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Proposed Independent Review of Lake House Falls Through

by Dave Emke January 3, 2017 at 2:30 pm 21 Comments

Lake House May 2016

(Updated 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to include statement from the Reston Association Board of Directors)

It appears the work between Reston Association and a local company to conduct an independent review of the Lake House renovations will not come to fruition.

In an email sent Monday morning to the Reston Association Board of Directors, among others, Mediaworld Ventures LLC President Sridhar Ganesan said he was cutting ties with the project:

Good Morning. It has been about 10 days since we sent the last letter to you and have had no response. Please consider this email as termination of our contract discussions. Wish you all a Happy New Year.

The “last letter” referenced by Ganesan in his email is one in which he claimed RA had been “granted… certain powers” that would “jeopardize the independence of the review.”

Ganesan also serves as president of the Reston Citizens Association. His group had proposed to conduct the audit for $1, with a team of four community-based reviewers.

The Lake House, located off Baron Cameron Avenue between Lake Newport Tennis and Brown’s Chapel Park, housed the Reston Visitors Center for about 20 years before it was acquired in 2003 by Tetra Partners (now Lauer Commercial) and used as offices.

Reston Association passed its referendum to buy the building in May 2015, authorizing a purchase cost of $2.6 million. That number in itself came under scrutiny after it was discovered that Fairfax County tax estimates valued the property at only about half that price. It is now being leased for special day and evening events.

Needed renovations were budgeted to cost about $259,000; however, that number quickly ballooned to $655,000. The money was recouped by RA in the form of various employment restructuring, among other measures.

When it was estimated a full professional review of the overrun could cost into six figures, the locally based Mediaworld came into the picture. However, Mediaworld and RA could not agree on many of the particulars of the arrangement, culminating in this week’s official falling-out.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a statement to Reston Now from RA Board of Directors President Ellen Graves expressed the board’s disappointment in Mediaworld’s “unilateral decision to terminate its proposal.”

“RA was and continues to be willing to work with Mediaworld in good faith toward a mutually acceptable agreement,” Graves said. “In fact, the association’s legal counsel offered repeatedly during the course of negotiations to sit down in person with representatives of Mediaworld in an attempt to resolve the details of the remaining open issues.”

Graves said that Mediaworld “apparently could not find the time to meet to resolve the remaining issues, including many standard terms found in community association contracts designed for an association’s protection and which are generally accepted by most companies performing similar services for community associations.”

In the statement, Graves said the board “remains undeterred in its efforts to have this important project completed,” adding that a meeting would take place later this month to determine the best course of action moving forward.

  • cosmo

    Shame on RA. What are they trying to conceal? They need to be held accountable.

    • Karl Pearson

      Those people who voted yes need to be held accountable too. They should have to pay extra for not doing their due diligence. Public shaming at a minimum is in order.
      It would be interesting to see the correlation coefficient between yes voters and those that voted us into the current Jan 20 mess.

      • Mike M

        I’ve got that correlation for you. One hundred per cent of those who voted yes, voted for Hillary Clinton, Ms Greenie, or wrote in the the Bern. Of those who voted no, 67% voted for Donald Trump. Mind you, voting yes was the correct vote. Fortunately, Russian hackers were unsuccessful in their attempts to get a no vote on the “Lake House.” 😉

        PS: Get real! Let’s accept that we can clearly see the genuine mess created in the last eight years, and hope for the best for the future we cannot see.

  • cRAzy

    What kind of criminal activity is going on at RA that the Board will sabotage a no cost review of RA’s purchase and renovation of Tetra by Reston residents?

  • Sally Forth

    I think this is for the best. That “free” review composed of former RA Board members and buddies was total BS. How can John Higgins be independent? He was a part of all of the activities that lead up to the decision. The Mediaworld person is a part of RCA! Why not hire a real company to do the review?!

    • Mary Worth

      Really, ET?!
      What are you trying to hide?
      Sridhar Ganesan is indeed President of RCA as well as an exceptional qualified financial expert. So, what is your problem?

  • Greendayer

    “Needed renovations were budgeted to cost about $259,000; however, that number quickly ballooned to $655,000. The money was recouped by RA in the form of various employment restructuring, among other measures.”

    Actually, the money was not recouped. Unrelated service and activities were cut such as pool hours. You can say it was offset by cuts elsewhere, but not recouped.

    Regardless, it’s a disaster.

    • Greg

      Fulkerson needs to be fired. The one good RA director quit. Now we know one of the reasons why.

  • Greg

    Surprise, surprise!

  • Frank

    I for one don’t care, I voted yes. The Lake House is a wonderful addition to RA property. I love what they have done with it and think it lookes great. Sitting outside with a cup of coffee looking at the Lake House is a really good way to start my day.

    • Greg

      Of course you don’t care. The rest of us are paying for your view. Shame on you.

      • Troll Hunter

        please don’t feed the trolls

        • Frank

          No troll here, just enjoying the view

      • Frank

        Well then Greg I raise my glass to you and everyone else, thank you.

  • Areyou

    It is a shame that the RA Board President would throw a volunteer group under the bus. I hope MediaWorld shares the supposed ‘standard contract’ so the public can judge what is fair. Additionally, I hope someone will compare the ‘standard contract’ given MediaWorld with the ‘standard contract’ signed with Quantum Governance for doing the same type of work. Some members of the RA Board didn’t want MediaWorld to do this investigation and they managed to kill it. Way to go – now let’s spend more member money…

  • james dean

    fyi…ra board operations committee meets mon jan 9 at 630 @ ra bldg, ra board governance committee meets tues jan 10 @ 630 pm @ ra bldg…….hope to see many ra members there….Heres some more info…ra paid over market price for tetra / lake house…paid $2.65 million when assessed at less than $1.5 million….bought
    said property to prevent “development” when multiple ra members researched
    & disclosed that such development could not happen given approx. 15
    easements on said property that would prevent such development….ra then paid
    over budget for renovations by approx $430,000.00 by may 2016…ra is over
    budget on additional expenses by another $29,000.00 from may til nov 2016…it
    takes from may 2016 to sept 22, 2016 for the ra board, to task mediaworld &
    its civic minded ra members to conduct an independent review of tetra / lake
    house….Mediaworld & said civic minded ra members step up & agree to
    conduct an independent review of the tetra / lake house issues for $1, then
    from sept 22 to now ra lawyer, staff & some board members wont agree
    to a reasonable contract…so such a review falls apart…said review was
    scheduled to have been completed before now…i have attended various meetings
    on this matter…mediaworld & its ra members acted in good faith…ra
    allowed quantum governance group to do various ra work w / a contract of 7
    pages or less…ra lawyer, staff & some board members wanted mediaworld
    & these civic minded ra members to sign a contract of approx 17 pages &
    to assume all types of risks & responsibilities for financial damages
    etc…for doing this job for only $1…now according to ra’s own financial
    officer ra may end up having to pay some where in the neighborhood of
    $70,000.00-$120,000.00 for some one else to conduct this review…but all the
    while…the clock keeps ticking & calendar pages keep being turned…who
    thinks that the ra staff, lawyer & the majority of ra board have acted in
    the best interests of ra members? ra members need to attend any & all ra meetings & demand that the ra staff, lawyer & board do their jobs…& do so in public open meetings instead of more behind closed door executive sessions & more unnecessary delays….fyi…ra board operations committee meets mon jan 9 at 630 @ ra bldg, ra board governance committee meets tues jan 10 @ 630 pm @ ra bldg…hope to see many ra members there

  • Drain the pools

    Fact is we dont need an independent review! Anyone who has any interest in RA and has been following the meetings, events and has followed sequence of events knows who the guilty parties are! Fact is, most.people dont care, so no victims…

    Secondly, i would expect very little to come out from a study that only costs $1 especially since all study materials were reappropriated to their rightful owners – the RA. So nothing ever will come out UNLESS it becomes a criminal investigation. For that you have to proof intent, and secondly there has to be a victim (see above). Lastly for this investigation to be successful consider exigent circumstance, very unlikely prosecution will be possible otherwise.

    • A Member

      Clearly (to use a warn phrase) “mistakes were made” in the Tetra acquisition/renovation. There may have been some flawed judgments, some unwise decisions, and some inappropriate actions. There is no suggestion of criminal behavior and that was never the point of this review. What is needed is a comprehensive review of each aspect of the Tetra project and an objective analysis of what was done right and what was not. To give such a review wide acceptance among the members, it is best done by people who were not involved in the project, that is, independent reviewers. Most important is the output by the reviewers, its report. The membership should expect a report that identifies controls and processes that were absent or not followed and anything that contributed to poor decisions. The ultimate purpose is to strengthen how RA goes about complex projects in the future. If the findings point to avoidable errors, accountability should follow in proportion to the errors.

      Once the facts are laid out, it will be easy to critique the board and RA staff if the review is done thoroughly and diligently. Somewhat more difficult will be a roadmap of the controls that will avoid errors or raise a caution flag that something is not right. One generally perceived error is the haste with which most aspects of the project were addressed. RA would do well to not be hasty in setting an artificial deadline for completion of the independent review, one that could impair the thoroughness and diligence in accumulating and analyzing the facts upon which a report is to be built.

  • james dean

    fyi…ra board operations committee meets mon jan 9 at 630 @ ra bldg, ra
    board governance committee meets tues jan 10 @ 630 pm @ ra
    bldg…….hope to see many ra members there….when ra spends more than $430,000.00 w/o proper authorization ….def need an independent review…think the entire ra board agreed on that….not much on being or considering people victims but in this case ra members were misled & ra funds were spent w/o proper authorization….think the majority of ra members def care….ra board members arent even paid $1…ra members who serve on various ra advisory committees dont receive even $1…those ra members who agreed to perform the review are very well qualified & have previously performed similar reviews…many of us would like to see ra staff, board & lawyers be better stewards of ra finances & resources….if qualified independent ra members dont volunteer to do the review…ra will end up paying a firm to do it at a cost of $70,000 – $100,000 or more…this ra member would rather see ra do many other things w/that kind of money….fyi…ra board operations committee meets mon jan 9 at 630 @ ra bldg, ra
    board governance committee meets tues jan 10 @ 630 pm @ ra
    bldg…….hope to see many ra members there

  • ichrysso

    What kind of protections were being negotiated that were so controversial for a $1 contract?


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