Attorney Tucker highlights Ocean Pines’ improvements
Attorney Jeremy Tucker on Saturday said his firm, Lerch, Early & Brewer, since 2016 has collected nearly $600,000 in unpaid assessments and fines for Ocean Pines.
Tucker, during the annual legal report, also commended the Association Board for improvements made during the last fiscal year.
Lerch, Early & Brewer has represented Ocean Pines as its general counsel since 2016. The firm also assists Ocean Pines on matters of taxes, human resources, covenant enforcement and collections.
Recently, Tucker said, the Board tasked the firm with “ensuring and assisting with enforcement of your governing documents,” notably with actions against people who have taken advantage of the system either by not paying fines or assessments, or not following guidelines related to Ocean Pines’ covenants.
Tucker said his firm was asked to focus more on collections, “and we have done that pretty aggressively and pretty successfully.”
Since Aug. 1, 2018, the firm has collected $199,392.52 of unpaid assessments and related charges. Since 2016, they have collected $593,061.22 for Ocean Pines.
“Obviously, that is a huge amount of money to bring into your coffers,” Tucker said.
He added it’s his hope that stricter enforcement will lead to fewer infractions.
“All those will know that there is consequence to not paying assessments,” Tucker said, also thanking Ocean Pines Membership and Assessment Supervisor Ruth Ann Meyer for her assistance with collections.
Tucker said the Ocean Pines Board of late has been more proactive in forwarding documents related to covenant enforcement. He said since Aug. 1, 2018 the firm received 27 cases of homeowners who have failed to maintain their properties or made illegal improvements or other infractions.
“These 27 individuals who were sent over to us had gone through the internal enforcement process. They’d received the notice, they had been offered the opportunity for a hearing and, for whatever reason, they still chose not to … comply – and some of them not to respond at all,” Tucker said.
Of the 27 cases, he said 15 had now fully complied, six were in the process of doing so, and six remained open “and effectively nonresponsive.”
Tucker said the idea was brought up to amend “the older sections’ governing documents,” where most of the covenant infractions occur. Many of the newer sections, he said, already have fining authority.
“We talked about amending the governing documents … to allow for the Board to impose fines after a hearing,” he said. “The reason why we think this is a good idea is that it allows the Board, internally, to enforce their governing documents.
“For whatever reason, some people need consequence to comply,” he continued. “Giving internal fining authority gives this internal consequence without having to send it to my office [and] without incurring those legal fees.”
Tucker added that controls to prevent the abusive issuing of fines should be discussed, including establishing minimum and maximum penalties and specific guidelines for hearings.
“It’s something that we have found through our communities [the firm represents] that when they have that, it further reduces violations,” Tucker said.
He closed by saying “it’s been a very good year” for Ocean Pines.
“My impression [is] … this was a turning year for the Board,” he said. “Instead of having to focus on just fixing the problems of the past, this has been a year of moving forward, of getting things done … it was a really interesting thing to watch.
“I think it’s something that I have certainly said to [Association President] Doug [Parks] and the Board, that it should be commended,” he continued. “I’m so proud of watching this happen, because it’s really something to see. And I hope we spend some time talking about those changes.”
Also during the meeting, Paul Shifrin of auditing firm SC&H Group, Inc. delivered the annual auditor’s presentation.
“I’m happy to report that this year, as in the past two years, it is what we call a ‘clean’ opinion and an unmodified opinion, so it says that the numbers are accurate,” he said.
Shifrin noted his firm merely checks the financials for accuracy while the actual numbers, good or bad, are the responsibility of General Manager John Viola and Finance Director Steve Phillips.
“As you’ve heard, this year, the numbers were good,” he said. “And we can come behind and say that they are good and accurate.”
To view Tucker’s full report, visit https://youtu.be/bG33ugso4eo?t=2483.
To view Shifrin’s full report, visit https://youtu.be/bG33ugso4eo?t=2947.
Ocean Pines’ Annual Meeting of membership was scheduled on Saturday, Aug. 10. However, because no quorum was established, no official business was conducted.