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CA president to leave in 2009

The Baltimore Sun

Maggie J. Brown will lead the Columbia Association for two more years before its board of directors replaces her with a new president in May 2009.

Brown signed her new deal, which includes a termination clause stating she will leave in two years, at Thursday night's association board meeting. Her current three-year contract ends tomorrow.

Half of the 10 board members had spoken publicly about wanting to replace Brown after a one-year contract extension, while the other half had supported a three-year contract.

The new contract, which was discussed and approved in a 9-1 vote during a closed meeting, "represents the opinion of the majority of the board," said Chairman Tom O'Connor.

The dissenting vote belonged to Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, who represents Owen Brown. She said she was "furious" that the contract included the termination clause.

"It [her contract] should be based on her performance," Atkinson-Stewart said. "How do you say you are going to rehire someone who met all the goals and objectives, but in two years [that person is] not going to be able to carry forward? ... It's the most insulting thing you can do to a person [to say] I'm going to hire you for two years, but I'm going to fire you in two years no matter what you do."

O'Connor said: "I can't say there is a definitive reason for the whole CA board" to seek a new president in 2009. But he said questions were raised about Brown's capacity to handle plans for a substantial new quality-measurement system, among other issues.

Philip L. Marcus, the board's vice chairman, said the contract was not a reflection of Brown's performance to date.

The new contract increases her salary from $183,000 annually to $190,000, with at least a 3.5 percent raise the next year. She was awarded a bonus of $24,000 Thursday night for her work during the past fiscal year.

Marcus, who this month is ending his tenure representing Kings Contrivance, said setting an end date for Brown's service prepares the organization for "a new era."

In the past four or five years, the association "has been trying to deal with people issues and deal with a period during which CA was alienated from the community," said Marcus, who wanted Brown to get a one-year extension. Brown is "extremely diplomatic, a great people person, the perfect person to re-establish relations with the community."

Now, he said, the board wants to focus on making the association a better organization, including efforts to measure quality improvement. He said he believes that the five board members who wanted a one-year contract, and likely several others, are looking for a president with skills and experience in those areas.

Brown, 67, said she signed the contract because "I needed to do this to move CA forward from this divisive state. I just received a bonus and an increase in pay and also a termination contract. All I can say is, we will try to work together and move forward."

Brown was hired as president in 2001 after serving as the association's vice president for community services. The homeowners association provides recreational services for Columbia's nearly 100,000 residents, manages more than 3,400 acres of open space and has an annual budget of about $50 million.

Brown said she would have preferred three years to tackle issues such as the development of Columbia's downtown, the influx of residents through the federal government's military base realignment process and the quality-improvement plan.

But, she said, "I'm a professional. I believe once I accept a certain working condition I'm going to always do 100 percent."

Atkinson-Stewart also said she was angry that the contract vote, taken in closed session, was announced as part of the board president's report and not handled as a separate agenda item. As a result, her minority opinion was not offered in the public forum.

O'Connor said Atkinson-Stewart's opinion will be entered into the record in the future.

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