Five on CA board see Brown on way out

Members send e-mail saying they want `different direction'

November 29, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,sun reporter

The Columbia Association board of directors is divided on whether to keep Maggie J. Brown as its association president past 2008.

Brown, who is paid $183,000 annually, is in the last year of a three-year contract that expires April 30, 2007. Five of the 10-member policymaking panel placed their names on an e-mail sent to Tom O'Connor, chairman of the board, stating that Brown should not be given a contract extension of more than one year.

"The five of us are looking for a different style of management and a different direction," said Phil Marcus, board member representing Kings Contrivance. The other board members who signed the e-mail were Gail Broida of Town Center, Cynthia Coyle of Harper's Choice, Philip W. Kirsch of Wilde Lake and Barbara L. Russell of Oakland Mills.

Brown, who has been president since 2001, wants another three-year contract and declined to say if she would accept a one-year deal.

"I am highly qualified to continue to go forward. ... " Brown said "There are a number of things I would like to see completed."

Brown defended her qualifications.

"I have led a $50 million organization for five years and anything you want to know about Columbia Association, I am well versed in that. If [the board] wants a new level of excellence, I am capable of that. If there are some areas of expertise I need, I will do that. I have done it in the past and will continue to do that."

The association's operations committee is in charge of preparing a contract proposal for Brown. The committee's recommendation will be voted on by the board in January.

O'Connor said the members opposed to the three-year contact extension would force "some sort of compromise in the contract."

Brown, a former Columbia Association vice president for community services, was hired in February 2001 to run the homeowners association, which provides recreational services for Columbia's almost 100,000 residents and manages more than 3,400 acres of open space and has an annual budget of about $50 million. Brown is the first African-American to lead the organization.

During Monday's operations committee meeting, some board members who signed the e-mail said they need to know more about the direction of the association before committing another three years to Brown.

"Maggie has done an excellent job as the person who has healed many problems CA had when she took over - she is very diplomatic and personable leader and that was necessary," Coyle said in a telephone interview yesterday. "My concern is that the organization has grown larger and I think there is a time for change, and a time for change does not mean that Maggie has not been wonderful in what we have done."

Coyle and other members who signed the e-mail said the association needs to shift attention to quality assurance of the association's services.

" ... Now it is time for CA to move on to modern, measurements-based pro-active management in a technology-driven era," said the e-mail to O'Connor.

Coyle described Brown's one-year extension as a "transition" period when the association would conduct a national search for a new president.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, board member representing Owen Brown, said Brown has done a good job, and she would support a three-year extension.

"[Brown] is being ruined and marginalized," Atkinson-Stewart said. "She is not just an ambassador of good will, but she has managed an organization that has been moving forward."

Miles Coffman, board member representing Hickory Ridge, said Brown deserves a "contract longer than one year" because her leadership would benefit the association's ongoing changes, such as the board's governing structure.

"You have a group opposed to her, and I think part of their problem is you have people on the board who want her to do just what they want her to do," Coff-man said.

Patrick von Schlag, board member representing River Hill, took exception to how the five members reached their decision. "These five members have been meeting in private and they prearranged on this decision. This was done in a nonopen and participant way," von Schlag said.

Marcus defended the five members' actions by saying it was a caucus, not a board meeting.

"Five people out of the CA board of 10 is not a board meeting because it takes six to make it a board meeting. If we had six people, it would have been a board meeting," Marcus said.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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