Confrontation erupts at CA meeting

Suspended Hlass refuses to leave

police called in

February 20, 2005|By William Wan | William Wan,SUN STAFF

It took a security guard, two police officers and a heated confrontation between board members for the Columbia Association to pass its budget for next year.

At Thursday night's board meeting, David Hlass, a suspended board member from Long Reach village, sat in his usual seat and refused the chairman's demands that he get up.

Last month, the board secretly suspended Hlass after accusing him of sharing confidential information with village members about the salaries and bonuses of the association's top officials. Among other charges, the board also alleged that he violated conflict-of-interest rules by soliciting business from the association.

Hlass and a watchdog group have called the board's accusations and suspension ridiculous and legally inconsistent with the association's charter. The other board members have refused to speak publicly about the controversy on the recommendation of the association's attorney.

At Thursday's meeting, a large man in a dark suit moved next to Hlass as the confrontation between Chairman Joshua Feldmark and Hlass grew more heated.

"He's a security guard we've hired," Feldmark explained, but Hlass refused to budge.

The guard then threatened to call the police, to which Hlass replied, "Please do."

While the guard dialed 911, board members left their seats. Hlass followed them into the audience to continue his argument, and trailing Hlass was the security guard.

When police arrived about 10 minutes later, Hlass still was arguing his point, while residents who had come to speak their minds on the budget looked on.

Feldmark told Hlass to step into the hall to talk with police. Hlass refused, demanding that he be given papers from the association's board explaining his suspension.

Meanwhile, in the hall, board member Jud Malone tried to explain the intricacies of the association's government structure to the two police officers.

The Columbia Association's 10 board members serve as the town's governing body. They are first elected as council members by the town's 10 villages and later appoint themselves to also serve as the 10 board of directors.

"He's splitting hairs, you see," Malone told the police, "because he's saying he never received anything from the board, but we sent him a letter as members."

Finally, more than a half-hour after the meeting was supposed to start, Hlass was given a photocopy of the same letter he had been sent weeks earlier about the suspension.

As the police talked with Hlass, Feldmark called the meeting to order. Twenty minutes into the meeting, Hlass put on his hat, zipped his leather jacket and walked out of the meeting in protest. About 30 minutes after that, the board voted to approve the fiscal 2006 budget and adjourned.

It was the first Columbia Association meeting that resident Raymond Lucas had attended.

"I was trying to decide between coming here or watching Law & Order tonight," Lucas said. "This actually turned out to be more exciting."

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