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Reston Association Board to Review New Conflict of Interest Policy

by Fatimah Waseem February 8, 2018 at 2:00 pm 35 Comments

In an effort to encourage transparency and accountability, Reston Association’s board of directors is inching closer to adopting a new conflict of interest policy.

The board will consider a draft proposal at a special meeting tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in RA headquarters. A tentative public hearing is set for Feb. 22.

Two independent reviews have called for a refined code of ethics over the last two years, including StoneTurn Group’s 2017 assessment of the controversial Lake House purchase. Since then, an ethics subcommittee began drafting an updated code of ethics to manage personal interests of RA officials that may conflict with RA interests.

The policy requires individuals to explicitly delineate economic interests and personal interests, a requirement that is currently “unclear” in the current policy, according to RA documents.

Updates also require individuals to disclose indirect interests related to family members, immediate relatives and close economic associates. Currently, a $500 threshold is set to trigger disclosure of material and immaterial requests.

The policy also lays out how they will handle conflict of interest disclosures at meetings. It also includes rules for handling failures to disclose a conflict of interest prior to a board vote. Directors must also disclose economic and affiliation interests annually.

RA’s policy was thrust into the spotlight in February last year. RA member Ed Abbott filed a complaint against former At-Large Director Eve Thompson, alleging Thompson did not disclose her ownership of Lake Anne Coffee House  and her husband’s presidency of the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association. Thompson resigned in June.

Feedback by Abbott and others characterized the policy as pedantic, unnecessarily long and complicated, according to meeting materials. The board will review the policy at its Friday meeting and discuss changes.

The timeline for a public hearing and board adoption are not final, but the board could adopt the revised policies in March after a Feb. 22 public hearing.

Tomorrow’s meeting will not be streamed live, but a YouTube recording will be available on Monday at 5 p.m.

The draft policy is below:

RA Board Draft Conflict of Interest Policy by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

  • The Constitutionalist

    “The policy also lays out how the will handle conflict of interest disclosures at meetings.”

    Did you mean they?

    “…alleging Thompson did not disclose her ownership of Lake Anne Coffee House on Board…”

    On Board? On Board of what?

  • Donald

    How long has RA been focused on something so simple? If this board can’t figure it out, just call BoardSource and get some guidance and examples — and put one in place. This isn’t rocket science.

    http://blog.boardsource.org/blog/is-it-time-to-dust-off-your-nonprofits-conflict-of-interest-policy

    When this board misses strategic opportunities that would benefit the Community, to instead have special meetings on a simple task — can you say micromanage?

    Donald

    • J Gallagher

      Can you explain a little more about the USTA move – I’m not understanding the connection between USTA and RA?

      • Donald

        Read the Thursday Morning Notes. Read Focus Area 2 of the board’s strategic plan.

        Who on this board has taken an ounce of interest in promoting Reston? Does anyone on the board have a value proposition to answer the most basic question – why Reston over say

        • J Gallagher

          I saw where they were moving out of Reston and going to Prince William but there’s literally been nothing presented or offered to RA – so what has RA lost? Everytime someone thinks it’s a great idea to build a big recreation center, we Restonians have been expected to pay for it while other areas are being subsidized by the entire Fairfax County taxbase. Why are our 60,000 people supposed to support regional recreational facilities that are open to people everywhere. We are a homeowners association. not an economic development agency or a Chamber of Commerce – or job is to keep our stuff and our space up to par. It feels so much like all these special interest groups and developers are looking at Reston like a cash cow – that’s not what we bought into – we bought into a homeowners association who keeps up our pools and parks and provides services for people within Reston. I mean, that’s what I thought…maybe people think we should be more of an economic development agency… and I would like to see the numbers on indoor tennis because the Long-term costs of those facilities are huge and are often not supported by the number of people who use them…forcing everyone else to subsidize…just sayin

          • Donald

            When a Reston entity plans to spend $15 million on a facility, $2.25 million on land, and it is estimated to contribute $12 million in annual economic impact, we should have been there.

            I absolutely agree with you — we should never have to spend a dime, when we can solicit community partners to work with us.

            We are community association with 134 homeowner associations, 30 condominium associations and 4,800 single-family homes. There are also 17 apartment buildings in Reston, comprised of over 3,800 units. From RA’s website under “Reston Development & Future” — “Today, Reston is the largest planned community in Virginia and one of the most renowned planned communities in the nation”.

            We must be responsible for our economic development. The cash cow is ours if the board would just get its act together.

            Or do you prefer the county and the chamber to continue to act on our behalf?

            Donald

          • J Gallagher

            Where was the facility supposed to be located? I just don’t recall seeing plans for a $15 million soccer complex. Not for nothing but I almost see them taking this somewhere else a blessing – it’s close enough for us to get to if we are so inclined and far enough away we don’t have to deal with the traffic. Not sure building these big regional sports facilities in the middle of small-town Reston is good for Reston homeowners. They tried the same with the swim center and besides the fact that they didn’t have the numbers to support Ongoing operations, they didn’t really think through parking and traffic. For my kids sports, I’m at warehouse complexes out by Dulles…not in the middle of say, Ashburn Farms.

          • J Gallagher

            I meant TENNIS complex, not SOCCER

          • Donald

            Yea, you’re right, Reston doesn’t need any new recreation facilities. We don’t need any indoor pools or tennis. Heck, I should expect this board to shut down more facilities — the way they continue their unperceiving analysis of staff’s spreadsheets.

            You’re right, what was I thinking. Our board should never promote and represent Reston to those who’d like to invest millions in a community. Let someone else do that – this board is busy — demanding more reports spreadsheets, berating people, sharing provincial thoughts with everyone they meet. What was I thinking?

            BTW. Vibrant, sustainable communities meet the needs of present and future generations. Through partnerships, technical assistance, research, and other resources, Reston Association could work with partners and other stakeholders to develop approaches that ensure we have the tools to be resilient to economic, social, and environmental challenges.

            Let me think, I believe that’s one of the primary duties of our board. I believe it’s in our governing documents.

            Donald

          • J Gallagher

            The last time we “partnered” with someone, we were slated to pick up the operating costs on a regional recreation center and the county was going to “generously” give us its land whereas other areas got the land and capital funds and Fairfax County tax-backed operational funds. The next time we were going to “partner” with someone we had an inner circle of developers telling us a $1.1M facility was worth $2.7M and it wasn’t in need of repairs which cost us $700K, and another proposal regarding a regional swim center left reston holding the bag on operational expenses which when looked at closely were the prime reason arlington bailed on their swim center. I think people look at reston as a cash cow. We already pay HOA to keep Reston assets up and RCC tax for our theater and indoor pool that was losing in excess of $1M a year in operational expenses (where are the partnerships there??) and a county tax so what…we can use cub run facility or the nice new Spring Hill Rec center? We have gotten the short end of all these “partnerships” and it’s time that stops. And if it’s because someone knows someone who knows someone that these debacles occur, then I can see no better use of time than establishing a conflict of interest policy.

          • Donald

            When I drive, I like to look through the windshield not the rearview mirror. When I go sailing I look far out to a reference point so I don’t constantly overcorrect with the tiller.

            This board’s “track” is all over the place, wasting precious time and resources. Soon the track will start to spiral inward.

            This board just isn’t into looking at the future and where the community might go. It’s just a “list-crosser-offer”.

            I can’t wait to see four new people change this unproductive view.

            Donald

          • The Constitutionalist

            Do you sail often?

          • Donald

            Not enough.

          • J Gallagher

            Sorry Donald I don’t agree – you are mixing up old boards with the new board. The old board let members get up and speak for 3 minutes and promptly ignored what they said – didn’t heed a god dern warning that their members were forecasting and instead listened solely to their contracted staff – and plowed straight ahead into the snowbank that was Tetra. The old Board turned a blind eye when Board members presented an appearance of conflict and said nothing. The old Board allowed Reston to float “rudderless” down the river while outsiders stepped in to fill the leadership void. This Board is listening to its members, engaging with its members, pushing to clarify and strengthen RA policies and asking the critical questions that need to be asked as stewards of our money. If this Board reverts to what it was, it will be a disaster. Back to executive sessions and fuzzy math. We need strong oversight and this Board and hopefully their allies who are running will keep their majority. It’s gonna be the difference between steering our own boat vs. riding on the Titanic.

          • Donald

            Your statement is downright frightening:

            “…and this Board and hopefully their allies who are running will keep their majority…”

            A board and its allies who are running — keeping a majority?

            That’s how this board shows its transparency?

            OMFG!

            You have just substantiated what I feared was happening. This board is no different from others — its worse.

            Time to throw some light in this dark corner.

            Donald

          • Donald

            Hmmm. My response just got taken down.

          • Donald

            It seems my response is not favorable to the editorial board here.

            Needless to say, I worry when a board is recruiting its “allies” to run and join – to maintain a majority. Basically says, this board is no different than any of the others.

            I’d love to know who’s talking to who, what promises are being made. I feel sorry for those candidates that have NOT been “blessed” by the “important” board members and their “allies”.

            Donald

          • OneReally

            “RCC tax for our theater and indoor pool that was losing in excess of $1M
            a year in operational expenses (where are the partnerships there??) and
            a county tax”

            It’s time we sell that thing to the county or just raze it.

          • Greg

            Amen!

          • Donald

            Unfortunately we pay for it, but have little or no say in the matter. By design, without our input or representation at the time, the county decided to “look out for our best interests”.

            Donald

          • Greg
          • Greg
          • Greg
          • Greg

            http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2009/071509/Reston.pdf

            Page 3. It was $50 million and up to $125 million with financing included.

          • Donald

            The “Save Browns Chapel” effort was instrumental in taking this potential fiasco off the table. Thank god they organized and let the inept and myopic RA board at that time know how nonsensical this was.

            RA boards need to take full control and responsibility for RA’s future needs.

            Donald

  • Rational Reston

    From the 30 years overdue department….

  • Ethics who needs

    According to the latest code of ethics RA can still turn Hook Rd Park into a parking lot without too many questions asked. The same goes for hiring vemdors to get a “feasibility study”.

  • Greg

    Eight pages; heavy legalese? #doomed.

    • Donald

      Agree. This is getting ridiculous. The RA board is getting into detailed, specific, examples (within the document itself) that obviously bother them personally. Again, they micromanage everything they see and touch.

      Truly doomed to fail. The board needs to listen to their counsel or bring in a professional who has actually been on a corporate board.

      Donald

      • Guest

        Maybe listening to its counsel has been the problem. . .

        Why don’t you run for the board, Donald? You have a lot of ideas and opinions about what should happen and what RA should do. Why don’t you do more than post your thoughts and ideas here?

        • Donald

          Thanks, I certainly thought about it. Especially after seeing the efforts of this cabal, composed of certain candidates and their board member champions.

          Donald

  • Greg

    Once again, I refer to this simple one-page CAI document. Since RA is a paid member, it can obtain and use it for free:

    https://www.caionline.org/HomeownerLeaders/ResourcesforHomeownerLeaders/G2G_ModelCodeEthics.pdf

    • Donald

      Could have been in place years ago.

      Donald

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