This is a commentary from Bill Krieger, a resident of Reston. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
On Wednesday, Michael Gandolfo resigned from the Elections Committee after a public dispute with current Board Member, Eric Carr. In solidarity with Michael, I resigned as well. If you’ve seen Carr on Facebook you may already know some of the story. But you may not know it all.
Weeks ago, a current board member asked if he could actively campaign for candidates. The Elections Committee wasn’t certain if this was allowable, and sought legal counsel. My understanding of the answer we received was that no one forfeits their basic rights as an RA member to speak out as they please, regardless of serving on boards or board committees, as long as they make it clear that they are speaking as individuals and not as representatives of those boards or committees.
Speaking only for himself and not for the Elections Committee, Michael Gandolfo posed questions to Carr on Eric’s public Facebook page about whether the Tetra Loan was paid off with Reston reserve funds. According to Gandolfo, Carr proceeded to berate him saying, “As a member of the RA Elections Committee, I would hope you would be more attuned to the operations of the Association, and I would further hope your social media postings might serve as an exemplar of civility.” Carr then contacted the Chair of the Election Committee expressing his concerns about Michael’s position on the committee. In response, the Chair sent all its members an email, saying, in effect, that as Election Committee members we must not to engage in any Reston political issues with board members or candidates on social media or elsewhere.
While the position of the Chair seems reasonable at first, unfortunately it contains an inherent hypocrisy. RA members do not forfeit their rights to speak out on any RA issues when they make it clear that they are speaking out as individuals, not official representatives. Michael Gandolfo did just that. His speech, therefore, was as valid and protected as Eric Carr endorsing candidates. When the Election Committee Chair sent out this email, Michael Gandolfo resigned. I followed suit not only in solidarity with Michael but also because I believe Eric Carr crossed a line. In my opinion, he used his influence as a current board member -not as an individual -to take Michael to task with his committee chair. I believe he abused his positon and for that reason, frankly, he should either be censured by the board, resign his office, or be voted out of office the next time he runs.
Eric Carr’s behavior, to me, personifies the fears of some Restonians regarding the candidates he is actively supporting – Bowman, Ganesan, Johnson and Petrine. These four candidates are running as a slate calling itself “4 for Reston.” For some, the math is troubling. A slate of four fortified by even one current board member in lockstep can easily translate into a guaranteed majority, or what some Reston Now readers are calling “group think.” They rightly fear the creation of a board with a built-in majority that has the potential to rob the RA Board of all debate and independence when important issues come before it. And now a second slate of candidates appears. This is a trend that we, as members, should actively discourage with our votes. The Board must consist of independent thinkers.