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Op-Ed: Mediaworld Committee Faced ‘Unacceptable Level of Risk’

by RestonNow.com — January 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm 32 Comments

Tetra building

This is an op-ed submitted by Mediaworld Ventures LLC. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

To our fellow Reston Association members,

We are the Reston residents who came together under Mediaworld Ventures LLC and were selected to conduct an independent review of Reston Association’s acquisition of the Lake House, and subsequent renovation budget overrun. We were selected over many applicants for our professional expertise, our commitment to service and our cost of $1. Our sole intent was to serve our membership and help Reston Association improve its processes.

From September until December, we were involved in detailed negotiations with Reston Association and its attorney over a consulting agreement that established the terms of the independent review. Our team worked countless hours reviewing and amending the 17-page agreement to ensure the review’s integrity and members’ interests were protected. The conditions presented to us were extremely restrictive and we felt they would hinder our ability to conduct a truly independent review. Further, the agreement did not guarantee a public release of the final report by the Reston Association, which our team felt was critical to “ensuring the concerns of the community were addressed” — a condition in the RFP, set by Reston Association, which we agreed to meet.

When we reached an impasse with the Reston Association attorney we requested a meeting with the Board. At a public meeting on Dec. 7, we highlighted four major issues that we felt would hinder our ability to fulfill our obligation. We believed the Board understood our concerns regarding the restrictive terms and tone of the agreement, and we hoped it would result in a more reasonable agreement, especially after we learned that the Board signed a simpler, four-page contract with another consulting firm. Although the revised agreement we received in return resolved some of our concerns, it contained additional terms and conditions leaving a number of issues unresolved. In spite of the Association’s offer to pay for liability insurance, we felt that there was still an unacceptable level of risk remaining in the last proposed revised draft. Given the almost three months of contending with some of the same issues we had raised earlier, we felt the likelihood that further negotiations would be productive were minimal and that it would be best to terminate the negotiations.

We are very disappointed that we could not come to terms with Reston Association on this work. A more detailed review of the contract negotiation can be found at http://reston2020.blogspot.com/2017/01/review-of-mediaworld-contract.html.

Dick Stillson

Jill Gallagher

Moira Callaghan

John Higgins

Sridhar Ganesan, President, Mediaworld Ventures LLC

  • Visionary

    Its almost like the Reston Association doesn’t want people to know whats going on behind closed doors.

    • Drain the Lake (house)

      Almost??

  • ichrysso

    It is most unfortunate that something as basic as a report back to the community is so controversial to the Board. Considering the history of the Tetra purchase, the Board’s glowing endorsement of the purchase based on erroneous information they provided the community and the mishandling of this investigation, it is obvious that the community will need to contact Richmond to get any sort of action and truthful information on this matter.

    • Greg

      Richmond? Good luck with that! You have great grandpa Kenny and Auntie Jenny who have been bought and sold by the millions we have wasted on RA legal and CAI fees.

      • D.C. Ted from New Orleans

        Haha we don’t have this kind of problems over in Great Falls.

  • JoeInReston

    Lets presume that the Reston Association is not some rogue, comically evil, staff hell bent on trying to hide their nefarious Tetra activities… What is their point of view on this? Why are they doing what they are doing?

    Or perhaps, to put it into other words, is there a narrative that would explain Reston Association actions in a non-evil light? Just a group of hard working leaders that want to be more open but are constrained by municipal legalities that must be upheld?

    • CrosseyedAndPainless

      narrative: the board members felt that there could be possible bias in the $1 “too good to be true” report and needed to protect itself. This narrative doesn’t accuse/presuppose MediaWorld of mal-intentions , it’s just a possible narrative that can explain the actions.

      • cRAzy

        Actually, Eve Thompson made it quite clear in the December 7th Board meeting that she was afraid John Higgins, member of the Mediaworld team and RA Treasurer for more than a decade, knew too much or at least where the bodies were buried. She very much does not want Mediaworld to conduct the audit, and Graves and Sanio are right there with her.

      • Reston2000

        At the end of the day, it is very clear that there are factions within RA who are fighting each other…FACTION A pushes for an “independent” selection committee to review responses to their RFP seeking a firm to conduct a review of the Lake House project; FACTION B makes sure that some insiders – that is, people who were central to the transaction – were placed on the selection committee to influence the discussion and the selection of the firm who would be conducting the independent review; FACTION A wins the vote, and selects the RA member-based team (Mediaworld) to conduct the work; FACTION B gets the RA attorney to kill the work by creating a crazy contract. The job for citizens is to figure out who is part of FACTION A and who is part of FACTION B and to VOTE. As elections approach, residents need to review the minutes, and ask all those running: Were you for an independent review of the Lake House and why?

    • John Farrell

      Why would you make such a presumption, JoeinReston?

      What legitimate interest would require personal indemnification of RA by the employees and owners of MediaWorld of up to $1 milliion?

      When RA has regularly signed contracts of only 4 pages without such personal indemnities and without such liquidate damages provisions, why require such provisions in MediaWorld’s contract?

  • RoadApples

    Curious ? that has been unanswered by RA and CF:
    respecfully asking for an honest answer :
    Is there a rat in the woodpile?

    • Steve

      Like a snitch?

      • RoadApples

        No to your question.
        Your reading comprehension is not very developed plus your question smells of sensationalism.
        My sincere ? stands as previously stated.

        • Steve

          Just asking a question don’t need jump down someone’s throat!

          • RoadApples

            My apologies .

        • The Constitutionalist

          If you want people to understand you, try to be at least somewhat literate.

          • RoadApples

            If you don’t understand the concept of the old phrase ‘rat in the woodpile’;
            my literate reply to you is as follows:
            Futue te et ipsum caballum.

          • The Constitutionalist

            I didn’t say that I didn’t understand you. Clearly, your reading comprehension, punctuation, word choice, etc., needs some work.

            I’m also not entirely sure how you plan to rectify your issue by typing using a dead language when you haven’t even mastered English. – Especially in the days of Google Translate.

            But, I suppose I’ll play your little game and stoop to your level, just for the fun of it.

            Adipem lac mihi asinum.

          • RoadApples

            Cease and desist with your little game.
            Recommendation for you: schedule an appointment with a Psychiatrist to resolve your insecurities.

          • The Constitutionalist

            You’re not the brightest bulb in the toolbox are you?

    • cRAzy

      Maynard offers 8 questions and background here for starters: http://reston2020.blogspot.com/2016/07/key-issues-in-ras-planned-independent.html

      Here’s the short version for you:
      1. How did the negotiations originate and proceed?
      2. What info did RA possess besides that it used to sell the Tetra purchase?
      3. Why did RA agree to a purchase price twice the market value?
      4. Why were RA’s projected renovation costs so horribly wrong?
      5. Why didn’t Tetra have a renovation budget in 2016?
      6. What is the basis of Tetra’s projected operating income and costs?
      7. Why is Tetra’s exterior renovation put at $1.2MM instead of the $9K listed in the RA pro forma spreadsheet?
      8. By what authority did RA commit to the spending of several hundreds of thousands of dollars in excess of the projected cost of Tetra’s renovation?

  • John Farrell

    The next lowest bidder will charge $50,000. It will be interesting to see if they will be expected to sign the 17 page contract that RA leadership tried to impose on MediaWorld.

    If a new contract isn’t signed immediately, then the Commonwealth Attorney ought to convene a grand jury to investigate these transactions.

    • Reston2000

      You were pretty close…based on the RA Board meeting tonight, the contract is expected to cost $45,000 and the report complete by February 28. It will be difficult to evaluate all the information and complete a comprehensive report in one month…

  • Road apples

    I think the lake house is great

    • RoadApples

      I concur that the LakeHouse as a property is indeed great. The cost is outlandish and t b e re is possible impropriety .
      To finalize you are a punkette weirdsmobile.
      How about those Road Apples you wingnut .

  • Guest

    I am shocked, shocked, that RA would try to point the finger at a contractor for continuing losses associated with the Tetra property.

  • RA vs the FBI

    Media world would basically be complicit if they signed the agreement, and so would any other party be liable if they signed the 17 page agreement. Basically this could amount to conspiracy if the study group agreed to RA terms and if RA would be held criminally responsible.

    The agreement reads, as qioted on 2020:

    “…confidentiality agreement that basically made everything involving the work confidential, indemnify RA from any and all damages RA might suffer as a result of the team’s work or for breach of the contract, and the team would be jointly and severally liable for any breach by any team member. That meant that each of us would be liable to pay damages for any breach of confidentiality by any of the team members. The confidentiality conditions would last indefinitely.”

    These terms also spell out the conditions under which the feel-good report is to be prepared and would bring few facts to light which cover in detail: contractor selection, oversight, procurement process, and public relations. Also ignored is the fact, that the rent back topic was not sufficiently discussed and added as a contingent item as the transaction went to settlement.

    The only benefit of the study so far has been, for some, the realization that RA acted improper and has not apologized, stepped down, or even explained the Lake House transaction in sufficient detail. I propose for any work and operations to continue we should have a clear understanding of how much revenue is generated and how much is spent. If this isnt done over the next few weeks before the pools open I propose to get the FBI involved to begin the forensic accounting and seizure of all evidence.RA

    • Reston2000

      I was part of the contract team and I felt the same way – that if we signed that contract, and found something, we would be complicit in the cover-up (if there was one), because we were basically agreeing not to release anything that we found, ourselves, and agreeing to allow RA not to release anything either.

  • Nyla J.

    Here’s my free version of what the report likely would have contained:

    1. Tetra building was purchased for some self-serving reason, whether at an individual level or board/RA level.
    2. The sales price was higher than it should have been because someone involved in the transaction directly benefited.
    3. Due diligence was not done on repairs, estimates etc. because it didn’t matter to the board, they wanted to buy the property.
    4. Estimates on improvements and upgrades were low because the board wanted the purchase to be made prior to elections and the public having additional information about realistic costs.
    5. Now that the information is somewhat public, RA wants to show the appearance of caring about what mistakes were made but wants complete control over who says what.
    6. Nothing will be done because too many people buy into this Reston-as-utopian-community and will continue to pay their dues in fear of repercussions.

    In summary: RA needs to be stopped. How long can this HOA have this much power over this much money? Anyone know how to start the revolution?

    • Greg

      I’d suggest making Reston into a city….

      More achievable? Fulkerson should be fired.

  • Dennis Hays

    A majority of the RA Board appears to be willing to go to any length to prevent an independent review of the actions taken to purchase and repair the Tetra facility. The obvious question is – why? Why would most (not all, fortunately) Board members be so alarmed – afraid – of an independent review? When this first came up I thought a review would help the Association be more efficient and cost aware in the future. Now I wonder if the actions taken by some individuals rise to a different level of concern. And then there is the issue of RA’s attorney receiving hundreds of thousands of our dollars and yet is unable to draft a simple contract for a pro bono effort by members of our very own Association! How can this be?

  • VieDeMon

    When will RA residents have an opportunity to ask about this in a open forum – so it took 3+ months to negotiate a $1 contract? Did RA indeed insist that all information collected would be kept private AND any findings could be modified or kept secret while applying onerous liabilities on the firm doing this pro bono?

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