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RA to Take a Look at Board Ethics, Governance

by Karen Goff December 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm 12 Comments

Reston Association Board/Credit: RAThe Reston Association Board of Directors is exploring the formation of an ethics committee and/or a Board Governance Committee.

The board will hold a work session on the idea Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at RA Headquarters, 12001 Sunrise Valley Dr. The session is open to the public.

Since RA board members are volunteers and have various interests, employment and investments in the community, forming an ethics committee would add transparency to the organization.

Earlier this year, at-large Director Rachel Muir proposed the creation of an independent ethics committee made up of three RA general members and one RA Board director to investigate ethics complaints. Next Thursday’s meeting will discuss the need and feasibility for it.

Even if an ethics committee is incorporated into the responsibilities of the governance committee, many of the principles would be the same, says RA President Ken Knueven.

“Promoting an ethical culture is a key leadership responsibility in any organization,” said Knueven. “Transparency, commitment, integrity, equity, honor and stewardship, are governance standards for excellence. This board, working with the members, staff and other stakeholders is working to properly define governance roles and responsibilities of the Reston Association Board, CEO, Staff and Committees — separating organizational purpose (ENDS) from organizational administration (MEANS).”

RA has also met with BoardSource, a national organizational advisory group, last spring. Knueven said that after that consultation, the board agreed “we would create the methods and procedures to provide the standards, tools, and processes needed by future volunteer RA boards and staff ” to:

  • Establish how the Board would operate as one entity.
  • Establish standards of behavior, roles, commitments and code of ethical behaviors – to avoid “micro-governing” the officers, directors, or committees.
  • Define the CEO’s job description, and ground rules, by focusing decisions on Ends.

Knueven says the overall outcome of the Governance Committee would allow the board “to align and provide vision and strategic leadership — focusing on the what and why of RA’s operations through ends policies that define success, while the CEO and staff would be allowed to focus on who, how, when, and at what cost.

“It is important to state upfront — one best practice is to charge this Board Governance Committee, like all committees, to help the full board do its job,” Knueven said. “This committee’s work does not negate the need for full board discussion and debate on the most important issues.”

  • John Farrell

    RA has a large number of substantive issues pending before it.

    It’s Board spend precious few hours together. Spending time on procedural issues can crowd out those substantive issues.

    It’s an old saw that an organization that spends it’s time rewriting it’s by-laws has lost it’s way.

    • Greg

      Its, not “it’s.”

      • eileenminarik

        John is correct to use it’s. “It is an old saw…” It’s is the contraction for it is. Its is the possessive of the pronoun it and is used correctly three times in John’s post.

        • Greg

          It’s different now than when I first commented. Perhaps he made edits.

          • eileenminarik

            No problem. Grammar patrols are important. I love when my students catch me in a mistake. It tells me they have learned what I taught and tbat they are paying attention to their work.

          • whylime0402

            Cool. So you won’t mind me pointing out “tbat”.

          • Greg

            No. It must be “that.” Periods always inside quotation marks.

          • whylime0402

            Fresh eyes. Don’t nitpick, people. I doubt the original post has been edited. There is still an “its” there used incorrectly,probably a typo since both “its” and “it’s” are used correctly in other places.

            Focus on the content of the message. Do not be distracted by grammatical errors or typos. Yes, grammar is important, but it has nothing to do with the question posed.

            The original poster raised some valid points. The RA has a lot to look at and reexamine now, especially with the metro expansion. Why respond to that with grammatical corrections?

  • Tammi Petrine

    “Establish standards of behavior, roles, commitments and code of ethical behaviors – to avoid “micro-governing” the officers, directors, or committees.” Ken Knueven
    I don’t want anyone to micro-govern our RA officers, directors or committees, especially the volunteer committees who work hard to provide input to directors so they can make reasoned decisions. They should have freedom to set their own agendas as new issues arise.

    HOWEVER, I also do not want to feel sick to my stomach when lobbying by some directors and subsequent votes on major issues reflect obvious conflict of interests. RA desperately needs an independent ethics committee with members from the larger community since currently Virginia apparently has no such requirement, and current RA counsel, Ken Chadwick can not/does not protect RA members from such behavior.

    The Virginia ombudsman for Common Interest Communities tells me that while there is NO current requirement for RA to establish a conflict of interest panel, there is also NO prohibition for same. The ombudsman further stated that most problems encountered by that office are the result of “people behaving badly.”

    Note: Some RA directors are scrupulously honest and forthcoming. Members know who you are and appreciate your high standards. Members also recognize that sitting directors must work with their peers which makes policing conflicts of interest of other board members unrealistic and awkward. This is another reason RA must adopt an independent ethics panel.

    • John Farrell

      Exactly to what conflicts are you referring.

      “Desperately needs” is there rampant corruption in RA?

      That’s a dangerous accusation to make so vaguely.

      Reston’s governing documents already prohibit conflicts of interest and requires disclosure of potential conflicts.

    • RestonSouthie

      I would also like to know what conflicts Ms. Petrine’s is referring to, and those sited in an Opinion piece in Reston Patch by her like minded friend John Lovaas. In his post he implied that an RA Board member was compensated through contracts for Stream Restoration; this is serious accusation! If true should be investigated. As I look back at the decisions of the past year of so I don’t see any potential conflicts; what specifically Ms. Petrine are you suggesting? Is Mr. Chew going to benefit from the Bocce Ct? Does Ms. Thompson stand to gain from a RELAC decision? Ms. Shannon going to benefit from the Pony Barn going one way or the other? These are the only issues of substance the Board has been working on of late. Please illuminate us with facts rather than your opinion.

  • Reston Watcher

    “…while the CEO and staff would be allowed to focus on who, how, when, and at what cost.” I think the board could focus a bit on “at what cost,” too.

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