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Conflict of Interest Concerns a Major Topic at RA Board Meeting

by Dave Emke — February 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm 36 Comments

Eve Thompson/Reston Association Board meeting/Feb. 23, 2017A complaint from a community member asking for a director to be removed from the Reston Association board was the source of lengthy debate during the board’s Thursday meeting.

Ed Abbott filed a Common Interest Community Board Complaint against At-Large Director Eve Thompson on Feb. 4. In his complaint, Abbott pointed out that Thompson’s Conflict of Interest form on record does not disclose her ownership of the Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar, as well as her husband’s status as president of the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association. Because of this, he said, Thompson’s actions during the board’s Jan. 22 meeting — where her husband presented on Lake Anne capital improvements and she spoke in favor of them — were imprudent.

Board general counsel Ken Chadwick said he did not believe there was any violation of COI policy because no action was taken on the subject at the meeting. He cited Virginia law in adding that even if it wanted to, the board does not have authority to remove Thompson, as Abbott requested.

Chadwick recommended to the board that they vote to deny Abbott’s complaint, at which time he would be able to take it to the Virginia state ombudsman for further review. That motion was made, but it failed after directors Lucinda Shannon and Sherri Hebert voted against it. Shannon said she wanted the board to go against Chadwick’s recommendation and ask Thompson to resign.

Shannon said that as Thompson checked a box on her COI statement saying falsifying information would result in resignation from the board, that is what should happen.

“If we don’t follow what we say we’re going to do in writing on our policy documents that we sign, then what good is our word?” Shannon said.

A vote on Shannon’s motion to ask Thompson to resign also failed, with Shannon casting the only assenting vote.

In response to the discussion on the matter, Thompson said it was never her intent to deceive anyone.

“This is so dismaying, not to be called out on incomplete documentation, but to have that used to basically be accused of integrity issues,” she said. “I most definitely, last month at the board meeting, should have re-disclosed — I have disclosed it before — my interests in Lake Anne. It’s been so well-documented that it’s always a surprise to me [that people don’t know]. … That doesn’t mean that I’m excluded from filling out the paperwork completely, and for that I do apologize. I should have been more careful.”

Thompson’s ownership of the coffee house along with her husband was reported in the media, including on Reston Now.

Director Ray Wedell said he is concerned that directors will begin to take a “defensive mentality” when they face continued attacks from the community.

“We need to be proactive, we need to take more chances, we need to address community issues without fear of somebody coming behind us with all sorts of ‘You did this, and I want you fired, and you’re a terrible person,'” he said. “Everybody in here lives in glass houses, everybody in here has flaws.”

Thompson said she is discouraged that discussion on a proposal that would be beneficial to all the residents of Lake Anne devolved into personal attacks against her.

“Instead of, ‘Wow, here’s an opportunity to do something awesome in the community that would benefit the entire community,’ it became a personal vendetta,” she said. “That’s really tragic [and] I feel really badly about that.”

  • MakeRestonRestonAgain

    I was there last evening, very sad to see the level certain neighbors went to. The most unchristian behavior I’ve observed in a long time. It’s a damned shame. Mr. Wedell’s words are well spoken.

    • Huh??

      What in the world does Christianity have to do with this??

      • 30yearsinreston

        Nothing

      • The Constitutionalist

        Just any excuse for them to get the jab in, that’s all.

    • Unperson

      Unchristian? So if someone acts the opposite – say with integrity and kindness, that is Christian behavior? What if they’re not Christian? Would you call it Buddhist or Bahai or Jewish or Muslim or agnositic or atheist behavior? Or unbuddhist behavior?

      But religion aside, if a board member does not disclose what should be disclosed, it’s a problem. And if they may benefit by it, it’s a real problem.

      • MakeRestonRestonAgain

        All I’m saying is the vitriolic attacks, the malice shown by many, tested even my patience and understanding. Of course I suspect I will now draw the same attacks.

        • Why do you bother?

          Reminds me of the punchline of a joke: St. Peter showing a new arrival around heaven – “Oh, that’s the Christians. They think they’re the only ones up here.

          • : )

            Haha! Thank you.

        • Person

          No offense meant to you or your religion. Just think of it in reverse – if someone remarked on attacks by saying, “Wow, that was some of the most unbuddhist behavior I’ve ever seen.” Or if someone does not believe in Christianity does something wonderful, would you still say it was Christian behavior? ; ) Peace.

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            Thank you. How about “uncivil”

          • Dinner Party Circuit

            To the RA we are probably terrorists. If they get a chance to hunt us down and make us pay they will. Its gotten to this point where this has become their only weapon.

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            I see it differently. I come from the place that embraces reaching out, collaboration, and good discussion. My experience in life has shown a lot more gets accomplished when everyone is breaking bread together. The fact that you label yourself and apparently, your group, (humorously) as terrorists is a “tell.” Wish that was not the case in this lovely community.

          • JoeInReston

            When Director Shannon noted Eve Thompson’s COI during the Lake Anne dock replacement discussion, Thompson denied it – “The fact that I own a coffee house and an apartment, I don’t believe is a conflict, I’m a community member who has an opinion about the dock.”

            Board president Ellen Graves then told Shannon to be respectful.

            So we have three players.

            – The person seemingly oblivious to the issues of COI.

            – The person noting the COI.

            – The board president.

            So, when the COI issues comes to light, what does the board president do? Does she inform Thompson of potential COI issues? Does she inquire with the RA’s attorney about COI? Does she embrace any discussion on COI? No. She tells the person noting the COI to be respectful.

            That doesn’t sound like a group that embraces collaboration and good discussion.

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            That’s your perspective and I respect that. From my perspective, what I’ve observed, of the many board meetings over the last couple years, is a group of individuals that want to say what’s on their mind. Some seem to have been coached, others appear to show up with a pre-scripted agenda, and others just wishing to be home versus dealing with the crud. Not a good scenario. This board looks tired, beat up, and put to bed wet. I really hope and wish this community gets back to civility, listening, and healthy dialogue. Otherwise…I don’t know. Glad I have my family, friends and neighbors that don’t behave this way.

          • Greg

            That’s largely because the RA board has wandered wide and far from what it’s chartered to do: that being a community or homeowner association–and a job it is doing very poorly.

            Assets are deteriorating, not being upgraded with the times, are being poorly used, and many aging properties look terrible and need intensive, focused, guided maintenance and upgrade work — this is what RA’s core mission is and it’s failing. Even the design guidelines are outdated and don’t reflect the times (among them, incandescent lighting is preferred, but the federal government has all but banned incandescent lighting!). There is very little, if any, covenants enforcement, upgrading and guidance, especially among the older parts of Reston which need it the most.

            In the process, the RA has wasted huge amounts of money on things like land planning, zoning, Metro, air-conditioning systems (RELAC), transportation, legal fees and has forced the board, all unpaid volunteers, to engage into things into which they have neither the expertise/competence nor the authority — things that a municipality does — all while neglecting core duties.

            Meanwhile, the RA has gone off and wasted millions more dollars and endless hours on an unneeded “asset,” Tetra, that will be poorly used for things that the RA should not be doing in the first place (day care, weddings, and after-school care).

            The door to Reston becoming a municipality is closed, and it is managed in Richmond — not Fairfax. So, if Reston wants the freedom and expenses of being a municipality, then go sort that out, but in the meantime, get back to basics — the board has no one to blame but itself for being overtaxed, tired, or anything else.

            The RA board, not the staff or Fulkerson or expensive attorneys, sets the RA mission and daily agenda.

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            Isn’t that when you get involved, join committees or task forces, or even run for the board? Better to get in the system to make improvements versus sitting on the outside. When I was a manager, I sent people bringing me perceived problems back out the door. But, if that person had a proposed solution or idea to resolve the perceived problem, then a good discussion would begin.

          • Greg

            Please don’t make assumptions, or judgments, about my involvement–which has nothing to do with the facts set forth above.

            I certainly will not make any about your management style…

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            Actually, I asked a question. I don’t think I accused you, personally, of anything. If it came across that way, I’m sorry.

          • cRAzy

            How can you have a discussion with people who will not listen and do not tell the truth, including their personal financial interests in public matters?

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            I’m new to these comment threads so perhaps I’m saying something that many here don’t like. I’m sorry if that’s the case, you can shoo me away I guess. But the discourse here comes across as if you are seeking personal revenge, causing anguish and pain. Accusing someone in public of lying, of almost being a thief, is beyond my comprehension. What if you were accused of something slanderous in public, and you now had to defend yourself. How would that make you feel? I believe in our community – the community I love — and people come first, they are most important to me. My friends, my neighbors, the folks I see in church or at the grocery store. I only wish.

  • LakeNewportLady

    She should recuse herself from voting on topics regarding improvements to Lake Anne. If she doesn’t willingly do that then I don’t know what she is thinking.

  • Tammi Petrine

    Ray Wedell once again spoke without knowing the facts of past actions by Mrs.Thompson. Saying that she recused herself and/or exposed all of her or LARCA’s interests in former RA affairs, particularly the LA Swap is patently false. The saddest thing is that some of Eve’s ideas and comments are terrific. But her history of pooh-poohing ethical standards by which the rest of society lives is what is mind boggling… and she keeps on doing it as though no one is watching. She KNOWS we are watching.

    • MakeRestonRestonAgain

      “She KNOWS we are watching”. Neighbor, what you just said — is just downright frightening!!!

      • Tammi Petrine

        I find a person operating as an experienced director of our HOA with considerable power to influence our community without firm ethics downright frightening. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Follow the simple guidelines of the COI disclosure statement. When you are discussing an issue, disclose your financial and personal interests therein. This is not rocket science.

        RA “watchers” are longtime RA dues-paying members who have spent years attending meetings and writing to inform our community of tiresome, confusing county and local development minutiae. Anyone can chose to operate in a vacuum or to become informed. If you don’t like citizen volunteers trying to keep their fellow citizens alert to intricate local or county developments, please feel free to pitch in or tune out. Your choice.

        Becoming educated is my choice and when I find situations being manipulated to fool the public with incomplete or incorrect info that affect RA finances or resources, I am not silent and I do not operate anonymously. RE: your moniker, What is missing from the Reston you love beside your real name, Neighbor?

        • MakeRestonRestonAgain

          Ok Ms. Petrine. Good luck with that. Still doesn’t change my feelings though.

      • Reston2000

        It is not frightening, it is our right to monitor our governing bodies who are responsible for managing our money

        • MakeRestonRestonAgain

          Yes, yes. Nobody’s denying your right. I’m just commenting on approach, tactics, behavior. Nothing more. See, my hands are up, I’m not starting anything here. I apologize.

    • Greg

      Her behavior is a textbook case of lack of integrity.

  • Anonymous Poster

    Thanks for including the link to the video and marking at the appropriate point in time. I appreciated listening to what was said and the reporting.

  • Greg

    This is exactly why Eve Thompson has zero integrity:

    “Instead of, ‘Wow, here’s an opportunity to do something awesome in the community that would benefit the entire community,’ it became a personal vendetta,” she said. “That’s really tragic [and] I feel really badly about that.”

    Those benefits would inure to her, her husband, her businesses and the Lake Anne condominium associations — a very small minority of the entire community — at the expense of all RA members. That’s wrong, and it’s shameful Eve Thompson uses it to deflect from her lack of integrity.

    • 30yearsinreston

      She’s only following the example shown by the Lake House fiasco
      Rent seekers run RA and Reston
      Lack of Governance is a disgrace both here and on the Fairfax County BOS

    • Reston2000

      Does she feel bad about the personal vendetta or the fact that she didn’t disclose she had a personal interest in securing public funding for this project? [shaking my head]

  • LeftPolitico

    Board Counsel Ken Chadwick gave incomplete information to the board members. His opinion that he did not believe there was any violation of COI policy because no action was taken on the subject at the January meeting may be the opinion that a court would hold to be true, but other attorneys and courts could have interpreted the law to mean something entirely different. He should have told the board that there could be opposite opinions and why he believed that his opinion was the correct one.

    Worse, he gave the board the impression that they had no jurisdiction over any aspect of Mr. Abbott’s complaint, when RA’s own COI policy certainly proscribes what happens when a director provides an incorrect COI disclosure statement.
    As Director Shannon pointed out on multiple occasions, the form that each director attests to states that ““The information provided in this Statement is true and accurate. I understand that falsifying such information will result in my immediate resignation from the Board of Directors.” The COI policy does not state what happens if a director refuses to resign, but common sense would indicate that the board would have to take some action in that circumstance. Mr. Chadwick should have informed the board of that.

    All in all, Mr. Chadwick did not serve the board well.

    • cRAzy

      “Mr. Chadwick did not serve the board well.”

      Nor did he serve RA members at all.

      Just his checkbook.

  • RA Dinner Party Circuit

    I think Eve would be well served to obtain her own council. RA council Chadwick is creating his own conflict of interest by promoting the interests of the Lake Anne syndicated business alliance and dock promoters.

    I cannot believe my RA dollars are spent on this legal entanglement; also at stake are the basic operations of the associations which are impeded by these activities and projects outside of the official RA mission statement.

    Its clear to me know, the whole board needs to be replaced with new members.

  • Mike M

    They are a bunch of “townies.” They are taking Restonians for a ride.

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