82°Overcast

Reston Association’s Board Establishes Reporting Mechanism for Whistleblowers

by Fatimah Waseem March 26, 2018 at 3:30 pm 47 Comments

Under a new policy established by Reston Association’s Board of Directors, whistleblowers will be able to anonymously report violations of the law, RA’s deed, bylaws and policies or improper conduct to the board.

On March 22, RA’s board voted to expand the policy, which currently allows violations to be reported up to the level of the CEO. Now, the board will directly hear violations. The association is also working with a third-party service provider to establish an anonymous reporting mechanism.

The board’s treasurer Sridhar Ganesan, who worked with RA’s fiscal committee to push for the expansion, said RA still has to “conclude some procedural steps” like securing arrangements with the third party vendor before formally releasing the policy in its entirety.

“I think this is very beneficial especially in light of all the processes and internal controls that we are implementing as an organization, including the purchasing resolution,” Ganesan said at RA’s meeting last week.

Board Director John Mooney’s attempt to discuss the proposed policy during a special meeting at a later time failed. Mooney said he had hoped the board would take “a deliberative moment” to analyze the policy and ensure it independently assesses decisions made like the association’s controversial $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.

“This policy is meant to prevent mistakes like many believe Tetra was,” Mooney said.

  • Donald

    This gets better and better orchestrated.

    How many more pats on the back can this self-aggrandizing group of Ganesan, Carr, Bowman, Hebert…give themselves? Just in time, I guess.

    Watch the video, and see how rushed this was. Bowman and Carr staying to staff — ”get this to Reston Now as soon as possible…”.

    Donald.

    • Ray Wedell

      Once again, Donald, your comments are right on point.
      http://www.facebook.com/GrassRootsCandidate.
      Only the voters can give us hope for change now.

      • Godspeed

        Your comments may also be right on point but why are you using facebook?

        [Shaking head]

    • Ray Wedell

      Donald, to answer your question, per the “pats on the back”….an insider at Reston Hospital tells me one of them just was admitted for a broken arm from reaching too far back too often in patting himself (or was it herself?) on the back; another pulled a tricep muscle and is now on heavy prescription medication to cure the pain. This has resulted in a new Board policy to “not pat yourself on the back, but allow others to pat you.” That should help lessen the burden in the Reston Hospital emergency room.

  • guest

    The concept is noble, but the deliverance is very upsetting. During the meeting the Board stated that some of the members did not receive the policy to review it until late in the evening and some did not review it at all. The actual assessment paying members did not have a chance to review the policy, so we could make comments or input. I don’t understand what the rush was. There were Board members that wanted to wait a week to review it and post it for the members, but that was shut down. I don’t understand how the Board can vote on something they have not reviewed or allowed the members to review.

    I also don’t like the idea( I plan on writing the Board) of reporting directly to the Board. Who is policing the Board and if the Board is committing the improper action who do you go to? The Board already has a problem with responding to emails and returning calls, now they are supposed to reply back to and investigate? Will they have the time to devote to this and will it be fairly investigated if its about a member of the Board?

    I 100% agree there should be a whistle blower policy in place, but all complaints need to be handled by a 3rd party, legal, HR, etc. This person or body of people should be neutral and removed from the politics of RA. If I were on staff right now I would be scared.

    • guest

      The Board should have something in place until the 3rd party firm is in place, so that all complaints are handled without a whistle blower reporting directly to them. This (3rd party firm) should of been in place, before it was voted on.

      I have no problem with the Board being informed, but I do have a problem with only them being informed and taking charge of the investigation. The 3rd party firm is vital for this to work well.

    • Donald

      Get the board out of this. Talk about potential conflict. Fox running the hen house.

      There should be a dedicated individual (Ethics Officer) acting as point person, and directs the investigation. This individual is also responsible for ethics and compliance training.

      The other critical component is the outside third party vendor who is trained in this area. They aren’t cheap, by the way.

      Donald

    • Ray Wedell

      Excellent commentary, and yes, once again things are rushed through without commentary and without even a slight chance of a different opinion entering the equation….not even allowing comments from fellow Board members.

      • Doris Dawson

        As a member it is very upsetting that we were not allowed to review this policy before it was voted on. Staff are not allowed to voice their opinions and are talked down to during meetings, so I have no faith that they spoke out during a meeting in regard to this policy, If someone did speak out I’m sure they were voted down, just like the other Directors were during the meeting. They did not want our comments, because they want to give themselves more power. They voted themselves more power, just like Congress votes themselves new pay raises. If this were truly done for the good of members, the members would of been allowed to review the policy and an outside firm would be handling this not the Board. The Board should correct this ASAP

    • Donald

      According to Tammi Petrine’s own election website, she tells s good story, but apparently it’s just window dressing:

      ”…If members choose to actively participate in RA conversations, they must be respected and consulted before decisions are made. The 2017 board members have done a good job at inviting member comments and opinions and this must continue…
      • The use of executive session needs to be strictly regulated so members have as much transparency as possible. (Certain contracting and personnel issues require executive session but some notes should be kept for future reference.)…”

      Her cohorts on the board aren’t practicing what she’s preaching.

      Donald

  • Frank

    Instead of sniping at a worthwhile policy to assure that employees will be free to report problems without retaliation, you might have better invested your time in reading the actual press release which debunks a lot of your fatuous criticisms of it. For your benefit and the few others who might take the time to read it, I include the relevant portions of the press release.

    “The new whistleblower policy supports the procurement and purchasing resolution as well as policies and procedures that have been established to strengthen RA’s operations,” said Hebert. “Brian J. Grega, a KPMG partner and Fiscal Committee member, and Treasurer Ganesan developed the policy along with Acting CEO Wood and his staff. The Fiscal Committee reviewed and approved this final policy at its March 19 meeting.”

    The new whistleblower policy establishes a chief compliance officer role who will receive reports of all violations and will oversee the investigation and resolution of complaints, whether anonymously or otherwise. The president of RA will serve as the chief compliance officer with the three other officers on the board (vice president, treasurer and secretary) serving as alternates.

    “While RA has a strong no-retaliation policy, setting up an independent third-party managed hotline system for anonymous reporting provides an additional layer of protection while costing less than $2,000 a year,” said Ganesan.

    • Donald

      Where is the actual policy, for review?

      It was not available during the March 22 board meeting for RA members to review and comment. Mooney and Bitzer attempted to delay the motion until the community reviewed it.

      As I recall from what was being discsussed, the motion had the board president and the board officers be the compliance team. That’s what the took a lot of discussion time that evening.

      In the end, Mooney and Bitzer were voted down by the majority of Ganesan, Carr, Bowman, Hebert and White. They didn’t stand a chance.

      So, has anyone seen the policy?

      Donald

      • Ray Wedell

        Donald…of course you are correct here. I had to live it for far too long. This does need to change.

        Your point about, “If I were on staff tight now, I would be scared”: Of course you would be !

        The dynamics of organizations with this much discord and an apparent reign of terror hanging over any “opponent” is as follows: The best people on staff are the ones who are most mobile and most likely to seek (and receive) better job offers elsewhere. It would be the height of naivety to believe this is not already in process!

        In such instances, general information flow slows down, and staff just “plays it safe” to collect a salary, many of whom while waiting for a better opportunity elsewhere. I recently sent an excellent piece from Spencer Rascoff, the Zillow CEO, on the need to stay engaged with employees and allow them to be creative in a meaningful way. Employees hate uncertainty; good employees hate feeling that their ideas mean little, and excellent employees hate that their expressing ideas would more likely be punished or ignored rather than legitimately listened to and perhaps acted upon, in whole or in part.

        What is the genesis for this sudden “whistleblower” action? I must be totally clueless (no need to reply to that, please), but I was unaware that there has been any clarion call to protect “whistleblowers” in RA. And the clever insertion of reporting “improper conduct by the Board” as something people should be encouraged to anonymously report opens up all sorts of possibilities for anonymous people (even other Board members) to attack fellow Board members they dislike or fear. All without the accused having the slightest idea who the accuser is. Comrade Stalin would be proud of such show trials.

        It is so good to know that certain people excel at identifying and punishing everyone else’s sin, yet are blind to their own sins. Rushing this through as they did should make everyone realize who and what we are dealing with here.

        Thank you.

        • Donald

          This voter list still perplexes me.

          Have you or any of the the other candidates thought of filing a complaint with the RA board and/or the Commonwealth’s Ombudsman?

          Donald

        • Sigmund Yung

          Seriously, Ray, get some professional help. Your rants are scaring us. And they can’t be helping your business

          and take Donald with you.

          • Ray Wedell

            Sigmund Yung? Which candidate, or Keystone Kop member, are you? So sorry the truth bothers you and your people, “Sigmund.” I promise to continue to “rant” only truth, as I have been all along. Is that okay with you and your Kitchen Kabinet friends? And I promise to continue posting under my real name, not hide like a cockroach in a dark corner while hurling vindictives. Have a nice day.

    • Doris Dawson

      Press release? I for one do not want to read a press release in regard to a policy that was voted into place without the members or full Board reviewing it. Have they posted the actual policy? I would be happy to read the actual policy. Also the press release also states:

      “Under a new policy established by Reston Association’s Board of Directors, whistleblowers will be able to anonymously report violations of the law, RA’s deed, bylaws and policies or improper conduct to the board.

      On March 22, RA’s board voted to expand the policy, which currently allows violations to be reported up to the level of the CEO. Now, the board will directly hear violations.”

      How does reporting to the Board help? What if the Board is partaking in the wrong doing? The Board played a part in the Lake House deal, so how would someone have reported them? How does the Board plan to investigate objectively? Why was this policy put in place without a 3rd party firm in place? The Board should NOT be part of the reporting process. AGAIN A THIRD PARTY SHOULD BE HANDLING THIS AND THE BOARD SHOULD NEVER BE PART OF THE REPORTING PROCESS!!!!!! This is a very bad idea and will come back to bite them in rear later

      • John Higgins

        Doris, I share your interest in seeing this policy published. It is long-standing practice in RA for such policy to be formalized as a Board Resolution rather than a stand-alone statement labeled “policy”. The unexplained (said with a knowing smile) rush to completion was unfortunate. I read the draft. For the most part its content is boilerplate. There is a need for edits and some substance to be addressed (e.g., it calls for allegations to be referred to an investigative team, whomever that might be, for action) but if the board is okay with getting it 90 percent right, fine. Let’s move on.

        • Donald

          Mr. Higgins,

          I have not seen the draft yet, but if it’s what you say, then yes — I guess we just have to deal with getting things sort of right.

          This board seems to be more interested in the number of deliverables it can produce versus good board governance all hat, no cattle”.

          I actually wonder if they have read the governing documents.

          Donald

        • Ray Wedell

          John, you and I both know this was hammered through on the last Board meeting before the election for reasons that had nothing to do with the best interests of members. It was a crude, blunt, and unsophisticated machiavellian gambit. This will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for those who forced this vote. Move on, maybe. But have a memory like an elephant.

        • John Farrell

          RA resolutions have historically been overly verbose and uselessly long for no good reason and to no good effect.

          A stand alone policy is more understandable to the membership without having to wade through 2-3 pages of “Whereas” clauses referencing obscure provisions of the governing documents typically found in historic RA resolutions.

          • John Higgins

            Gotta love the term “overly verbose”.

            I happen to agree with what you say about the excess language of resolutions. Seems to me it’s better to improve the tool rather than discard it. Why? Something about babies and bath waters.

            If RA has decided to make it easier for members to find things by assembling ad hoc policies in a new category (Other Nifty Things to Know) I can live with that. But I suspect this was not a conscious decision.

          • John Farrell

            Actually, I think it is. It’s a comment I’ve heard from a majority of the Board: the draft resolutions from staff & Chadwick have preambles that are too long and bury the substance of a resolution onto the third page or later.

          • This lifetime?

            I am patiently waiting for you to join the candidate pool for RA board membership.

            Better hurry, I am turning grey and what was once a six pack is now a sixty pack.

          • Regrets

            He tried 6 years ago and was not successful.

            Too bad, too. If he’d been on the Board 3 years ago, we would not have overpaid for the Tetra building and would not have the cost overruns for the renovations.

            RA also would have more proffer money is that was his major campaign issue.

      • Ray Wedell

        I cannot disagree with anything you say, Doris.

        And “90% boiler plate” or not, having a majority Board vote that ignores staff, public, and OTHER BOARD MEMBER input is just plain wrong. They will soon find out that the end does NOT justify the means. The means matter. The means matter a lot.

  • Greg

    So, will this reporting method be used to report covenants violations that the covenants administration department fails to act on?

    • Donald

      Covenants is of zero interest to this board’s majority. I suspect Ganesan, Carr and Bowman want to eliminate the department.

      Donald

      • Greg

        Eliminating that department is a good idea. They are not performing well. Especially Anna Varone, the director of covenants administration, who neither responds to email nor returns phone calls to RA members.

        • Donald

          I would say staff morale is going to be a big issue, if not already.

          Donald

          • Greg

            Had they, especially Anna Varone, done their jobs, their morale would be just fine.

          • Donald

            Why do you blanketly persecute and prosecute all the staff?

            I’ve lived here for decades and all of my dealings with the RA employees have been very good to excellent.

            Donald

          • Greg

            Good for you, but for us, and for many others, that’s not been the case. Thankfully, Fulkerson is gone, Skinner is leaving, and others will follow. The sooner the better.

            Let’s not forget the ballot screw-up that’s been widely reported on here and elsewhere.

          • Donald

            Well, I wonder if the majority of RA members would feel differently? Staff are not the culprits. Just my 2 cents.

            Donald

          • Ray Wedell

            http://www.facebook.com/GrassRootsCandidate.

            For my take on the entire Fulkerson “resignation.”

            This idea that the end justifies the means is long-term poison to our community.

          • Greg

            Fulkerson was fired. And not a moment too soon. Incompetent and overpaid.

          • 30yearsinreston

            Her results live on

          • Donald

            I haven’t read anything that says she was fired. Would you share that information?

            Everything was in executive session. What I watched on the video is a unanimous board vote to hire special counsel. I assume the matters are related, but don’t know the details.

            I know the community would like to know as well.

            Donald

          • Bob Crachet

            So maybe as part of the separation agreement, RA & Fulkerson negotiated the statements to be made on the part of each at the time of the announcement and both sides are trying to comply with the terms negotiated.

            Sheesh, is it really that hard to figure out?

            Get a lamp, Diogenes.

          • Donald

            Well Sparky… it’s all wonderful, speculative hypotheses and hyperbole. But, unless you know what happened in executive session, you don’t really know, do you?

            Donald

          • Greg

            And you won’t. All that matters is that she’s gone. Special counsel was likely retained was to arrange her firing: ensuring no litigation likely with a severance and politically correct reason for her termination.

          • Ray Wedell

            Why is nobody who would do the “firing” say she was “fired,” then? And no reasons given? Other than the usual fare of demeaning vague adjectives, how did she specifically fail her performance evaluation to justify a very small handful of people determining that she “had to go”?

            I realize that process no longer matters, not as long as a certain group can yield power with at least five votes, but I happen to believe that process does matter; right is right and wrong is wrong; and I believe all sorts of other “naive” concepts that were tossed into the trash heap long ago as well.

            Despite my many disagreements with Cate, I stand by my video on both this subject and “traits we should seek in our new CEO”. You can see them on http://www.facebook.com/GrassRootsCandidate

          • Greg

            RA members can, and have, voted. For change. Long overdue change.

            The staff work for the RA; not the other way around.

        • 30yearsinreston

          Another useless ‘director’
          RA is full of them

      • 30yearsinreston

        That would be a good idea

  • EADGBE

    Where do we report the Reston Association?

  • Sherri on top?

    Is this “contractor” a CIA or a DNI/DIA front, and will “whistleblower” bodies ever be found? Fairfax park behind Hebert’s or April Tan’s Bar-B-Q?

×

Subscribe to our mailing list