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Columbia Association to Release List of Employee Salaries by Position

CA likely to release the list by the end of the month after a years long fight with the Alliance for a Better Columbia.

As required of homeowner assocations statewide, the Columbia Association will likely release a list of employee salaries by position to the Alliance for a Better Columbia by the end of August.

Sheri Fanaroff, CA's general counsel, wrote in an email to Patch that CA hopes to provide the 2011 salary information to the state attorney general's office by the end of the month.

The attorney general's office would then provide the information to the Alliance for a Better Columbia, according to Alan Brody, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office.

The salary information is part of a longer story that involves the Alliance's efforts over the past four years to obtain detailed salary information of top officials at CA.

As a homeowners association, CA is subject to the state Homeowners Association Act. The act dictates a number of policies CA must follow in regards to contracts, zoning laws, board meetings and disclosure policies.

As part of the disclosure policies, the act states homeowners associations may not withold information on individual salaries from inspection.

However, the CA has not released detailed salary information to the Alliance, despite repeated requests over the past four years, according to Thomas D. Scott, president of the Alliance.

"I think it's because they don't particularly want to publish their employee salaries," said Scott. "Exactly why that is, I can only think of one reason, they may find it embarrassing."

Questions sent to CA spokesperson David Greisman regarding why it has taken so long for CA to release salary information were not immediately returned on Wednesday morning.

In a statement posted to the Alliance's website, Scott wrote, "The [CA] board should make a serious attempt to control the costs of employee compensation, which accounts for over 40 percent of the total budget."

In Fiscal Year 2011, the CA spent about $22 million on employee salaries, incentives and benefits according to its budget, which was about 40 percent of its total $54.6 million operating expenses. 

In 2009, CA provided the Alliance with an 86-page document that provided some salary information, but the salaries for top officials were listed in a table format that included ranges, according to Scott.

As a result, the Alliance had Delegate Frank Turner send a letter to the state attorney general's office to ask for an opinion as to whether the CA's salary information should be made available for public inspection.

In response, Dan Friedman, the counsel to the General Assembly, wrote that the language in the law "creates an obligation on the part of the homeowners' association to make all [emphasis his] documents containing information pertaining to the compensation of its employees available to any homeowner who requests it."

In the letter dated June 8, 2010, which was obtained by Patch, Friedman wrote that providing a range of salaries is unacceptable because "a homeowners' association will certainly have additional documents with more precise information pertaining to its employees' salaries."

In addition, Friedman wrote it is the right of a homeowner "to access documents containing the exact compensation paid to each person employed by the homeowners' association."

Scott said after the letter was issued members of the Alliance sat down with Friedman, CA President Phil Nelson, CA board chair at the time Cynthia Coyle and CA counsel Sheri Fanaroff.

Scott said Friedman told them his opinion, which he had already made clear in his letter, and Scott said after the meeting Coyle issued a memo telling the CA it must release deteailed salary information of its employees.

However, Coyle said she asked the CA, after previously discussing the issue with the board, to release performance appraisal templates, and all salaries by position description and if only one person was in that position, a range for that salary.

Despite this happening in 2010, the detailed salary information has not been released to the Alliance, according to Scott.

Recently, the CA discussed a proposal to support a possible bill that would change CA's designation from a "homeowner's association" to a "nonprofit community service corporation," according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.

Fanaroff said the measure would spare CA from having to spend money and staff to review the many amendments introduced to the Homeowners Assocation Act every legislative session, according to the article.

However, Scott said he thinks it's a ruse by the CA to enable them to keep their salaries private.

"The bill is basically a dodge," said Scott, according to the Sun. "I think they're trying to hide the salaries and bonuses of the people who run the CA."

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Editor's Note: This story was updated to include additional information from Cynthia Coyle.

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