A public argument over the direction of Maryland’s second largest city erupted Monday as a group of residents called for the recall of Columbia Association board members to prevent them from ousting the association’s top paid staff member.

The board has not commented on speculation that it is about to remove association president, Lakey Boyd, who believes the heart of the issue is the tension between old and new in a growing community of 104,000 residents. Two board members reached Monday declined to comment. Dick Boulton, who represents the neighborhoods of Dorsey’s Search, said he was prohibited from commenting on what is happening in closed door meetings.

Residents said that Boyd has brought an agenda of openness and transparency to the association, listening to communities that for too long have not had power — something they don’t believe everyone likes.

They are calling for residents in five villages to sign a petition asking the village councils to recall their elected leaders immediately. Standing in front of Lake Kitamaqundi in downtownColumbia, they held signs with QR codes for the villages of Dorsey’s Search, Oakland Mills, Harper’s Choice, River Hill and Town Center. They asked residents to use the QR codes to sign the petitions.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The 10-member Columbia Association board has a representative from each village elected by the residents of that area. Seven of the seats could turn over during an April election, but Boyd’s supporters are concerned that she will be removed before the election.

Erika Strauss Chavarria, executive director of Columbia Community Care and a Wilde Lake resident, is one of those calling for the community to take action to intervene. She said the current board, which is entirely white, does not represent the diversity of Columbia.

“The fact that the board does not in any way, shape or form represent the rich diversity or demographics of the residents they serve is unacceptable. The current CA board does not understand nor do they have interest in the true needs of the community that they serve,” Chavarria said. “This unrepresentative system perpetuates inequities and leads to community disengagement.” In contrast, she said, Boyd is attempting to create an equitable Columbia Association.

Ashley Vaughan, a Harper’s Choice resident and former CA board member, said she believes the current board is acting fiscally irresponsibly by spending $40,000 to hire outside legal counsel to advise them. Buying out the remainder of Boyd,’s contract, she said, would cost the Columbia Association $500,000, an expenditure that the community can’t afford.

Boyd has said she believes her job may be at risk as tensions between her and the board have grown.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In an interview with The Banner last month, she said that she is an outsider and they are unhappy with her efforts to engage with previously overlooked parts of the community, which is increasingly diverse.

”We have opened the doors, we’ve invited people to the table and I’m doing my best to take out the table and set it up at the lakefront for people to show up,” Boyd said.

Larry Walker of Howard County holds a sign while speakers speak during a press conference in Downtown Columbia Lakefront, Monday, January 2, 2023.
Larry Walker of Howard County holds a sign while speakers speak during a press conference in Downtown Columbia Lakefront. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

She said she believes some people are saying that the Columbia Association — a massive homeowners association that is the closest thing Columbia has to a city government — “is not doing what I’m used to it doing.”

”And my answer is I think we’re here to serve everyone in the community the best we can, and not any specific subset of the community,” she added.

Boyd quickly made it a priority to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion and to forge connections with parts of the community that had been 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.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Howard County provides other essential services — such as police and fire service, and schools — to the unincorporated community.

Laura Bacon, an Oakland Mills resident, said at the Monday press conference that Boyd has made the Columbia Association more accessible and community-oriented. In addition, she said, she “has turned a budget process that was once convoluted and secretive into one that is interactive and transparent.”

She wants Boyd to stay in her position, despite the conflict with the association’s board, which has grown increasingly full of friction at public meetings.

Chavarria said the board has held numerous meetings in secret to discuss personnel issues.

Boyd could not be reached for comment on Monday, but Dannika Rynes, the senior media relations manager for the association, said “the outpouring of support from the Columbia community is continuous proof that our organization is moving in the right direction under Lakey’s leadership … Community only lives up to its fullest potential when people are involved and feel heard.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Rynes said the board spent $42,000 for three months between September and November on the outside counsel. The board has not said what the counsel was hired to do, but she said at a meeting Boyd attended with the attorney, that she was given a document that said she cannot appeal her job evaluation.

liz.bowie@thebaltimorebanner.com

More From The Banner