News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Moldgate at Lake Anne: A sordid tale of recriminations, coverups... and Bingo nights

Who knew so much was festering behind the seemingly placid mauve facades of Lake Anne Fellowship Square? Lawsuits, allegations and counter-allegations, stolen newspapers, Bingo nights and... mold. Icky black mold. So says a former employee of the center, who's suing to get his job back.

A lawsuit filed by Oliver Thomas against the Fellowship Square Foundation for reinstatement of employment alleges a deteriorating heating and cooling system in the two Lake Anne Fellowship buildings.

Thomas was hired by the Fellowship Square Foundation as the chief of maintenance for both buildings on April 1, 2003. He was fired in August 2007 in what he believes was retaliation for his vocal concerns about mold and bacteria growing in the building's infrastructure.
Fellowship Square management has since come forward and said that they've tested the air, and it's as fresh and clean as a mauve-colored whistle. In the meantime, local residents are organizing.
Muenzer said the tenants lack any sort of association.

“We have nothing here. We have bingo on Tuesdays,” she said.
Or at least trying to organize:
Thomas and his lawyer, Henry Fitzgerald, have organized an informational meeting for invited residents in the meantime at the Lake Anne Reston Community Center on Friday. In addition to those invitations, Thomas slipped an informational packet on mold that included the article in last week's Times under the door of most of the residents, he said.

That article may not have been read by most of the residents, as The Times received several complaints from Fellowship House residents that the paper was not delivered last week.

Garrett said he was unaware of staff removing the papers, which are normally delivered in a stack to the lobby.

Mary Muenzer, a resident of the Lake Anne Fellowship House, said there have been no copies of The Times in the lobby rack since Wednesday, the day the article was published.

“We have a right to those newspapers,” she said.
As a former president once learned the hard way, it's not about the crime; it's the coverup. And this goes all the way to the top! Or to the county board of supervisors, anyway.
On Sept. 24, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) entered a board matter titled “Regulating Mold” that asked the Board of Supervisors to ask staff to research existing statutes to determine what legal or oversight options exist to “protect our most vulnerable citizens.”

Hudgins cites a notification about “mold concerns in residential dwellings, notably a senior facility,” for her interest in the matter.
The county investigated, and it turns out there was mold after all. But it's apparently nothing a bottle of Clorox can't take care of!
Fairfax County zoning enforcement inspector Bruce Miller inspected the building after Thomas' complaint shortly after his termination in August.

Though mold and dust were found, it is not a criminal matter, nor is it regulated by the county, said county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald. The only action the county will take is in the form of a recommendation.

“In cases like this we make recommendations that it be cleaned with a mild bleach solution,” she said.
Great idea! We'll grab the squeegie.

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