(Nov. 27, 2020) Personality clashes between Ocean Pines Association General Manager John Viola and Director Tom Janasek had other directors contemplating his removal from the board before they agreed to censure him instead in a public hearing on Friday.
A hastily convened special meeting in the Assateague Room of the Community Center was announced on Thursday following two days of long closed sessions concerning Viola’s allegation that he was being harassed.
President Larry Perrone said Viola informed him on Nov. 6 that he intended to register a formal complaint following an incident the day before.
“Viola claimed that on Nov. 5 Janasek made offensive remarks to him while he was in a business lunch with Director of Golf Operations John Malinowski at the OPA Country Club,” he said.
Viola claimed that Director Doug Parks and an unnamed OPA employee witnessed the incident.
“John’s formal verbal complaint contains this incident and a pattern of harassing comments, for example … ‘I will have you fired’ … in front of board members, OPA employees and OPA members since Director Janasek was elected to the board,” he said.
Perrone said after consulting with directors Dr. Colette Horn and Doug Parks, the decision was made to contact OPA Attorney Jeremy Tucker.
“I directed Jeremy Tucker to conduct an investigation regarding the allegations of John’s complaint,” he said.
Perrone said Tucker was asked to prepare a report on the matter that was shared with the entire board.
“The board met last Wednesday night for four hours in closed session after our general meeting to discuss the investigation, the alleged incidences and legal ramifications,” he said.
The marathon session Wednesday night, which adjourned after midnight, was reconvened for two hours on Thursday.
“As a result of that discussion it was clear that a motion for removal would be presented at this special meeting,” he said.
Horn read aloud the motion to remove Janasek for cause as permitted under by-law section 5.12(b) due to complaints that he undermined Viola’s ability to be successful in the role of general manager.
“The purpose of this motion is not to punish Director Janasek but to achieve a remedy to this complaint that fulfills our obligation as a board to provide Mr. Viola a guarantee that there will be no further action … that undermines his ability to successfully fulfill his contractual obligations to the association,” she said.
After Janasek declined to refute the allegations, Perrone advanced a vote for removal that was struck down 4-3, with Directors Camilla Rogers, and Frank Daly, as well as Parks and Janasek in opposition.
The limited capacity socially distanced meeting crowd applauded after the vote concluded.
Looking to clear up background chatter, Viola said despite rumors to the contrary he had never considered resigning as general manager because of tensions with Janasek.
“I am on record with the president, our lawyer and other board members that I have not threatened to quit nor would … based upon whatever happens,” he said. “I never threatened to quit or demanded that a boss be removed.”
After failing to remove Janasek, a resolution for censure was offered by Daly.
Tucker read the censure motion and said that Perrone had submitted a complaint to the board on Nov. 11 based on the alleged interactions between Janasek and Viola.
“Mr. Perrone’s complaint alleges upon becoming a director (in 2018) Mr. Janasek repeatedly made inappropriate comments to John Viola in front of other OPA employees and members of the public,” he said.
The complaint alleged Janasek was vocally critical of Viola’s job performance and presence at the Golf Clubhouse and other amenity locations, while also indicating his role as general manager was in jeopardy.
The complaint stated that Janasek has not been authorized by the board to rate Viola’s job performance and deemed such actions as contrary to ethical conduct expected of directors.
In terms of corrective actions, the complaint also stated if Janasek continued expressing criticisms of an OPA employees’ job performance, outside of a board meeting or formal review process, it would constitute cause for removal.
After agreeing to the censure terms, Janasek thanked those who attended and others who had expressed support.
“I want to personally apologize to John,” he said. “If what I did and what was stated … was offensive, then I apologize.”
Janasek said the actions would not be repeated henceforth and stressed his overall intent is to improve the community.
“I really truly am a member of Ocean Pines [and] I’ve been here for 45 years,” he said. “I do everything for Ocean Pines and the things I say, the things I do are ... because I’m trying to make this place better.”
Following Janasek’s comments, Viola and he met mid-room for an amicable fist bump in hopes of retiring their differences.
“The way I approach things is not the way everybody approaches things and obviously I have to change my course a little bit,” Janasek said. “I am … boisterous and say what I think and sometimes doing that gets me in trouble.”