Residents shake up civic association

The Baltimore Sun

The president of a Pasadena civic association and much of its board have resigned after a revolt by residents over the use of community tax money.

Residents said they were set to impeach Patrick Kiley, president of the Riviera Community Improvement Association, amid allegations that it awarded a no-bid contract for shoreline improvement work and signed off on the sale of a property to that same contractor without community approval.

In a March 31 letter to the 1,400-member community, Kiley, a retired BGE employee and 47-year resident, said he was resigning because the controversy had become "all-consuming."

"After great reflection, I have concluded that it is time to reorder my priorities and recommit myself to my family, my health and my other obligations and interests," he wrote.

He added that he had always worked on the community's behalf, and he decried the "hostile and attacking manner" of those who had caused the uproar.

Robynn Squires, the resident who led the effort to scrutinize how the association is spending homeowners' special tax district money, said Kiley had not acted in the community's interest.

"He betrayed all of us; I lost my trust," she said. She added that Tuesday's community meeting was "really positive." More than 200 residents selected three new board members, including new President Lee Archibald, and re-approved this year's $112,560 budget for shoreline improvements.

For years, few residents kept up with the association's activities, even though it decides how to spend the extra taxes most of them pay to Anne Arundel County -- 4 cents for every $100 of assessed property value -- to maintain the 82 acres of shoreline along the Patapsco River, Stony Creek and Rock Creek.

While the county must approve any expenditure, the board has traditionally had a free hand in using the money for improvement and maintenance projects.

But Squires and other residents grew unhappy with overruns in an erosion project, as costs ballooned from $200,000 to $365,000. And they became furious when they learned that RiverBea Corp., the owner of most of the community's shoreline property, had sold a parcel known as "the Triangle" for $145,000 to C.A. Norris, the company doing the improvements.

Due to the complaints, the shoreline project has been halted, and Squires said residents are exploring legal remedies to have the land sale reversed.

Residents initially directed most of their ire at Kiley, who sat on RiverBea's board and approved the land sale at the same time he was serving as association president. He later apologized for his actions and acknowledged it was an error in judgment, but residents still demanded his impeachment.

On Tuesday night, residents proposed stricter guidelines for how the association spends the community's tax money and limits on how great a role RiverBea's president can play on the association's board. At the end of the meeting, several of the old board members, including Vice President John Mullins, who had been acting as president after Kiley quit, tendered their resignations.

One member who did not step down is John Robbins, president of RiverBea. He said he plans to stay on the board and added that RiverBea is not changing or reversing any of its actions.

"The sale of the land is over and done with, and there's nothing [Squires] can do about it," he said.

RiverBea was established in 1961 to hold title to virtually all the shoreline property in Riviera Beach. Robbins said it is RiverBea's role to prevent development on the land, including additions from homeowners living along the shoreline. It sold the Triangle, he said, so it would have funds to legally challenge resident development on the shoreline.

But Squires said the company has violated its contractual obligation to preserve the shoreline for community use by preventing residents from using the land.

"It's been a constant battle. Some can get piers, some can't," she said. Residents have also had trouble building new playgrounds and hosting community events on the shoreline, she said. She and other residents said they want to free up this land for community use.

Residents also want a judge to reverse the sale of the land and break up RiverBea's board.

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