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Reston Residents Take Advantage of Chance to Address StoneTurn

by Dave Emke — February 10, 2017 at 11:30 am 8 Comments

Many Reston residents turned out Thursday afternoon to give their two cents to the forensic accounting firm tasked with analyzing the cost overruns associated with Reston Association’s purchase of the Tetra/Lake House facility.

Deirdre Flaherty, partner and co-founder of the StoneTurn Group, joined RA Vice President Michael Sanio and Eric Carr, chair of RA’s Tetra Review Committee, on a panel to hear statements from Reston citizens. StoneTurn has been contracted by the Reston Association Board of Directors at a cost not to exceed $45,000 to conduct their review by the end of February.

The forum was structured loosely, with members provided three minutes to take the podium and speak individually, or five minutes to speak on behalf of a group. It broke down into informal conversation throughout, however, as residents asked questions from the audience and demanded answers regarding what exactly the firm is planning to find — and how those findings will be presented.

“The intention is to make the report public when it is finished,” Sanio said when pressed about how the findings would be shared with the community. “That’s why we have the consultant doing the work.”

Many residents shared their skepticism about the transparency of the review process, though.

StoneTurn Community Forum - Richard Stillson“It is vitally important… that your final report is published, unaltered and unredacted,” said Dick Stillson, who was a member of the MediaWorld group that had offered to do the work for a fee of $1. Negotiations ended, Stillson said, in part over RA’s requirement that findings be confidential. “There is no way that the community will have confidence in the work that you’ve done, or in fact that the board really did ask for an independent review of the Tetra purchase, if that report is not published in its complete form and made available to the community.”

RA members voted in a referendum in May 2015 to allow the association to purchase the Tetra property for $2.6 million — a cost more than double its tax assessment. Renovations made on the property, which were expected to cost $259,000, ended up costing nearly three times that. RA has since opened the renovated facility as The Lake House.

The goal of the review, according to Reston Association, is to “identify areas for process improvement, potential changes to internal controls and/or modification to governance procedures to help ensure situations like the Lake House cost overrun can be avoided in the future.” Sanio said the goal is twofold: to determine what transpired during the Tetra purchase and to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.

Several residents at the meeting inquired why the StoneTurn contract was not made available on the Reston Association website for public review; the 13-page document was later added to the site.

Flaherty told residents she is extremely confident the review will be completed to its scope and within the time frame allotted. Some residents, though, questioned how intricacies of the matter including culpability, conflicts of interest and potential law-breaking would be handled.

“The scope of our work isn’t to do that right now,” Flaherty said. “[But] whatever we see will be divulged.”

While Flaherty said it is not the reviewer’s responsibility to go to the authorities with any evidence of illegal activity, both Sanio and Carr said they would do so if necessary.

StoneTurn Community Forum - Terry MaynardTerry Maynard, of the Reston 20/20 Committee, said a “vigorous investigation” is needed to get to the bottom of “the greatest leadership crisis in the history of the Reston Association.”

“Never have so many people in Reston’s leadership on the RA Board of Directors and among its senior staff behaved so unethically if not outright illegally,” Maynard said. “[They have] demonstrated such complete incompetence in analyzing and managing the finances of a single RA project, and used secrecy behind a legal facade to protect the guilty while so neglecting the interests of the community.”

Sanio said members of the RA board have endured a lot of negativity from the community throughout the process.

“I’ve heard lots of accusations, I’ve read accusations, some of them unfounded, and I think for those that serve on the board as volunteers, you’ve put those individuals that commit untold hours in your service into a very, very difficult position,” he said. “I would urge you to reflect on that. These are your peers in the community, and they’ve stepped forward to be helpful. … I think that those that have stepped forward deserve the respect.”

StoneTurn Community Forum - Tammi PetrineSanio said he is confident StoneTurn’s work will provide what RA has been looking for regarding closure on the Tetra purchase.

“We too are looking for answers as well, and I’m confident with the competency of the StoneTurn group and Dee (Flaherty) here, that we’ll get what we need,” he said.

But Dennis Hays, of the Reston Citizens Association board, said the meeting didn’t clear up many of the issues people have about the process. In fact, he said, the opposite occurred.

“I’m more concerned now at the end of this meeting than I was in the beginning,” he said. “If we get a report that just says, ‘Here’s what we need to do in the future,’ then we have wasted $45,000.”

Anyone with comments to share who was unable to attend Thursday’s community session is encouraged to email [email protected].

  • cRAzy

    Reston 2020 is much less optimistic than Sanio that anything useful will come from StoneTurn’s work. http://reston2020.blogspot.com/2017/02/prospects-for-thorough-tetra.html

    • Slim Dunlap

      Wow, that’s depressing. What a waste of money this review will be. But, they will publish the report, identify some areas of improvement, pat themselves on the back (RA Board, that is), and call it settled. This is just a show for us, they will keep doing whatever they want, including the preservation of property values for their friends and securing lucrative jobs for themselves. Much like any other public official.

      Sickening.

  • Terry Maynard

    ALL–I have just received some back channel communications in which RA President Ellen Graves directed that the ONLY point of contact for the Tetra review will be Michael Sanio. That means if you send your question or comment to the e-mail address at the end of the above article and it contains any kind of sensitive information:
    a. It will not reach StoneTurn Group, and
    b. You will have exposed your identity to RA as a source of sensitive information on Tetra.

    Instead, if you want your information to be heard in confidence, you should send it directly to StoneTurn Group at [email protected].

    Also, I have shared the information from RA that I received with RestonNow so it is aware of its accuracy.

    • Terry Maynard

      Here is the text of the e-mail Ellen Graves sent to the Board yesterday afternoon naming Mike Sanio as the sole POC for the Tetra review, including its initial mis-address and the unwarranted spacing.

      As a point of speculation, I would note that the font of the text of the message is different than either the heading or Ellen’s signature. (Note: You probably won’t be able to see that difference here.) I suspect the text was prepared by someone else, probably Sanio, and she “cut & pasted” it into her transmittal.

      ———————————————

      From:
      To:
      Cc:
      Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2017 14:28:20 -0500
      Subject: Fwd: RA Spokesperson Policy

      —–Original Message—– graveyel

      To: graveyel

      Sent: Fri, Feb 10, 2017 2:03 pm

      Subject: Fwd: RA Spokesperson Policy

      Dear Fellow Directors:

      As per Resolution 11 Association S,I am
      designating Mike Sanio, Vice-Presiden to be the contact person for all
      Tetra/Lake House inquiries. I appreciate you cooperation in this
      matter. As we are

      all aware this is a very sensitive subject and only one person should serve as the spokesperson. for RA. Have a great weekend

      As Always,

      Ellen

  • Greendayer

    Expensive tuition to avoid having another Tetra

    • Virginia Harlow

      But it probably won’t prevent another similar.

  • John Farrell

    Totally Pathetic

    Sanio and Thompson are regularly whining about being volunteers which they apparently believe bestows immunity on them from ever being held responsible for the misfeasance, malfeasance, gross incompetence and venality evidenced by the Tetra debacle, the Covenants staff upheaval, the Pony Barn farce, the multiple failures to disclose conflicts of interest and assorted other RA fiascos.

    No one conscripted, drafted or dragooned either of them to serve on the Board. They ruthlessly campaigned to attain and retain the fiduciary position of trust they now regularly abuse.

    With that position comes the obligation to graciously accept the criticism for their multiple transgressions and not to cower behind executive sessions and other sophistry.

    If Sanio and Thoompson find the experience just too much for their delicate sensibilities to bear, there is one obvious remedy: Resign!

    • Doubtful

      Next up on the agenda for Sanio and Co. is to snuff out any chance for an effective Ethics Code with teeth for this ethically challenged Board. The Governance Committee meets Monday at 6:30 to do this deed.

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