Elected leaders of the Columbia Association may be willing to pay “whatever it takes” to replace a chief executive hired just 18 months ago to run key elements of Maryland’s second largest city, according to a local official who said this week that he had spoken to several members of the Columbia Association Board of Directors.
Bill Inglis, chair of the Hickory Ridge Village Association, discussed his conversations with members of the Columbia Association Board of Directors during a Monday meeting of the village board that was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.
A core group of board members seem to be taking steps to replace Lakey Boyd, the CEO of the Columbia Association. Boyd oversees 1,100 employees and a $70 million budget, and moved to Maryland to begin serving as effectively the town manager of Columbia in June 2021. Tensions have been growing, and Boyd confronted the Board at a public meeting last month about rumblings that she was about to be replaced. Baltimore Fishbowl reported on the controversy last week.
“I’ve spoken with multiple – many – board members of the CA board of directors, men and women, and all of them that I’ve spoken with are in favor of spending whatever it takes to have her replaced,” Inglis said at the village meeting, adding that such a move would be a “huge hurdle” for the board because of widespread support that Boyd has from association employees and community leaders.
Boyd earns $240,000 yearly and signed a four-year contract. A buy-out that covering her outstanding salary alone could potentially cost nearly $600,000, with the money coming from fees paid by Columbia residents to the association.
“I’ve heard that the person they are considering (to replace Boyd) is Nina Basu,” said Inglis, referring to the CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust, a non-profit organization that is an offshoot of the Columbia Association and manages arts programming at a community park. “She is a lady of color and that will bring diversity to the board which everybody who supports Lakey feels is very important,” Inglis said.
Inglis declined to answer additional questions about which Board of Directors members he spoke to, and when, saying in a text message to Baltimore Fishbowl that “I do not need to be talking to the press about our issues; it’s potentially a violation of my fiduciary obligation to the community.” In an email to some community leaders last week, Basu said she had “no interest in any position” with the association.
Community Support for Boyd
Boyd asked the Board of Directors to clarify her position and address speculation that the board was lining up a replacement at a meeting on Oct. 27. Tensions between Boyd and the board stem from complex issues surrounding disclosure of a legal settlement, ethics violations and policies, and perceived board micromanagement.
At the next meeting, which took place on Thursday Nov. 10, dozens of community members and leaders testified in support of Boyd, including the Columbia Association senior leadership team, the Howard County NAACP, the Howard County Library System, and the community associations of Harper’s Choice, Owen Brown and Wilde Lake – three of Columbia’s 10 villages.
A petition signed by 156 Columbia Association employees was also presented to the Board of Directors. A community blog, the Merriweather Post, is compiling a list of Boyd supporters.
Board members have retained their own counsel, and have not responded to the indications of support for Boyd, or to any ongoing discussions about her termination. Attorney Timothy McCormack and board chair Eric Greenberg have declined requests for comment. The association plans to budget $75,000 in the coming fiscal year for separate legal counsel that could pay for McCormack or other attorneys , according to a figure disclosed by Susan Krabbe, senior vice president chief financial officer of the association during a recent budget information session.
The Board of Directors held a closed session on Monday Nov. 14, but McCormick and Greenberg did not respond to an email request about the topic or result. Association staff said they are now aware of the closed meeting.
Financial protest brewing
Some community members have begun discussion a financial protest if Boyd is ousted. Former board member Jessamine Duvall raised the possibility of an organized effort whereby Columbia residents would withhold their annual homeowners’ fees in protest of board leadership decisions.
According to Columbia Association officials, the average annual fee paid by Columbia residents is $1,100 based on a home valued on average at $325,000. Twenty-two percent of association revenues come from commercial property owners. “Choosing not to pay your (Columbia Parks and Recreation Assessment) bill is certainly a tool that residents would have to express their disappointment with actions of the CA board,” Duvall said in an interview.
A longer excerpt of the Hickory Ridge Village Board meeting can be found here.
Note: Author David Nitkin, the Baltimore Fishbowl Executive Editor, has been a resident of the Columbia village of Town Center since 2019. In 2021, he served on the steering committee of the Rouse Project, a now-defunct entity that was supporting equity, diversity and progressive leadership for the Columbia Association Board of Directors. The committee included former Howard County executives Allan Kittleman and Ken Ulman (a co-owner of Baltimore Fishbowl); and several prominent Black, religious and civic Howard County leaders. Steering committee members gave no money to the group. The group sought a delay in the selection of a new Columbia Association CEO until after April 2021 director elections. The delay did not take place, and Lakey Boyd was selected as a result of the ongoing search. No CA director candidates supported by the Rouse Project currently serve on the CA Board of Directors.