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Argument Over Lake Anne Project Consumes Reston Association Board

by Dave Emke — January 30, 2017 at 2:45 pm 50 Comments

Lake Anne Dock Project/Reston Association

(This article was edited on Jan. 31 at 1:45 p.m. to better contextualize a statement made by CEO Cate Fulkerson.)

No public hearing on the proposed Lake Anne dock project was agreed upon by Reston Association Board of Directors at its meeting last week, following spirited discussion about the plan.

Bridget Hill of the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization addressed the board with a number of ideas for the future of the Lake Anne Village Center, which were the results of a 2015 community charrette. Ideas ranged from enhanced lighting and concrete pavers to the addition of kiosks or even a floating restaurant.

Garrett Skinner, RA’s new director for capital improvements, made his suggestion to the board — to proceed with a direct replacement of the dock and set a public hearing for community input on the future phase of the project.

Multiple board members took umbrage with the second part of that recommendation. Director Lucinda Shannon said she could not understand why discussion of another potential capital improvement plan would be scheduled while others have already been placed on hold.

“Let’s take care of what we already have, and not keep adding more,” Shannon said.

Shannon was referring to the Pony Barn and Central Services projects, which are both on hold until the review of the Lake House project is complete.

CEO Cate Fulkerson said the board was approached by representatives of the Lake Anne Merchants Association and Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association regarding the project.

“We wanted to make sure the board had an opportunity to learn about the charrette and have a public input session before you decided what you wanted to do,” she said. “We’re going to move ahead with the other piece, because it’s really important to maintain what we have, but this was a community request.”

Direct replacement of the existing dock, which RA Parks and Recreation Director Larry Butler said has had no major refurbishment in about 20 years, is scheduled to cost about $400,000. Those funds have already been allocated. Additional changes would require review by RA’s Design Review Board and Fairfax County’s Architectural Review Board, which considers changes to Historic Overlay Districts such as Lake Anne Plaza.

When Eve Thompson, the board’s secretary, joined the conversation, Shannon cut her off by saying she has a “serious conflict of interests” regarding the project. Thompson and her husband are Lake Anne residents and own the Lake Anne Coffee House. Board President Ellen Graves asked Shannon to “be respectful” of her fellow directors.

“The fact that I own a coffee house and an apartment, I don’t believe is a conflict,” Thompson said. “I’m a community member who has an opinion about the dock.”

Thompson asked the board why they would not consider the opportunity of improving a facility when it arises, as they would with a baseball park.

“[Do we replace an amenity] exactly as it is, or do you look at it and say, ‘Let’s improve it?'” she said.

Fulkerson said the issue was being brought to the board’s attention only so they could learn about the ideas on the table and determine what they want to do going forward.

“I want to be respectful of the fact that you’ve had a member request,” Fulkerson said. “We just need to know what to do next. That’s why we’re here.”

Director Ray Wedell said it was “crazy” that the board was spending so much time talking about the project at its January meeting. He said with as many as four new directors arriving in this year’s election, it would make more sense to allow the new board to make such a decision.

“This is an important project, and I’m not going to rush in and say, ‘This is going to look cool,’ and ‘Wow, wouldn’t Lake Anne look neat?'” he said. “I don’t know why we’re spending time putting an agenda together that goes till midnight on stuff we don’t have to deal with right now.”

No motion was made on advancing the project.

Timeline chart via Reston Association

  • JoeInReston

    Disclaimer… I am only speaking from the article text. I did not attend the meeting.

    Eve Thompson disrespected the board by a) not pointing out her conflict of interest in advance before making her comments, and b) later denying her conflict of interest when it was noted by Lucinda Shannon.

    From wikipedia:
    A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests, financial or otherwise, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation or decision-making of that individual or organization.

    The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs.

    So Thompson has multiple interests, here interests as a board secretary and her interests as a person who owns a business at Lake Anne.

    To note such interests is not rude. It is simply fact. Therefore, I thought board President Ellen Graves disrespected Lucinda Shannon with her “be respectful” chime. I took Graves comments as “shut up”.

    btw – This is not to suggest that somebody with conflict of interest should not be to speak concerning interests where they have a conflict. They should, but the conflict of interest should be noted beforehand, preferably by the person with the conflict.

    • cRAzy

      “Corrupt” and “Eve Thompson” go together like “bread and butter.”

  • Anonymous Poster

    Thanks for covering this subject! I’m concerned about Thompson’s conflicts of interest here too – I thought she as a realtor also occasionally sold properties in this area, so pushing for improvement would not only help her personal property values and coffee house incomes, but also future commissions here. Go Director Shannon for pointing that out. It’s a shame the rest of the board doesn’t seem to care about the semblance of impropriety here, but whether there really is or is not a conflict of interest here, the appearance of it so strongly in this discussion is a cause for concern.

  • Drip

    “Fulkerson said she is concerned the board is going to let an opportunity slip through its fingers”
    The last time Fulkerson said this, we got stuck with the Tetra albatross that will continue hold RA back for decades to come. Worse, Fulkerson used this logic to somehow, someway, make a rental agreement for the Tetra property and not put it in writing and expressed dismay when the rental agreement fell apart. She has absolutely no credibility and I am amazed that she is still employed. Hopefully, the new board will clean house.

    • John Higgins

      Not to influence your views, but for the sake of accuracy: The Lake House lease-back was, indeed, in writing. The purchase contract committed the seller to a six-month rental, and that was fulfilled. It also gave the seller an option to extend the lease. The option was not exercised. While some may fault RA for projecting revenue based on exercise of the options, it’s the nature of estimates to use best available information and at the time it may well have been reasonable to expect Tetra to stay an additional twelve months.

      • cRAzy

        It’s the nature of “fiduciary responsibility” to use a conservative, if not most conservative, estimate of future revenue consistent with the available information.

        RA and the Board did exactly the opposite at every turn–and then hyped the Lake House proposal.

    • cRAzy

      For Cate, “opportunity” means a chance to spend more of your and my money regardless of whether the expenditure has any merit.

      • Greg

        It’s so easy to spend others’ money….

  • Alison Kamat

    To make matters worse, Eve Thompson’s husband, Rick, made a presentation supporting the proposed capital improvements, and there was no disclosure that he was the spouse of a Board member. Either he or Eve or Ellen Graves should have disclosed it before his presentation.

    • Areyou_k

      Eve should resign or be forced off the Board. She doesn’t have an ethical bone in her body. This was so obvious! Ellen needs to go too. She is the most disrespectful board member of them all.

      • Guilty

        I can tell a good woman how organized her purse is. Watch the vid, 3:46 to find a pen

      • Greg

        I thought I was the only one who thought she was a rude, arrogant incompetent ……

  • 30yearsinreston

    How about a floating Hooters ?
    While RA is being so generous with other people’s money, how about a floating burger joint beside the Lake White Elephant across the road?
    We could have a calypso steel.band as well

    • javamaster

      It’s good to know that fans of Hooters and dive bars are always well represented in the comment sections LOL

      • Mike M

        Uuuurp! Thanks.

    • Wings!!

      Reston needs a floating Hooters

      #HootersForReston

  • 30yearsinreston

    The dock is privately owned
    Let the cluster pay for it

    • Nigel P.

      The boardwalk, dock and Lake Anne lake are owned by RA, not LARCA. (LARCA owns the plaza, not RA, and just to be clear, guess who pays for the upkeep of the plaza, it’s not RA). The boardwalk and dock need replacing before they get too dangerous to be used. Piecemeal repairs are no longer a cost-effective solution. The new plan is interesting and benefits visitors using the lake facilities a lot more than LARCA residents, look at it in context. LARCA is zoned mixed residential, it’s not a 100% residential cluster. There’s a lot more here than just one coffee shop. And yes, I have a vested interest – I live here.

      • Greg

        All of that ownership mess needs to be sorted out and fixed. That’s one of the major reasons why no developers will touch Lake Anne, despite the millions of tax dollars that have been spent toward that end.

        Sorry, but what was once deemed ideal 60 years ago just doesn’t work in today’s world (if it ever did), and it should not be subsidized by county taxpayers or RA assessment payers.

        The Realtor Eve Thompson’s conflicts of interest are deeply troubling, if not illegal, and all the more reason why the RA needs a tough ethics code.

  • Ken Fredgren

    Lucinda, I agree with you! Where is all this magic money supposed to come from?! Please pass this along to your colleagues and staff.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Don’t worry, they’ll get their money, whether we like it or not, they’ll find a way to make us pay for it.

    • Greg

      There’s only one source in RA — and three guesses what is it. The first two don’t count.

  • RestonRegular

    Thompson owns a coffee house, a wine bar, a real estate office and a condominium in the Lake Anne Village Center. She was working to convince our Reston Association Board to spend our assessments for untold thousands of dollars in “enhancements” to the pier on the Lake in front of her properties. Yet, she sees no conflict of interest? Seated to her left, Board President Graves apparently saw none either? To her right was RA’s $500 K/ year attorney taking notes but saying nothing. The picture would have been complete if Trump’s Ethics advisor had been in the frame, too.
    Lucinda Shannon rightly pointed out the flagrant ethical issue. She and Director Ray Wedell should be commended for exercising fiduciary and ethical responsibility, but two out of ten is not a very good score at the head table.

    • freestylergbb

      Reston’s attorney is paid $500K?! I’d love to see his/her monthly statements of work done.

      • John Higgins

        Someone saying something here doesn’t make it so.

        For a rough idea of amounts paid for legal services (including debt collection) see the agenda of the latest Fiscal Committee meeting.

        https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2016%20Governance/1_23_2017%20FC%20%20Materials.pdf

        • freestylergbb

          Thanks for insight!

        • cRAzy

          Looks like Greg is right and your implication is wrong.

          • freestylergbb

            This is important info. When we’re paying an assessment for Tetra (& the Lake House?), no matter how small, it’s so reassuring our legal counsel is being so paid well. Time for me to look more closely at the budget.

          • Greg

            It’s time to look for a new RA CEO and a new attorney.

          • John Higgins

            Heavens knows this would not be the first time I have been wrong. I pointed to the breakdown of payments so that readers might draw their own inferences. Almost half of the amount paid in 2016 was for collection activities. If RA employed a collection agency rather than a law firm, we would not see this expense being called “legal fees”. Moreover, given the hefty penalties and fees charged to delinquent members, I infer that a large part of that cost is recovered (and reported elsewhere) by RA.

            Here is an instance where the facts don’t speak for themselves, they merely suggest a quest for more facts. I was disappointed that the Fiscal Committee was not curious to take up that quest.

          • Greg

            No. The question was: “Reston’s attorney is paid $500K?!”

            And the answer is yes. The facts clearly speak for themselves and clearly answer the question.

            Wasting money on an attorney to do a collection agency (most of which charge nothing unless money is recovered) job is just that — a waste and not the topic the poster posed.

            That waste is one more in a long and growing list of reasons why Reston’s “CEO” Cate Fulkerson should be fired.

          • freestylergbb

            Belated thank you for your thorough responses.

        • Reston2000

          That is a lot of money to pay for legal services, which would have been worth it if our TWO attorneys were able to advise us better on the Lake House, but at the end of the day, we ended up paying them to sit in multiple Board meetings and Executive Sessions (hours long, and closed to the public) to supposedly advise on “contractual issues” related to the Lake House acquisition in which we ended up, at the end of the day, paying nearly double what it was worth, based on a jacked-up appraisal in which one of our attorneys commissioned and instructed supposedly on our behalf, which conveniently was used to justify the exact price that the owner was seeking and far more than it was worth. None of this serves the interests of members.

        • Reston2000

          Where were the attorneys when the community asked for an independent review and the selection committee included members of the Board who were directly involved in the transaction? Where were the attorneys when the contract given to the independent review team was drafted by the very attorneys who were serving as legal counsel on the transaction? At what point do we say that this could not ever be independent if the people shaping the independent review were central players in the transaction? We need our own attorney, on staff, to represent not only the interests of the Association, but the interests of members.

        • Reston2000

          Where were the attorneys when the community asked for an independent review and the selection committee included members of the Board who were directly involved in the transaction? Where were the attorneys when the contract given to the independent review team was drafted by the very attorneys who were serving as legal counsel on the transaction? At what point do we say that this could not ever be independent if the people shaping the independent review were central players in the transaction? We need our own attorney, on staff, to represent not only the interests of the Association, but the interests of members. We could save so much money, and devote the savings to paying back the Lake House loan.

        • Reston2000

          That is a lot of money to pay for legal services, which would have been worth it if our TWO attorneys were able to advise us better on the Lake House, but at the end of the day, we ended up paying them to sit in multiple Board meetings and Executive Sessions (hours long, and closed to the public) to supposedly advise on “contractual issues” related to the Lake House acquisition in which we ended up, paying nearly double what it was worth, based on a jacked-up appraisal in which one of our attorneys commissioned and instructed supposedly on our behalf, which conveniently was used to justify the exact price that the owner was seeking and far more than it was worth. None of this serves the interests of members.

      • Greg

        The facts speak for themselves: 2014 payments:

        CHADWICK WASHINGTON ATTORNEY$430,683
        3201 JERMANTOWN ROAD, SUITE 600
        FAIRFAX, VA 22030

        ODIN, FELDMAN, PITTLEMAN, PC ATTORNEY $139,721
        1775 WIEHLE AVENUE, SUITE 400
        RESTON, VA 20190

        https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20GENERAL/073015%20Meeting%20Materials.pdf

      • Greg

        More than that and it’s per year!

        The facts speak for themselves: 2015 payments:

        CHADWICK WASHINGTON LEGAL SERVICES $599,592
        3201 JERMANTOWN ROAD, SUITE 600
        FAIRFAX, VA 22030

        ODIN, FELDMAN, PITTLEMAN, PC LEGAL SERVICES $363,786
        1775 WIEHLE AVENUE, SUITE 400
        RESTON, VA 20190

        https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2016%20Governance/Reston%20Association%202015%20990%20Public%20Inspection%20Copy.pdf

      • Greg

        The facts speak for themselves: 2013 payments:

        CHADWICK WASHINGTON ATTORNEY $476,750
        3201 JERMANTOWN ROAD, SUITE 600
        FAIRFAX, VA 22030

        Dude’s a dud, but he’s a millionaire!

        https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20GENERAL/Reston%20990_990T%20and%20VA%20500%202013_web.pdf

      • Greg

        The facts speak for themselves: 2012 payments:

        CHADWICK WASHINGTON MORIARTY ELMORE
        3201 JERMANTOWN ROAD-600, FAIRFAX, VA 22030 LEGAL $510,306

  • Tammi Petrine

    I join Anonymous, Alison and Joe in highlighting Eve Thompson’s obvious conflicts of interest. This is a habit of hers throughout her years on the RA board. That other board members seek to promote this obvious behavior is equally unacceptable. So brava to Director Shannon for calling Eve out! I was present only for the beginning of the dock discussion and was appalled when Rick Thompson was introduced with no mention that he was the husband of Eve either by RA president Graves or Rick himself. At that time I expected Eve to disclose the relationship but she made no comment either to suggest that they were related. If you want to watch the YouTube tape of the dock discussion it begins at 3:40.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SfsC5NSMyE

    Shockingly, the by-laws/deed of the RA do NOT require a director with conflict to recluse him/herself but rather suggest that merely a statement that a conflict exists with no definition of WHAT that conflict is, is sufficient and that is only a requirement when votes are taken. This is not how the majority of people think public boards should operate however!

    In my opinion, this is a massive legal failure of RA to protect stakeholders’ rights to know information important to decision making. I have not talked to a single RA member who thinks otherwise. In fact, most assume as did I that surely RA must have a strict Ethical code and rules; THEY DO NOT. In fact, RA spent more of our dues money to examine ethics when they hired a consultant… you know, the one with the simple 4 page contract that was publicized when MediaWorld got instead a killer 17 pager. The ethics consultants did a bang up job with delineating codes of behavior and IF they presented any suggestions for strict conflict of interest legal changes, the membership certainly was never informed. In fact, like with the Tetra contract, we do not know what the consultant’s scope of work even was. If the majority on a board want to hide stuff or prohibit real change, it is easy to limit contract scopes. This is not rocket science, folks. Eve aided by her ‘keep it secret’ buddies worked the MW contract every way she could to prohibit that free MW team from unearthing the secrets that lead to the flawed price paid for Tetra and subsequent mistakes.

    I am hoping that due to the massive excess spending on Tetra that has handicapped and scandalized RA for over a year and added greatly to RA debt and rising assessments, we Reston members of RA will vote for candidates in the upcoming election who are dedicated to reforming the ethical requirements in the Deed and by-laws to include strict rules: Conflicts must be disclosed in full before subjects are discussed and certainly any director with a conflict must be denied a vote on that matter. The rules could even go further to exclude the conflicted director from any discussion of the matter being considered.

    Surely the hundreds of thousands of hard-earned dues dollars we pay for RA legal council could remedy this void in our deed or by-laws very easily IF we elect new board members who support this demand

    RA board candidates should be announced shortly. Who will have your vote?

  • Can’t fool me!

    Eve Thompson has no conflict of interest?!?! That’s laughable! As a realtor, since 2010, 2/3 of her transactions have come from properties on the plaza or surrounding the lake. As a listing agent she listed 33 properties, just over double the next highest two agents (both at 16). In 13 of those listings she also represented the buyer, in other words, double ending the deal. She was solely a buyer agent on another 14 transactions. In total, she had 60 transaction sides since 2010 with properties in and around the plaza and lake. Again, nobody else comes close. Now, I have no issue with her dominating the market in that area – more power to her. That said, it should be out in the open that she will directly benefit from any decisions she might be involved with. For her to say she has no conflict is absurd.

    • cRAzy

      It is not “absurd,” it is an outright “lie.” But then Eve Thompson has long believed that our assessments to RA are her personal funds to play with as she chooses whether it’s fixing the docks or buying the Lake House.

  • Terry Maynard

    I would like to point out that my neighborhood of single family homes on and near Lake Audubon has a dock that we maintain and insure ourselves. I’m just wondering whether if we wanted to re-build the dock, RA staff and Board would step up to take on the cost–maybe even improve it like they’re thinking at Lake Anne.

    If they did so, that would be absolutely financially irresponsible.

    The same thinking should apply to the LARCA dock. It’s there’s. They need to pay for is repair or replacement, not the members of RA. I’m not even sure why the issue was on the RA Board’s agenda.

    • Guest

      I like your comment, but for some reason the only mention of Lake Anne dock ownership I’ve found online (Connection article from a few days ago) says that the dock is owned by RA. If that’s not an alternative fact, I’m intensely curious when RA acquired it, and why.

    • Mike M

      They just might! Not that it would be a good thing for the rest of us!

  • Rational Reston

    It’s extremely sad that apparently Eve Thompson has no concept of what a “conflict of interest” is.

    ““The fact that I own a coffee house and an apartment, I don’t believe is a conflict,” Thompson said. “I’m a community member who has an opinion about the dock.””

    Being a resident does not present a conflict of interest. Owning a coffee house, could present a conflict of interest, as she could gain financially if Lake Anne improvements increased traffic flow (either by direct business or by selling the business).

    Being a real estate agent who has offices at Lake Anne and someone who routinely advocates Lake Anne in her paid content on this site, and stands to make quite a bit of money at Lake Anne IS A CONFLICT OF INTEREST. She very conveniently leaves this out of her statement above.

    So perhaps she does have a concept of ‘conflict of interest’

    So many from Reston are complaining about ethical and moral issues on bigger stages, you fix it by doing it locally first.

    Eve Thompson should recuse herself from any RA dealings with Lake Anne and any that directly involve real estate transactions. Or she should either resign her RA post, or shutter her Real Estate business.

    • Greg

      Eve Thompson should resign. Self-serving is wrong and it’s shameful.

  • dudewe

    RA needs more directors like Shannon and Wedell! Graves and Thompson should resign. And Fulkerson and her top lieutenants, including the new capital projects officer need to be fired. And get rid of the attorneys – (Q) why in the world do they need to be at meetings? (A) they are there to protect Fulkerson and certain RA members!

    As for Thompson, she was also a big supporter of the Lake House and dismissed the fact that the purchase price of the Tetra property was double the assessed value because “any Realtor knows that the assessed value and purchase prices have no relationship.” Sorry Thompson, they do have a relationship and a purchase price double the assessed valuation of a property with numerous encumbrances is not. Thompson probably also bought the “coffee house” expecting the “revitalization” of Lake Anne to go through.

    Reston residents, we are being ripped off by a bunch of insiders…we need to get rid of them!

    • Conservative Senior

      Sherri Herbert is not afraid of objecting to the board. Shannon is outstanding. Wedell sometimes has very strange ideas. Why does Graves wants info, to be discussed at the next meeting, provided earlier. Why? So they can get all board members to agree? Would love to hear what goes on at the closed executive meetings.

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