Reston Association At-Large Director Eve Thompson resigned from the association’s board of directors on Tuesday, June 6, almost two years before her term was to expire in April 2019.
This is the second director to resign from the RA Board this year. In December 2016, former North Point District Director Dannielle LaRosa announced that she would resign her seat in April 2017, exactly two years before her term was to expire in April 2019.
LaRosa’s seat was added to the spring RA election, where Restonians were invited to vote for three other open seats held by directors who completed their full terms.
Prior to the election, contentious conversations between board members pushed meetings well beyond their scheduled times, some lasting beyond midnight. Meetings were also plagued with raucous relations between board members and the constituents they serve and the association’s staff, as the board grappled with transparency and ethics issues, and a scandal over the association’s handling of the Lake House.
The spring 2017 election was expected to shake up the leadership and give the RA Board a clean slate needed to move forward and shepherd recommended changes resulting from a probe into the Lake House controversy.
RA CEO Cate Fulkerson spoke about the need of establishing a “solid foundation” with her new board during the RA’s 2017 Annual Members Meeting in April where election results were announced.
THOMPSON’S IMMEDIATE RESIGNATION was given in an email to Fulkerson on Tuesday, June 6, according to RA Spokesperson Mike Leone.
While LaRosa attributed her premature exit from the board to the mounting time commitment needed for the job and her desire to spend more of her time with her three young children who are still living at home, Thompson’s reasoning was more condemning.
Though the board changeover was significant — four new members were elected to the nine-member board and there was a complete shuffling of the board’s officer positions — Thompson doubted the board’s ability to govern and make decisions.
“It just made sense,” said Thompson, who runs her own Long and Foster Realtors practice and owns the newly-renovated Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar in the village center with her husband. “It’s a lot of balls to keep in the air. If you’re not able to be productive [as a board member of the RA], then there’s not a lot of point to it.”
The Lake House controversy had much to do with Thompson’s reasoning.
“What happened is a bunch of people who were vehemently opposed to the Lake House are now on the board, and some of them are convinced that something untoward happened, which clearly has been demonstrated that it’s not the case,” she said.
To the surprise of many in the community, the report resulting from a probe conducted by the StoneTurn Group found no conflicts of interest associated with the Lake House throughout the RA’s voter referendum, property acquisition or renovation.
Many in the community, including the Reston 20/20 Committee and Sridhar Ganesan, CEO of Mediaworld Ventures, LLC and president of the Reston Citizens Association, questioned the authenticity of the probe, citing the RA had too much control over the independent investigation.
Ganesan, whose company was initially selected to conduct the investigation, took issue with the contract for the job. He and his company withdrew from negotiations to perform the work in January, telling the Connection that the RA’s contract was “restrictive, affecting independence.” He also said the contract was “punitive.”
Fast forward to a month after the RA spring election and Ganesan was selected as the RA Board’s new treasurer on Thursday, May 25.
“It’s very easy to complain and to obstruct and to stomp your feet and say no, it’s a whole other thing to try and make productive things happen,” Thompson said. “It’s a whole other thing to try and govern.”
Thompson was also referring to a kerfuffle she had with the community earlier this year when RA member Ed Abbott filed a complaint against her in February.
Abbott’s complaint stated that Thompson’s conflicts of interests on file with the RA failed to disclose her ownership of the Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar and her husband Rick Thompson’s position as president of the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association.
The complaint was filed against Eve Thompson after she made favorable public remarks about her husband’s proposal for the RA to help LARCA revitalize the Lake Anne Dock, an RA property. This proposal was presented to the RA Board during a public meeting on Jan. 22.
Her affiliations were not secret. For instance, Rick Thompson went on record with the Connection in an article about the Lake Anne Dock revitalization that published on Jan. 25, where he was attributed as Eve’s husband and the ownership of their Lake Anne business was listed. His interview was conducted well before the Jan. 22 meeting.
Still, her comments rubbed some community members the wrong way because she did not formally disclose her affiliations during the Jan. 22 meeting when the proposal was on the agenda.
SINCE THEN, all RA capital projects and ideas for new projects have been frozen while the association determines how to update its policies and procedures in accordance with the Lake House probe’s recommendations, rendering the idea to make changes to the dock dead in the water.
Instead, the RA will just remove sediment and replace the dock like-for-like as a maintenance project.
In the meantime, Thompson hopes the RA will conduct a call for candidates to fill her seat.
“You’re sure that you’re getting people who are interested and not just recruiting sort of cronies for the seat, and that way you get a completely transparent process,” she said. “That’s what should happen.”
Discussion about the process for filling Thompson's at-large seat will be discussed by the RA Board Operations Committee on Monday, June 12, after deadline for this paper. In a press statement, Fulkerson also said the matter will be discussed during the regular June 22 meeting of the association’s board.
“I wish them all the very, very best and I have to trust that — like me — they all want the best for Reston,” Thompson said.