Twenty-four hours after Columbia Association President and CEO Lakey Boyd said she had no choice but to be transitioned out of her role, residents of Maryland’s second-largest city packed the nonprofit’s boardroom Thursday night to testify in support of the embattled leader and demand transparency from the board.
“Lakey Boyd has sacrificed herself for our community,” Skye Anderson testified to the association’s board of directors. “You, dear board members, have sacrificed our community for yourselves.”
Boyd’s request for a release from the group, which serves as the de facto governing body of Columbia, comes after months of rumors about her job security. On Jan. 6, the board of directors issued its first statement on the matter, citing “numerous false rumors and speculations” about Boyd’s employment status and saying they had issued a plan to “improve the relationship” with the CEO.
In her own statement Wednesday evening, Boyd said that plan, which has yet to be released by the board, would render her position “ineffective.”
“I have concluded that I have no other choice but to ask the CA Board to transition me out of the Columbia Association,” Boyd said.
Minutes into Thursday’s public meeting, board member Bill Santos, who represents the village of Wilde Lake and has previously voiced support for Boyd, motioned the board to ask Chair Eric Greenberg, of River Hill, and Vice Chair Ginny Thomas, of Oakland Mills, to step down and for new leadership elections to be held.
After being told by Greenberg that his motion was out of order, Santos instead moved to amend the agenda to include a discussion of the board’s relationship with the CEO and was seconded by board member Andrew Stack, of Owen Brown.
“Given the gravity of the situation that we face here ... it is my opinion that if we conduct any business without first [spelling out] what is going on with this board and senior management, we will be operating as a failed board,” said Santos, as applause echoed through the chamber.
Santos’ motion failed 6-2, with only him and Stack voting in favor. Board member Janet Evans, of Long Reach, was not present for the vote.
Boyd was not present at Thursday’s meeting and has declined to comment further on the situation.
In their testimonies, residents recounted the monthslong leadership drama that has engulfed Columbia and pitted much of the board against Boyd, who took over as CEO in May 2021 and quickly drew praise for engaging with a diverse array of community stakeholders.
Howard County Times: Top stories
“Scores of residents, CA partners, community leaders and CA staff have rallied behind Lakey and her extraordinary leadership skills,” Oakland Mills resident Lena Kennedy said. “The response from this board has been silence and then apparently an untenable ultimatum for Lakey and a brief statement full of empty rhetoric.”
The Columbia Association functions as a homeowners association for the city of more than 104,000 and manages a budget of $70 million, as well as numerous community amenities, such as tennis courts and jogging trails.
Several speakers at the meeting said the board had run afoul of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act by failing to publicly disclose 10 closed meetings held since the beginning of the fiscal year. Nine of the meetings were “executive sessions,” meetings held solely by board members and did not include Boyd, and several were held to discuss “the Board’s options for its relationship with the President/CEO.”
“By failing to report the closed meetings, this board has violated the act,” said Columbia resident Lynn Hannan, an attorney who has adjudicated complaints under the homeowner law. “The board’s refusal to be open about your underlying agenda leaves me in both shock and dismay.”
Joan Lancos, a longtime Columbia resident and former member of the board, said buying out the remaining two years of Boyd’s contract and potential legal ramifications could cost the association upwards of $1 million. The CA is funded in part by annual fees paid by residential and commercial property owners.
The board has also spent more than $40,000 since September on outside counsel provided by the firm Ballard Spahr and attorney Tim McCormack, according to Dannika Rynes, the association’s senior media relations manager. Although they have yet to comment on why they hired the attorney, board members held a closed meeting in June to discuss “hiring outside counsel to assist the Board with addressing the President/CEO’s appeal of her FY22 performance evaluation.”
“I absolutely believe that there will be lawsuits and that you each will be sued individually,” Lancos added. “This whole process of a lack of speaking out until tonight has been appalling. I’m embarrassed that this is a community where I’ve lived for 47 years.”