After Tetra Purchase, New Financial Controls in Effect at Reston Association

by Fatimah Waseem March 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm 20 Comments

After months of discussion, Reston Association’s Board of Directors unanimously approved stricter financial controls, a need flagged by two in-depth reviews of RA’s $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.

StoneTurn Group, an independent firm contracted to review the purchase and associated cost overruns, and a review by two RA members cited the need for updating RA’s purchasing and procurement policies over the last year.

The approval expands RA financial controls by requiring the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the review and approval process of contracts. The changes also clearly delineate steps required before and as contracts are considered. Major purchases require additional scrutiny and a greater emphasis is placed on competitively bid contracts.

Current policies have been criticized by some members as ambiguous and lax, resulting in a decision on the Tetra property that reviews indicate was not up to par.

All purchases above $2,500 require documentation justifying the need for purchases, at least two written quotes from competitive sources, an agreement reviewed by legal counsel and a purchase order signed by the department director, CFO and CEO.

Purchases between $5,000 and $24,999 require at least three written quotes from competitive sources. Major purchases of $25,000 and above require the issuance of a request for proposals, at least three written bids, a closed session meeting and final approval of the scope and pricing of the contract at an open board meeting.

For approval of those contracts, the approval of majority of board officers – defined as the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and a board liaison for RA’s fiscal committee — is required. Earlier versions of the resolution allowed the fiscal committee chair to partake in the approval process — a move that RA Board Director Julie Bitzer said was inappropriate because it elevated the rank of a volunteer members to that of an elected board member.

Bitzer said she was amenable to allowing the fiscal committee and its chair to contribute by providing a general review.

In order to prevent the board from micromanaging the work of RA’s staff, Bitzer also suggested receiving an annual review of contracts awarded by staff, including a categorical breakdown based on cost brackets created by the resolution.

A move by Board Director John Mooney to require all contractors or service agreements to include provisions that prevent employees from discrimination based on factors like sex, race, color, national origin and religion also passed.

“These are times that we need to speak on such matters,” Mooney said.

Board director Victoria White objected to the proposal because she said it was more appropriate to include the provision in contractual language.

“Bottom line is, it needs to have teeth.” White said.

Other board members said the inclusion of Mooney’s amendment sends a strong message of RA’s position to the community.

A complete breakdown of the resolution is available online. A recording of the board’s meeting is also on YouTube.

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