Unwilling to continue his association with a board he says accomplishes little, works in secret and does not properly oversee finances, Tim Clarke has resigned from the Kentlands Citizens Assembly (KCA) board of trustees effective June 1, less than seven months after his election to that board.
As an officer of the board of trustees, Clarke was also community treasurer.
In an email to board members and others that included his resignation, Clarke cited wasted time; a KCA budget that is a “joke;” a lack of open debate during monthly board meetings; the payment of “excessive” legal fees and poorly managed legal resources; a lack of proper procedure; and other reasons for stepping down.
“The board is not a functioning unit; the people on it waste more time and accomplish nothing,” Clarke stated in his letter.
“There is no place for me on this board of trustees. I withdrew my earlier decision to resign because I thought, wrongly, that there was a place for a person who asked questions and sought to improve the community. However, it is clear that questions are not permitted. Since the president and the board take actions that are an embarrassment to the community, I do not wish to be associated with this present board and president; I hope that new and concerned citizens will be elected,” he continued. “To preserve my reputation, I therefore resign, effective June 1.”
(Clarke’s full e-mail is posted on The Town Courier website: www.TownCourier.com.)
Clarke is an attorney with a solo, mostly criminal law practice. His office is in his Kentlands home. He is married to Michelle Clarke, a community activist and his wife of more than 40 years. Before private practice, from 1972 to 1985, Clarke was a prosecutor, serving as a deputy state’s attorney in the Maryland State’s Attorney’s office.
According to a statement signed by the KCA board of trustees and sent June 3 by Board Chair Alex Kleinman to a Town Courier reporter, Clarke’s “request” to resign was placed before the board by Chairperson Kleinman, and the “board voted to accept the resignation.”
Also according to the official statement, “All of the issues Mr. Clark [sic] recounted in his letter were discussed in public sessions and according to proper and established procedure. The board and the KCA president’s actions have always been and continue to be pursuant to the Trustees’ majority votes and/or based on well-established KCA bylaws.” (See sidebar for full statement from the KCA board.)
Clarke told The Town Courier that although the KCA board meetings are public (except for executive sessions), only a handful of people attend — at most. Further, Clarke wrote in his email of resignation, “Kentlands board members were well attended in the past because the issues were dealt with openly with debate. Now no one comes.”
Besides Clarke, members of the KCA board of trustees include Alex Kleinman (chair), Sigrid McCutcheon (secretary), Joyce Whitman (vice chair) and Paul Zeineddin. As KCA president, Rachael Henderson Hammoudeh attends board meetings but is not a member of the board of trustees.
Besides the formal statement, members of the board reached by the Town Courier declined comment on Clarke’s resignation and allegations.
In further comments to the Town Courier on his resignation, Clarke noted that, upon joining the board, he had encouraged proper use of parliamentary procedure at meetings since his election.
(According to Robert’s Rules of Order, the chief role of a body’s chairman at a meeting is to control or manage the meeting, avoid the appearance of partisanship and, therefore, never engage in debate. When a member has the floor, the chair cannot interrupt.)
Clarke said that, since his request for closer following of the rules of parliamentary procedure, Kleinman often simply hands his gavel to Whitman when he wishes to speak and then takes the gavel back when he is done speaking.
“The chair is supposed to be in charge of the agenda and a neutral person,” said Clarke.
According to Kentlands’ bylaws, the KCA chair presides over all board meetings, is responsible for agenda preparation, distributes background information in advance, represents the board to the president (Rachael Henderson Hammoudeh) and the assembly, appoints committees, assures the board and officers properly carry out their duties, performs duties of president in their absence, and co-signs with president financial instruments representing amounts in excess of one percent of the annual budget.
Clarke said a letter from the treasurer on community finances he wished to publish in the Kentlands Town Crier (KTC), the official publication of the board of trustees, was pulled from publication in the May issue by the “chairman and the president” because “they said they didn’t like the way it read.”
Robert Randolph, a former community treasurer who immediately preceded Clarke in service on the board regularly published a “From the Treasurer” piece in the KTC. Pieces by Clarke, as treasurer, ran in the March and April 2012 issues, and an article on a different topic by Clarke was published in the combined January/February 2012 issue of the KTC.
According to the editorial page of the paper, the board of trustees “is responsible for the form, content and policies of the newspaper.”
Clarke says the letter he wished to publish dealt with the fact that legal costs, budgeted at $15,000 for the year, are already approaching that figure. He said he was told a legal bill he received in March 2012 was really for work done prior to December and should not be included in current figures.
Clarke said it costs Linowes and Blocher, the large law firm the KCA uses for collections, far more to collect judgements than the face value of the judgements themselves. As another example of wasted legal fees, Clarke said a $.45 postage stamp would be wiser way to finance a court filing than sending a law clerk round trip between Bethesda and Rockville to do it in person, for which the KCA is then billed $175.
Clarke was critical of costly work the board is doing with another law firm on trademark/licensing of the name “Kentlands,” which he says the board has spent thousands on yet has developed nothing substantive. He also believes that going to businesses that have used the name “Kentlands” for years and telling them retroactively that they must sign a licensing agreement and abide by as yet undeveloped terms is asking for legal trouble the Kentlands community doesn’t need.
The trademark/licensing initiative is something the board has been working on for months. When the issue is discussed at board meetings, the board usually goes into executive session, ostensibly because the matter involves attorney-client privilege. (On at least one occasion, the only individual who had to leave was the reporter from The Town Courier who was, and has been more than once, the only member of the public in attendance — with the exception of management company staff.)
“They’ve even talked about going after Joe Alfandre [for using the Kentlands name],” Clarke said.
The KCA Responds
The Kentlands Citizens Assembly issued an official statement regarding Board member Tim Clarke’s resignation:
“After receiving Mr. Clarke’s unexpected letter of resignation, the KCA Chairperson placed Mr. Clarke’s request before the Board for consideration. The Board voted to accept the resignation.
“The Board feels that Mr. Clarke’s letter relating his resignation and his thoughts regarding the Board and its actions warrants a brief response:
“All of the issues Mr. Clark [sic] recounted in his letter were discussed in public sessions and according to proper and established procedure. The Board and the KCA President’s actions have always been and continue to be pursuant to the Trustees’ majority votes and/or based on well-established KCA bylaws. In fact, the decisions and practices about which Mr. Clark [sic] takes issue were based on resolutions and policies adopted by this and prior Boards.
“Several Board Members believe that Mr. Clark [sic] brought interesting ideas and useful knowledge to the Board. Without exception, we all wish him the best.
“The Board would like to take this opportunity to seek a Kentlands resident who may be interested in serving in lieu of Mr. Clarke as a KCA Treasurer and Trustee. Interested residents are invited to send an email to email@example.com.”
The KCA Board of Trustees