News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dissent Soon To Be Crushed With Super-Secret RA Star Chamber Thingy, Or Most Likely Not (Updated)

Stonecutter initiationSo maybe all the talk about goats and bocce of late have been a textbook example of willful misdirection. While we've all been hand-wringing about memorial gardens and whatnot, a shadowy "consultant" has been recommending the creation of a star chamber governance committee that would help select potential Reston Association Board members.

In a "web log" post, John Lovaas described this proposal:

Since July, Board members, along with a consultant brought in by the CEO, have been skirmishing about the Governance Committee which would sit at the very top of the pyramid of RA committees. This ruling committee would be in addition to the existing Board Planning Committee which currently sets the agenda for Board meetings and is responsible for strategic planning. The Governance Committee would absorb several of its functions, including strategic planning. This new Committee would consist exclusively of Board President, VP, Secretary, and the CEO, whereas the Planning Committee is much more broadly representative. This concentration of power, including decision authority, is one reason why Board members have not reached agreement yet.

In addition, the proposal calls for Governance to have extraordinary powers, such as “succession planning”, including picking a “pool” of people who would be eligible for election to the Board; naming a slate of approved (endorsed?) candidates for election and orienting them to RA before the election is even held; and, establish[ing] a Board code of conduct and conflict of interest rules.

Certainly a code of conduct and more effective conflict of interest prohibitions seem to be in order after events of the last two years. The land swap in effect transferring an acre of Reston community upland hardwood trees for private use as a parking lot is one prime example. But, putting conflict of interest and code of conduct matters in the hands of the three officers and CEO does not seem the best solution. Independent, third party help with appropriate credentials is needed, as is broader Board participation.

And, the proposal to put Board succession into the hands of incumbents—deciding who is eligible, picking a Board-blessed slate—is inconsistent with our community values and downright anti-democratic. I am not 100% sure where this idea originated, but it is a bad one and should be returned to sender.
RA Board Chair Ken Kneuven responded:
While the proposed Board Governance Committee will help to generate interest in running for the board and serving on the RA board of directors, the membership of Reston is still responsible for electing those who lead them. Helping to ensure a viable pool of candidates exists only strengthens the choices the community has when voting every Spring.
Just what you'd expect them to say, right?

Actually, given the fact that RA board elections have just as often been unopposed as contested in recent years, identifying more people who want to throw their hat in the ring isn't necessarily a bad idea. But as with goats and bocce courts, the devil's in the details. Also, apparently this was discussed at a working meeting last week, but who knows what happened since the last meeting minutes posted were from the end of July, the end.

Update: Our BFFs at Reston2020 helpfully point out that most of the most egregious language has now been gutted from the proposal.


  1. Eddie from North PointOctober 1, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Thank you John Lovaas for bringing this to light. I don't even know where to begin to point out many of the obvious conflicts raised by this proposal. For starters, why is the CEO even involved in this? It seems like a way for the Reston leadership to ensure they will have a board friendly to their interests.

    How does the board find the money for these consultants and select them?I googled the consultant involved here,"BoardSource", and I suggest others do the same. It seems like a pretty self serving group and not at all independent.
    I've got my eye on this one, and others hould as well. This is local governance at it's worst.

  2. I'd like to know too, how they employ these consultants to tell them what they want to hear. It's our money! This proposal really smells fishy, and it is on our dime no less!

  3. I can't belive I am reading this......what an abuse of power!

    So let me get this straight, the CEO brings in a proposal to concentrate all of the decision making and governance into 1 small commitee, that she will basically run with no oversight, and then emplys a consultant to back up this scheme.....really?

    I think we need some change at the top, and show this CEO the door.

    Thanks for bringing daylight to this one. I think the Washington Post might be interested in this one, when I bring it to them.

  4. Interesting that BoardSource's entire executive team is female.......hmmmm.....just sayin"

    1. Sorry, don't follow. Many concerns here, and gender isn't really one of them.

  5. I watched the Youtube on this meeting and it was way less dangerous sounding that John Lovaas' blog made it sound. Its just another committee reporting back to the full board.

    I think there were some poorly defined aspects to this that were discussed and changed. It was a very adult and thoughtful discussion with seemingly healthy dissent among the board members. I think this is a little bit of a red herring.

    1. I have no doubt it's well-intentioned, perhaps even necessary in the eyes of the RA Board. However, anything that looks like a hand-picked slate of candidates chosen in secret would fail the smell test in most places. And it probably should.

    2. @Anonymous 9:37: No "little bit of a red herring" at all, this is highly suspicious. Sunshine is a great disinfectant, and RA needs to get a real good sunburn for this stunt. Thanks to John Lovass for bringing this to our attention.


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