An unusually intense election for three seats on the Montgomery Village Foundation board of directors ended Saturday amid mild controversy.
Elected to the nine-member board for three-year terms were Irving Bersoff, Ronald DeLisi and Richard Hall. The foundation is responsible for architectural control as well as the maintenance of recreation areas owned in common by the residents of Montgomery Village.
The traditionally low-key race turned into a fierce battle when three of the eight candidates chose to run on a slate, challenging the influence of the developer in managing the community of 23,000 residents.
The slate called itself Citizens for a Better Village. Board member Armond Piscopo, involved in organizing the slate, said the group wanted to give voters a choice that would not be influenced by the developer, Kettler Brothers Inc., which had 1,059 votes in the election.
Of the winning candidates, only Bersoff was a member of the slate. DeLisi is a Kettler employe who ran as a resident, and Hall is a former municipal planner.
After the election results were announced, the other two members of the slate challenged the validity of multi-unit rental ballots--the type of votes Kettler Brothers has, according to Fay Jacobs, the foundation's director of communications. The rental ballots give the voting right to the owner of an apartment building, not to the tenants, Jacobs said.
Charles Richman and William Quinlan, the other members of the slate, wrote a letter to the election committee challenging those votes on the grounds that no procedures were set up to accept them. The challenge called into question 2,771 votes held by Kettler and Montgomery Village Associates.
The foundation's board met Monday with legal counsel to consider the challenge, and "we decided to accept the validity of the class-A multi-unit rental ballots," board president Ann Swain said.
In a controversial decision, Kettler Brothers decided to cast its bloc of votes for three of the eight candidates. The candidates endorsed by Kettler Brothers won the election.
William N. Hurley, vice president of Kettler Brothers, said the firm chose to back three candidates with its bloc of votes after interviewing all eight candidates. "We chose to vote like anyone. We were asked to vote by a lot of people," he said.
Citizens for a Better Village asked Kettler Brothers not to cast its votes, saying the election should be determined by the residents and not the developer.
Hurley said, "There are far more resident votes out there than the votes we have. If they turn out and vote, they could offset our votes."
Piscopo said, "We're at the point now where we're in transition from a developer-dominated board to a resident-dominated board. The developer has done an excellent job with the brick and mortar and planning stages. Now we are just over 60 percent completed, and we feel now that we should be strongly in command of our destiny.
"We must start acting more like a municipal government, although technically we're not one. The assessments we charge the community smell like, look like and feel like taxes. We owe the residents a choice."
The foundation board election traditionally has had a voter turnout of about 20 percent of the 6,000 ballots sent to homeowners. The election committee collected 1,800, or 30 percent, of homeowner ballots this year.