Dozens of ballots will not be counted in the Association of Sea Pines Plantation Property Owners board election, an official said Monday.
Charlie Miner, president of ASPPPO, a voluntary organization with about 3,600 members, said because 51 Sea Pines property owners joined ASPPPO after a Nov. 1 deadline to be eligible to vote, their votes won’t be counted. The deadline to submit ballots was Friday.
“It was unfortunate the conflict occurred,” Miner said. “This just hasn’t happened in previous years. But we’ve had quite a contentious election this year.”
Miner said the ASPPPO board met Friday to discuss the issue after having referred it to legal counsel. The board unanimously upheld the Nov. 1 deadline to join ASPPPO, as written in the organization’s bylaws and reiterated by legal counsel. Fifty-three ballots were in question initially; two members who joined on the Nov. 1 deadline will have their ballots counted, Miner said.
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The 51 property owners who will not have their ballots counted were notified, Miner said. They can remain ASPPPO members if they wish but were given the option to have their dues refunded if they only joined to vote, he said. According to Sea Pines’ website, it costs $35 to become a member of ASPPPO.
Miner said the pressure to vote came “from both sides of the aisle.”
Both the ASPPPO and Sea Pines Community Services Associates board elections have been a point of dispute because of a postponed Sea Pines Resort referendum, which, if approved, would have allowed the resort to invest $70 million to $100 million to expand The Inn & Club and make other improvements to Harbour Town.
Alliance for Sea Pines Future, a group that emerged earlier this year, openly opposed the referendum as presented. The group has backed three candidates for ASPPPO and three for CSA, which oversees Sea Pines’ administration. Those candidates include Dana Advocaat, Christopher Cliffe, Daniel Westerbeck, Sharon Lowe, Kerry de Vallette and Stu Rodman.
In an email Sunday about the ASPPPO ballot issue, Alliance for Sea Pines Future said that “while there is no reason to believe that chicanery or shenanigans have been involved, there is reason to believe that negligence has reared its ugly head again.”
In early November, a group of more than 350 property owners signed a letter and petition endorsing four candidates for the two boards. The letter, mailed to all Sea Pines property owners, generally supported Sea Pines Resort and criticized Alliance for Sea Pines Future. The candidates supported by the signers include James Richardson, Rich Speer, Bill Johnson and Stu Rodman.
Sea Pines Resort president Steve Birdwell endorsed the same four candidates at the end of October, prior to the petition being mailed.
Friday was the deadline to submit ballots for both the ASPPPO and CSA board elections. Normally, about 30 percent of mailed ballots are returned, Miner said.
Miner said it takes about 10 days for Elliott Davis, an accounting firm hired to count the votes, to deliver the election results to ASPPPO and CSA.