Following a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, the Columbia Association’s board of directors announced that it has accepted a letter of resignation from CEO and President Lakey Boyd.
“The Columbia Association Board of Directors announced today that it has accepted the resignation of Lakey Boyd as President and CEO effective immediately,” according to a statement attributed to Boyd and the board. ”The Board thanks Lakey for her service and contributions and wishes her well in the future.”
It’s unclear who is now leading the Columbia Association — a massive homeowners group that is the closest thing Columbia has to a city government — in the wake of Boyd’s departure.
Adding to the unrest at the Columbia Association, board member Janet Evans, who represents the Village of Long Reach, also stepped down Thursday. Evans is the third board member to resign in recent months, resulting in two current vacancies on the 10-person elected board. The reason provided for Evans’ resignation was that she was “not happy with the direction the board is headed,” board member Andrew Stack told The Baltimore Banner. Evans did not respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday night, the board voted to put out a request for proposals from firms that can help find president and CEO candidates. Stack and and board member Bill Santos opposed the measure, saying they thought the vacancies on the board should be first filled to better represent more constituents.
Boyd, who moved to Columbia with her family in mid-2021 after working in community economic development and planning in Alabama, previously said tensions between old and new residents were at the heart of a monthslong conflict between her and board members. She noted she’s an outsider and said board members were unhappy with her efforts to engage with previously overlooked parts of the community, which is increasingly diverse.
She has made it a priority to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion and to forge connections with segments of the community that have felt disconnected from the Columbia Association, which has a $70 million budget and provides a variety of amenities and services, including day care, athletic facilities, recreational trails and arts programming. Howard County provides other essential services — such as police and fire service, and schools — to the unincorporated community.
Columbia Association board members met in a closed session Wednesday night to discuss a personnel issue, according to board member Dick Boulton.
On Thursday night, community members spoke at a board meeting expressing their disappointment in what they described as Boyd’s forced resignation. Several spoke in support of recommendations made by an audit committee to prevent future conflicts of interest and promote trust, transparency and communication.
“Lakey Boyd was a leader worth fighting for,” said resident Mae Beale, who described the former CEO as “approachable, down-to-earth and had [a] ... desire to serve.”
“This board, for it to regain my trust ... you have to be able to engage the different cultures within our society, create an atmosphere of belonging and provide needed services to everyone,” Beale said.
Echoing a few of the public speakers, Boulton said “it’s time we have to move on and rebuild trust, rebuild community.”
Boulton said the board and community members have to listen to each other and “forgive transgressions received by others.”
Stack applauded Boyd’s accomplishments during her tenure and said he was “disheartened” by her departure from the organization.
“For many months, I have urged my colleagues on the CA Board to bring in a neutral, third party to focus on having all of us work in a collaborative manner,” Stack said in a statement. “During the summer, over my objections, a majority of the CA Board chose to hire a lawyer. In my opinion, one hires a lawyer when your focus is adversarial; one hires a facilitator when one’s focus is on collaboration and finding mutually agreeable solutions.”
Going forward, Stack said the board should understand that the relationship between board members and staff “must be collaborative and not dictatorial.”
“The CA Board must understand that its role is policy and not management; that the Board’s focus must be on the betterment of Columbia as a whole and not on individual needs and desires,” Stack said in his statement.
The elected leaders of the Columbia Association have been the subject of scrutiny and criticism in recent months regarding their troubled relationship with their top administrator and speculation that they were trying to oust Boyd, who has cultivated significant community support since she was hired to serve as president and CEO less than two years ago. Earlier this month, for the first time, the board officially addressed the speculation about Boyd’s job security, calling it “false rumors.”
However, on Jan. 11, Boyd said she had “no other choice” but to leave her role after being presented with a plan by the board’s chair, vice chair and the association’s human resources director that she said rendered her “ineffective” in being able to carry out her duties.
Little is known about that plan, which Boyd and board members declined to discuss in detail. It was described as a “performance improvement plan” by a public speaker in an open meeting — a characterization later confirmed by Stack.
The turmoil engulfing the leaders of Columbia has intensified in recent weeks. Residents have lined up during public meetings to berate elected board members for what they described as incompetent management, an inability to work together and a lack of transparency. A group of residents is pushing for a recall of elected board members to prevent what it believed was an effort by the board to fire Boyd; a member of the group has said they will continue their effort even after Boyd announced her intention to leave her role. That group of residents also said the current board does not represent the diversity of Columbia.
Ten seats on the board are elected volunteers who represent different boroughs, called “villages.” Voter turnout in Columbia is strikingly low, with only about 1% of the population coming out for Columbia Association board elections.
A few board members stated their support for Boyd staying in the role. Boyd’s relationship with other board members, including Chair Eric Greenberg, has been openly contentious.
In the absence of answers from the board, a speculative narrative formed around what led Boyd’s relationship with the board to deteriorate. It is entangled in a web of local politics involving the settlement of a lawsuit over a holiday lights display, an ethics complaint stemming from the case, and machinations by community power brokers. Others blame what they say is the board’s unprofessional behavior and micromanagment.