Saying Reston Association cannot continue on its current path in collecting assessments, At-Large Director Ray Wedell is presenting ideas for modifying the system.
“This has been a scuttlebutt for many years,” Wedell said as he delivered his presentation Thursday night at the Reston Association Board of Directors meeting. “We have a proposal on the table — it can be altered, can be changed, can be ignored if you want to ignore it. But something has to be out to start the discussion.”
Wedell’s proposal would see higher-value properties pay one and a half times the average assessment rate, and lower-value properties would pay half the rate. In each case, the largest amount of units would continue to pay the average rate.
Three separate options were provided by Wedell. In each, the highest-value properties would pay one and a half times the assessment rate, while lowest-value properties would pay only half the rate. With an assessment rate of $704, that would create tiered payments of $352, $704 and $1,056.
In the three options presented by Wedell, the lowest-valued property that could fall into the 150 percent rate category is $550,000. The highest-valued property that could fall into the half-rate category is $275,000.
Wedell said under the current system, 3.1 percent of units do not pay the flat rate, as subsidized properties are already offered a 50 percent assessment reduction. The director said those units would not be part of any policy change and would continue to pay their current rate.
Any policy change would be revenue-neutral, Wedell said, meaning the same total amount would be collected. He also added that altering the structure would “adhere to Reston’s time-honored principle to be fair and equitable to all members.”
Wedell has taken the idea upon himself as a personal initiative. It is not a current priority of the board, Vice President Michael Sanio clarified for meeting attendees.
“We appreciate our members pursuing various issues,” Sanio said. “This particular one is something that Ray has had a real interest in.”
The data provided Thursday by Wedell were only in the form of a presentation to the board; no action was taken.
Changing the assessment formula would require an amendment to the Reston Deed. That would require approval from the Board of Directors, at least 30 percent voter turnout on a referendum, and at least two-thirds approval on that vote.
“These are high hurdles, but it’s not something we should run away from,” Wedell said. “I think it’s time for us to put this on the table.”
At tonight’s meeting of the Reston Association Board of Directors, At-Large Director Ray Wedell will present his proposal for re-calculating annual assessment fees for Reston Association members.
Wedell first brought the topic before the RA Board at their July 28 meeting. In a statement, text of which can be found on Pages 5 and 6 of the meeting’s minutes, Wedell said he had “reached [his] tolerance limit for turning a blind eye toward some of the extremely regressive policies within the Reston tax system.”
Specifically, Wedell said, he finds the flat rate for assessments to Reston Association members to be “hopelessly flawed.”
“Everywhere we look, the RA fee is the same $657/year [in 2016] I see for everyone, regardless of the home and location. This is so wrong. We all know it. Yet if I mention this to many of our citizens, some change the subject and others are stone silent. Maybe they assume that any changes would result in higher assessments for them and personal economics often have a way of overriding people’s sense of public purpose. I get it.”
Wedell said he sees that “those getting the shorter of end of the stick in this situation have little or no voice.”
“Imagine living in a city which has beautiful gated communities with city-funded lakes, trails, fields, etc., as well as other neighborhoods which have fewer of these amenities. Then imagine the city tax policy says that people living in these gated communities pay the same annual assessment/taxes as those living in a one-bedroom high-rise area which has little access for the very amenities they are subsidizing for the gated communities’ upkeep and improvements.”
In response to Wedell’s statement, CEO Cate Fulkerson directed staff to look into the issue and report back with assessment breakdown possibilities. Staff has been working with Wedell on the proposal to “identify possible alternates that may be more balanced and equitable to members,” according to information provided from the Feb. 6 meeting of the Board Operations Committee.
This and other issues on tonight’s agenda will be discussed beginning at 6:30 p.m. at RA Headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).
The Reston Association Board of Directors will consider Thursday releasing $200,000 in funds allocated to the Central Services Facility renovation, which staff says is needed to get the process moving before costs increase further.
Garrett Skinner, RA’s capital projects director, will address the board at its meeting this week on the status of the project. It was put on hold in June when the board recommended such large-scale projects be paused until the Tetra/Lake House independent review was conducted. The remainder of funds allocated in 2016 for the project was carried forward to the 2017 budget.
Costs of the Central Services project, primarily in construction, have increased by about 10 percent because of the delay, according to RA staff. According to notes provided to the board in their agenda packet:
“With the increased demand for construction observed in the Dulles Corridor and greater Washington region, staff is concerned that pricing for labor and materials will continue to increase and requests the Board’s permission to lift the hold on the Architecture and Engineering Project Phase in order to secure AE consultant services to develop detailed construction drawings and permitting documentation needed to officially bid out the construction phase of the project and obtain detailed cost estimates for the Implementation & Construction Phase.”
At the meeting, the board will be asked to “move to release $200,831 of the total $1,553,185 remaining balance for the Central Services Facility renovation project to fund Architecture & Engineering so that the Board can consider Construction Estimates by the end of Q2 2017,” according to the agenda packet.
The budget for consultants on the project includes about $47,000 for architectural work, $50,000 for engineering and $95,000 for project management.
Other items on the agenda for Thursday evening’s meeting include the following:
- A “Proposal for Modified Ad Valorem Assessment Policy” will be presented by At-Large Director Ray Wedell. The proposed policy would replace the current flat-rate assessment for RA members with a formula that Wedell says would be “more fair and equitable to members.”
- The Lake Newport soccer field project, proposed by Reston Soccer, will be available for discussion by members and the board. (In an email to concerned citizens Tuesday, CEO Cate Fulkerson said the RA Board of Directors will not take the project to referendum this spring; however, time will be allowed Thursday for comment because of input recently received from the community.)
- A Conflict of Interest complaint against Director Eve Thompson, filed by Ed Abbott, will be considered.
- The fiscal ramifications of the Reston Transportation Funding Plan to RA itself will be discussed.
- A public hearing will be held on the potential RA membership of the Sunrise Square cluster.
- The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will present its 2017 Work Plan.
- The Environmental Advisory Committee will present its pedestrian lighting recommendations.
- The 2018-19 budget development calendar will be proposed.
The Reston Association Board of Directors will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at RA Headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).
Chart showing Central Services Facility renovation consulting costs via Reston Association
Eleven candidates in total are seeking seats on the nine-member board. Votes will be cast by residents between March 6 and April 3. Election winners will be announced at the RA board’s April 11 meeting, with the new board to be sworn in the following day.
Residents will be able to ask the candidates questions during the forums:
- North Point: Wednesday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. (Lake House, 11450 Baron Cameron Ave.)
- Hunters Woods/Dogwood: Thursday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. (RA Headquarters, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive)
- At-Large: Thursday, March 9, 7:30 p.m. (RA Headquarters, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive)
(There will be no candidate forum for the Apartment Owners’ Representative. David Bobzien is unopposed for the seat.)
Candidates in the three contested races are listed below:
- North Point: Arlene Krieger and John Mooney
- Hunters Woods/Dogwood: Syazana Durrani and Victoria White
- At-Large: Roberto Anguizola, Eric Carr, Mike Collins, Charles Dorfeuille, Ven Iyer and HeidiAnne Werner
More information about each candidate is available at the Reston Association website.
Member Assessment is Due March 1 — In case you’ve forgotten, there is only a week and a half left to pay member assessments. Reston Association’s Member Services office will be open additional hours (Saturday, Feb. 25, from 9 a.m.-noon; and Wednesday, March 1, from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.) if you need to take advantage of them. Fees can also be paid online. [Reston Association]
South Lakes High Track & Field Stars Advance to States — Olivia Beckner, Sean Casey, Ronak Cuthill, Mary Gregory, Sophie Halkett, Devyn Jones, Alex Loukili, Timiebi Ogobri, Aly Rayle, Peter Sepulveda, Jack Watkins and Dont’a Whitley will all represent the Seahawks at the state Indoor Track and Field Championships next weekend in Hampton. [Reston Patch]
Metro Call Center Hours Reduced Starting Next Month — Citing a five-year decline in call volume, Metro’s Customer Information Call Center will cut its hours of availability beginning March 1. Metro says fewer customers are using the call center as they rely more on sources of information including mobile apps and social media. [WMATA]
Beavers have long been a part of the Glade Stream Valley, but Reston Association is working to make sure they don’t cause destruction for nearby residents in the form of damaged trees and flooding.
“It would be hard to find a better example in Reston of a healthy, diverse, native ecosystem than the two beaver wetlands (Glade Valley and Bright Pond),” reads information provided by Claudia Thompson-Deahl, senior environmental resource manager. “Reston’s beaver wetlands are one of the few places in Reston where nature is able to thrive despite all the surrounding suburban pressures.”
Beavers, however, bring a “dramatic change” to the surrounding environment, so Reston Association has developed a beaver management policy.
According to Thompson-Deahl, additional fencing is being installed to keep Glade beavers out of residents’ yards and off wooded slopes, and many individual trees have been protected with wire mesh to safeguard the pathway.
In the long term, Reston Association staff, with input from residents and wildlife experts, has developed and implemented guidelines for beaver management in the area. The primary goal is to find methods to preserve and protect substantial portions of the stream valley from beaver activity. To do so, staff plan to divide the valley into two sections.
- Section 1, designated as a “Beaver Management Area,” will consist of stream valley that runs from Twin Branches Road to the bridge behind Leatherwood Drive that leads to the Hunting Horn Lane Tot Lot.
- Section 2, running from Hunting Horn Tot Lot to Soapstone Drive, will be managed as a wooded stream valley.
Section 1 contains residential property, utility easements and recreational facilities. With that in mind, according to Thompson-Deahl, fencing and pipes will be used to protect those areas. Three-foot wire-mesh fencing will protect and areas threatened by beaver activity, in the attempt to ensure continuous tree cover between Twin Branches Road and Soapstone Drive. In addition, over 100 Bald Cypress trees have been planted, with wire-mesh caging around each one.
In Section 2, beaver activity will be discouraged with fencing and stream gates. According to provided information, beavers in that area “will be removed” by a licensed trapper if the discouragement fails.
According to Thompson-Deahl, beavers provide positive attributes to the ecosystem including a reduction in stream erosion, reservoirs of water during period of drought and freeze, and the creation of wetlands that support a large amount of plant and other animal life.
“Both Reston’s residents and the Reston Association value encouraging a healthy, diverse community of plants and animals to thrive in Reston’s natural areas,” she writes. “Therefore, it makes sense to reach a compromise and create a beaver management plan that allows the beavers to stay in some areas while keeping them out of others.”
RA’s website offers more information about the beaver population in Reston and how it is managed. For help with issues related to beavers or other wildlife, call 703-435-6547.
As we do each year, my wife and I paid our Reston Association assessment this week.
Typically, after we’ve paid our dues, we reflexively take the opportunity to purchase our annual pool and tennis passes — our family’s favorite RA benefit. This year, however, we were taken aback by an unsettling new RA requirement that would-be pool-goers provide RA with digital photos of each family member, including children, to be stored in an RA database. The logic, as I learned after a call to RA, is that the database would allow RA employees to retrieve photos on demand to visually verify paid-up pool and tennis users.
RA exercises considerable authority to impose on its members in the name of cluster design uniformity or infrastructural upgrading, and does so often at great expense and questionable necessity. This new imposition, however, is akin to an inverse Reston Association photo ID. It is an unnecessary, perturbing and frankly outrageous invasion of personal privacy.
Events of the past year have unequivocally illustrated that we live in an era of digital uncertainty, one in which we struggle with vexing issues like hacking and identity theft. Sadly, no amount of precautionary behavior can be air-tight. But for those of us who go out of our way to protect our privacy online, this needless invitation of additional risk, especially for children, is unconscionable.
Some may argue that thousands of RA members already willingly provide digital images of themselves either on social media or for health club memberships. But to suggest that RA’s new requirement is analogous to making a personal choice about posting on Facebook or joining a gym is mistaken.
For one thing, choosing to post on social media or join a gym with a photo requirement is just that, a choice. RA members have no choice to pay their annual assessment, lest a lien be placed on their property. While voluntarily purchasing the additional pool passes is also a choice, suggesting that this is the same as the scenarios above also misses the point.
Aquatics and tennis represent roughly 13 percent of RA’s total expenses. Since a portion of each RA member’s required annual assessment is used to maintain pools and tennis courts, RA members make compulsory, not just voluntary, payments for their pools and tennis courts. Because of these compulsory payments alone, we deserve access to those facilities. The additional user fee for passes is reasonable, but making access to passes contingent on providing RA with a digital photo of one’s children is an unreasonable and startling invasion of privacy.
I can certainly appreciate the desire for RA to ensure that only those who have purchased a pool pass can use Reston’s pools, but surely there must be a better way of achieving that without invading the privacy of children. One alternative could be to require adult pool and tennis users to present a picture ID, such as a driver’s license, when signing into use those facilities. Under the circumstances, it’s unclear how such a simple solution could have been cast aside before moving forward as proposed.
Moreover, one need only consider the trouble with which multinational corporations and even the United States Government (each with far deeper pockets than RA) have struggled to secure customer or employee personal information to become anxious about RA’s ability to secure similar information. And this says nothing of the questionable cost involved with equipping seasonal employees with the technology necessary to access the proposed photo database; a cost that will no doubt be borne by assessment-paying RA members in 2018.
Plainly speaking, I consider this proposal to be a deeply disturbing invasion of privacy. I not only question the wisdom and judgment of requiring children’s photos to be placed in a RA database for the purposes of using a community pool, but also the legal authority with which RA could pursue such a requirement. One must wonder if the RA Board has considered the risk and likely consequences of a security breach.
Each year, my family proudly pays our RA assessment knowing that we generally get an excellent return on investment for the money we contribute. Unfortunately, this ill-conceived new requirement places an unwelcome invasion of privacy between my family and our desire to take advantage of RA’s most attractive member benefit: its pools and tennis courts. Worse still, it exhibits a clear and unacceptable disregard for personal privacy on the part of the RA Board.
I strongly encourage the Board to reconsider this new rule before the 2017 pool season begins.
Many Reston residents turned out Thursday afternoon to give their two cents to the forensic accounting firm tasked with analyzing the cost overruns associated with Reston Association’s purchase of the Tetra/Lake House facility.
Deirdre Flaherty, partner and co-founder of the StoneTurn Group, joined RA Vice President Michael Sanio and Eric Carr, chair of RA’s Tetra Review Committee, on a panel to hear statements from Reston citizens. StoneTurn has been contracted by the Reston Association Board of Directors at a cost not to exceed $45,000 to conduct their review by the end of February.
The forum was structured loosely, with members provided three minutes to take the podium and speak individually, or five minutes to speak on behalf of a group. It broke down into informal conversation throughout, however, as residents asked questions from the audience and demanded answers regarding what exactly the firm is planning to find — and how those findings will be presented.
“The intention is to make the report public when it is finished,” Sanio said when pressed about how the findings would be shared with the community. “That’s why we have the consultant doing the work.”
Many residents shared their skepticism about the transparency of the review process, though.
“It is vitally important… that your final report is published, unaltered and unredacted,” said Dick Stillson, who was a member of the MediaWorld group that had offered to do the work for a fee of $1. Negotiations ended, Stillson said, in part over RA’s requirement that findings be confidential. “There is no way that the community will have confidence in the work that you’ve done, or in fact that the board really did ask for an independent review of the Tetra purchase, if that report is not published in its complete form and made available to the community.”
RA members voted in a referendum in May 2015 to allow the association to purchase the Tetra property for $2.6 million — a cost more than double its tax assessment. Renovations made on the property, which were expected to cost $259,000, ended up costing nearly three times that. RA has since opened the renovated facility as The Lake House.
The goal of the review, according to Reston Association, is to “identify areas for process improvement, potential changes to internal controls and/or modification to governance procedures to help ensure situations like the Lake House cost overrun can be avoided in the future.” Sanio said the goal is twofold: to determine what transpired during the Tetra purchase and to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.
Several residents at the meeting inquired why the StoneTurn contract was not made available on the Reston Association website for public review; the 13-page document was later added to the site.
Flaherty told residents she is extremely confident the review will be completed to its scope and within the time frame allotted. Some residents, though, questioned how intricacies of the matter including culpability, conflicts of interest and potential law-breaking would be handled.
“The scope of our work isn’t to do that right now,” Flaherty said. “[But] whatever we see will be divulged.”
While Flaherty said it is not the reviewer’s responsibility to go to the authorities with any evidence of illegal activity, both Sanio and Carr said they would do so if necessary.
Terry Maynard, of the Reston 20/20 Committee, said a “vigorous investigation” is needed to get to the bottom of “the greatest leadership crisis in the history of the Reston Association.”
“Never have so many people in Reston’s leadership on the RA Board of Directors and among its senior staff behaved so unethically if not outright illegally,” Maynard said. “[They have] demonstrated such complete incompetence in analyzing and managing the finances of a single RA project, and used secrecy behind a legal facade to protect the guilty while so neglecting the interests of the community.”
Sanio said members of the RA board have endured a lot of negativity from the community throughout the process.
“I’ve heard lots of accusations, I’ve read accusations, some of them unfounded, and I think for those that serve on the board as volunteers, you’ve put those individuals that commit untold hours in your service into a very, very difficult position,” he said. “I would urge you to reflect on that. These are your peers in the community, and they’ve stepped forward to be helpful. … I think that those that have stepped forward deserve the respect.”
“We too are looking for answers as well, and I’m confident with the competency of the StoneTurn group and Dee (Flaherty) here, that we’ll get what we need,” he said.
But Dennis Hays, of the Reston Citizens Association board, said the meeting didn’t clear up many of the issues people have about the process. In fact, he said, the opposite occurred.
“I’m more concerned now at the end of this meeting than I was in the beginning,” he said. “If we get a report that just says, ‘Here’s what we need to do in the future,’ then we have wasted $45,000.”
Anyone with comments to share who was unable to attend Thursday’s community session is encouraged to email [email protected].
Roads in Good Shape for Morning Commute — The Virginia Department of Transportation says overnight winds assisted road crews by drying most of the region, but low pavement temperatures will quickly refreeze any additional moisture. [VDOT]
Animal Protection Police Come to the Rescue — The Fairfax County Police Department shared a photo Thursday of a raccoon that got tangled up while trying to get into a bird feeder in Reston. Police said “No harm, no fowl!” — [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]
RA Committees to Meet Next Week — The Reston Association meeting schedule for the week of Feb. 13-17 includes meetings of the Board Governance, Elections, 55+ Advisory, Covenants and Multimodal Transportation Advisory committees. [Reston Association]
(Updated Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. after a third candidate withdrew from the election)
Three of the 14 people who were registered to run for the Reston Association Board of Directors in this year’s election will not be on the ballot.
Don Wright, who was announced as a candidate for the North Point seat, and Hank Schonzeit and Kevin Witt, who were both announced candidates for the Apartment Owners’ seat, have withdrawn.
A six-person race for an At-Large seat remains, along with two-person races for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood and North Point seats. David Bobzien now finds himself unopposed in the race for Apartment Owners’ Representative.
Remaining candidates are:
At-Large Director (3-year term)
Hunters Woods/Dogwood District Director (3-year term)
North Point District Director (2-year term)
Apartment Owners’ Representative (3-year term)
More information about each candidate is available at the Reston Association website.
The At-Large seat is currently held by Jeff Thomas; the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat, by Lucinda Shannon; and the apartment owners’ seat, by board president Ellen Graves.
Graves has reached her two-term limit. Neither Thomas nor Shannon, who are each coming to the end of their first term, applied for re-election.
The North Point District seat is currently held by Danielle LaRosa. LaRosa was elected in 2016 but will resign at the end of her first year. The person elected to fill the seat, either Krieger or Mooney, will serve the remaining two years on the existing term.
Votes will be cast by residents between March 6 and April 3. Election winners will be announced at the RA board’s April 11 meeting, with the new board to be sworn in the following day.
The four electees will join five returning members of the board: Vice President Michael Sanio (At-Large), Secretary Eve Thompson (At-Large), Sherri Hebert (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks), Julie Bitzer (South Lakes) and Ray Wedell (At-Large).
After a community input meeting Wednesday night on improvements to Lake Newport soccer fields, the Reston Soccer Association has requested the postponement of a Design Review Board session slated for later this month.
The proposal from Reston Soccer would include the installation of artificial turf fields, LED lighting and a clubhouse building at the fields. All would be paid for by Reston Soccer, but the project would need to be approved by member referendum.
Robert Anguizola, Reston Soccer president, said in an email to Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson that concerns of residents in the area deserve more time for consideration:
“During the community input meeting [Wednesday] night, we heard that many residents in the clusters surrounding the fields felt that they did not have adequate notice of the community meeting and the upcoming DRB Information Session. We also heard pleas from many for more time to absorb our proposal and to further engage with their neighbors, RA and Reston Soccer. That seems like a reasonable request and for that reason we respectfully request postponement of the February 21 DRB Information Session on the Lake Newport Soccer proposal.”
Video of the meeting is available on the Reston Association YouTube channel.
According to Mike Leone, RA’s communications director, Reston Association will inform residents of the communities that the presentation has been postponed.
Anguizola said Reston Soccer “looks forward to further engagement with the community on this important project” and would renew its request for a DRB information session later this year.
Tennis court upgrades, a proposed agenda item for the February meeting of the Reston Association Board of Directors, could cost nearly $800,000.
Garrett Skinner, RA’s director of capital projects, will bring the item before the RA’s Board Operations Committee at their meeting tonight. The BOC reviews and sets agenda items for the Board of Directors.
According to information provided in the agenda packet for tonight’s BOC meeting:
“During its December 15, 2016 meeting, Vice President [Michael] Sanio noted that tennis amenities are in need of improvement and requested that the board consider developing cost estimates for improvements including lighting, bathroom access and drinking fountains. The attached lighting and bathroom access cost estimates are based historical data and submitted costs from contractors. Costs for water fountains are rough estimates based on extrapolated estimates from Fairfax Water and unit cost estimation for construction. More concrete estimates will need to be developed based on design criteria needed for each location.”
Reston has 13 tennis facilities, six of which are lighted. The proposal has prioritized the five most in need of improved bathroom access; four most in need of improved water fountains; and four most in need of improved lighting, concurrent with planned court renovations.
The Shadowood facility (2201 Springwood Drive) is listed as Priority 1 for each category.
The cost estimates show improved lighting could cost a total of $624,000. The upgrades to water fountains and bathrooms could cost $108,000 and about $50,000, respectively.
Skinner will also give an update to the BOC on the status of the Central Services facility renovation. Scheduled to cost about $1.6 million, the project was put on hold last year pending review of the Tetra/Lake House purchase.
Pending BOC approval, the items will be placed on the agenda of the Feb. 23 meeting of the Board of Directors.
Graph via Reston Association
Updated at 6:25 p.m. after the meeting time was changed from 3-5 p.m. to 3-8 p.m.
Reston Association members will have their chance later this week to address the firm hired by the RA Board of Directors to review costs associated with the Lake House purchase.
StoneTurn Group LLC will conduct the meeting Thursday from 3-8 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). It was announced at the RA board’s Jan. 27 meeting that the firm would conduct a review of the board’s handling of the property, at a cost of $45,000.
RA members voted in a referendum in May 2015 to allow the association to purchase the Tetra property for $2.6 million — a cost more than double its tax assessment. Renovations made on the property, which were expected to cost $259,000, ended up costing nearly three times that.
In accordance with RA’s request for proposal document, StoneTurn Group is focused on “identify[ing] areas for process improvement, potential changes to internal controls and/or modification to governance procedures to help ensure situations like the Lake House cost overrun can be avoided in the future,” according to a press release from Reston Association.
The renovated Lake House was opened to members last year, and the association is actively promoting the facility to individuals and businesses looking to lease the space.
As with the member-comment period during RA board meetings, members who would like to speak at Thursday’s meeting will be given three minutes (individuals) or five minutes (if representing a group).
Reston Association is expanding its Volunteer Reston Service Awards in 2017 to include more recognition categories. Nominations opened Jan. 27 and can be made through March 17.
RA’s service awards recognize individuals, families, groups and businesses that make a significant contribution to the community through volunteer service.
The 2017 awards winners will be announced at a special ceremony during National Volunteer Week, Thursday, April 27, from 6:30-9 p.m. at The Lake House.
Every year, hundreds of Reston volunteers give their time to make a difference in the lives of those around them. RA volunteers participate in community cleanup and environmental events; take shifts at community events and festivals; serve on the RA Board of Directors, advisory committees and working groups; and others provide daily operational support to the association.
Completed nomination forms should be brought to the RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) and left for Ha Brock, RA’s volunteer supervisor. They can also be mailed in or emailed to [email protected].
Photo via Reston Association
This is an op-ed submitted by Ed Abbott, co-coordinator of Reston Recall. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.
Reston Association still lacks a Code of Ethics, but we know a conflict of interest when we see one.
Eve Thompson, Director At-Large, and her husband, Rick, own the Lake Anne Coffee House as well as their condo at Lake Anne. Her husband, Rick, heads the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association (LARCA), which represents the owners of commercial and private properties in Lake Anne.
One of many items on a very crowded agenda at the last board meeting was a discussion of improvements to the Lake Anne docks, above and beyond the necessary repairs that are already in the budget. Mr. Thompson explained the project to the board with a very nice slideshow. He showed the board the location of the new docks and what a nice improvement they would make to the ambience of Lake Anne.
Unfortunately, neither Mr. Thompson nor Ms. Thompson, nor anyone else for that matter, volunteered the information that the presenter was the spouse of Director Eve Thompson. Nor did the Board discuss the possible conflict of interest inherent in having the husband of a board member present before the board as president of a condominium association seeking to get the RA to spend RA members’ money on a new capital spending project that would primarily benefit the property owners and businesses of Lake Anne.
A motion was introduced to hold a public hearing related to the proposed capital improvements of the docks. When Eve Thompson started to speak in favor of the motion, Director Lucinda Shannon raised the issue of Ms. Thompson’s conflict of interest. Ms. Thompson retorted that her ownership of a condo and a coffee house at Lake Anne were not conflicts.
So what are the obligations of directors when it comes to conflicts of interest (COI)? First and foremost, the COI statement must be complete and accurate, signed under penalty of being removed from the board. What does Ms. Thompson disclose about her potential conflicts? Not a whole lot. Her ownership of the Lake Anne Coffee House isn’t included. Nor is her husband’s connection to the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association.
Just to be clear, the statement requires that “all assets… located in Reston or involved in Reston-based activities” be listed. Ms. Thompson’s statement was incomplete and inaccurate when she signed it in April 2015, and it is still incomplete and inaccurate.
Since most directors are property owners in Reston, potential conflicts of interest are inevitable when the board conducts business. The right way for the RA board to handle these issues would be for a director to disclose a potential conflict up front, before the discussion starts. The other members of the board and/or counsel can then decide if it is appropriate for the director to participate or if she should recuse herself.
The worst way for a board to conduct business is for the director to fail to disclose a potential conflict and then disagree about it when called on it by another director.
If the board is so lackadaisical in enforcing its own COI rules, what other conflicts and self-dealing has occurred or is occurring? The Tetra property purchase comes to mind. This may be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We may never know unless we change the membership of the board.