on how they would fund the work.

On Jan. 3, CA Vice President Rafia Siddiqui said she called Glisan to ask him to review the plan.

"When they asked me to review it," Glisan said, "I told them I could not do it for nothing."

Glisan then proposed one month of family recreation "package plan" membership for every hour he studied the plan, which Siddiqui accepted. Eventually, he was paid for the 11 hours.

Glisan, who had studied CA's computers for free when he served on the council from 1994-1996, submitted Jan. 7 a four-page report and then met with CA officials three times in January, according to Siddiqui and CA records.

"It was a barter arrangement that was good for Gary and CA," Siddiqui said.

She said CA President Padraic M. Kennedy told Columbia Council Chairman Mike Rethman about the consulting arrangement.

Rethman, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, apparently didn't tell other council members.

But given the small amount of compensation involved, only Rethman needed to know, said Judi Phares, who owns a homeowners management firm in Dallas and serves as the chairwoman of the ethics committee of the Community Associations Institute, a national trade group.

In Columbia, though, at least one resident -- who has volunteered his own four-hour review of the CA computer plan -- said Glisan should not have been paid, particularly because he is running for the council.

Lewis Lorton, a Kings Contrivance village resident who said he is not a computer consultant but knows a lot about computer system upgrades, said residents often give free expertise to CA.

Of CA's arrangement, he said: "It seems to me a special deal," adding that over the past couple of years others have volunteered many hours.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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