LAB election irregularities

15.  Notes on conference call of April 28, 2003

Discussion of issues | Discussion of the election

Participants: Chris Kegel, Elissa Margolin, John Allen, Fred Oswald.

Only the last half of this is about the elections. The first half consisted of an airing of issues, characterized by the League President and Executive Director as an attempt to establish dialogue but perceived by John and Fred as being an attempt to soften their opposition to the Board’s actions.

Chris: thanks John and Fred for starting a dialogue. Tentatively he would like the call to last an hour. After an hour, his "ear goes funny." He was thinking of a general agenda as the first way of getting a dialogue going, getting on track to better communication, to frame it with honesty, see what we can do to try to move things forward. He doesn’t question that people have the League’s best interest in mind. Let’s stay away from public humiliation, personal attacks, find a win-win situation.

Elissa: it is inappropriate for her to be involved in Board elections, that is the rule for the staff; we need to establish a strong process and venue to assure a mechanism for ongoing communication and dialog whether a person is on the Board or not. She cares about what Fred and John can bring to the table. Wants to feel that we can bring up issues in the regular course of business, affect outcomes. We need to understand that there is a process, and commitment to process on the side of the Board, anyone with concerns commit to that; people in programs know there is integrity in the process, leave discussion of the election to the second half of the call.

Chris: Discussed how board meetings are scheduled 10 days in advance and some are by phone calls.

John: Talked about why he ran – his main issue was concerns about the Bike-Ed program and in particular, through his reading of the Bike-Ed manual last April — he was appalled with its poor quality. (Long discussion of problems — same points covered as on John’s campaign Web pages.) John noted that Fred Meredith’s Portland LCI certification seminar got good reviews from participants, and that Mike Klasmeier’s leaving the League staff poses a major opportunity. The hire to replace him is very important.

Fred: Next described why he ran – he was looking for public service announcements about how to ride properly, wondering why League didn’t have a canned one. Then he heard about the Bicycle Friendly Communities program under the old criteria – it included nothing about education, the word was used only once in the materials for the program. There was nothing about driving a bicycle, how to build facilities well, nothing about laws, treating bicyclists fairly, rights to use the roads. He complained about this. A year later, Fred asked Mike Klasmeier what had happened to improve the program, got put off; later, Mike implied that people like Fred were "elitists riding alone," and Fred could understand why John Schubert would lose his temper with Mike. Fred took the LCI certification seminar with Steve Schmitt, and found two candidates in the seminar who he considered might be OK as Bike-Ed graduates but were not ready to teach. Later, when Fred heard Schubert and Hoffman being critical about the Bike-Ed seminars, Fred could relate to that. Later in the summer or in the early fall, Fred got a request from Hoffman to run for Regional Director. At first, Fred turned the offer down. Then he thought about it again and agreed to run. He had no expression of interest from the League staff in his efforts for law reform. Elissa didn’t want rating of states — for example, Michigan has bad laws, he would rate as an F, Ohio. D-, Pennsylvania A or B.

A rating that shows what problems are is beneficial. This approach worked in a local community, where Fred got the laws improved. A councilman commented that "I don’t like Brook Park to get an F in anything." That is something that Fred cares about a lot. Bicyclists should be treated as first-class road users. He is disappointed that the League has not taken much interest in that.

John: Spoke about the difference among Bicycle Friendly Communities – saw Madison last June when attending the Bicycle Education Leadership Conference, doesn’t agree with everything done there but can live with it. But lives near Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is making every possible mistake and was rated at one time as a BFC. Fred’s example of a community in Ohio which got the rating though it bans bicycles from three main streets is not acceptable.

Elissa: Wants continued feedback, doesn’t want tough rhetoric and threats, wants to help create opportunities to give presentations to the Board when appropriate – Chris’s approach is about being courteous and respectful, taking the high ground.

About the Bike-Ed Manual, Elissa went back to the education committee in January; the committee is to look at Bike-Ed issues. There has to be a process in working with the committee, not to go back and willy-nilly change things without there being a process. The committee will look at review of the manual after a year. Comments by John Allen or John Schubert or Peter Flucke have yielded a result. Elissa will go back over this when it is time to update again. There is an opportunity to make improvements. These may not address everything on John Allen’s list of concerns, but will have some effect. About laws and ordinances, Elissa sees what’s happening as very positive, found a great resource in Paul Schimek, spent some time with him, then he did presentation at the National Bike Summit.

Fred: the Board didn’t seem interested in doing anything though, following up on Paul’s presentation.

Elissa: Here is where communication is so important, — what she took out of the meeting is that the Board wanted a committee to take these issues out of the main Board meeting — didn’t see this as a League project right now. The meeting was in March, we may not see immediate feedback, a grant has been delayed. She can work with us as we get involved.

John: Pointed out the importance of fair laws for cyclists involved in crashes. In work as an expert witness, has seen cyclists held at fault in crashes where they should not have been, because laws about helmets, headphones, traffic operation did not explicitly state the right that cyclists should have.

Chris: His opinion is that obviously good local laws are extremely important, but he is most comfortable with the League’s being seen as working with all aspects of cycling, governments, charities, foundations. He can appreciate giving out Fs, but wants to keep things as positive as possible, doesn’t want to embarrass people. He doesn’t want to turn people off so they aren’t interested in cycling at all. In his local area, it’s a challenge to get a community going on law reform, where the average age of selectmen is 97.

Fred: has ratings of 60 communities on the Crankmail Web site. You have to criticize what’s wrong, but do it without putting people on the spot. For example, we might compare bicycling instruction with Red Cross swimming instruction. We have to know, and show people, how to avoid mistakes.

Chris: Is familiar with BFC new version. It is much improved

Fred – has a critique of the new BFC on his Web site. He wrote corrections to the new application and ended up with mostly red ink. It is important to treat cyclists as fully legitimate users of the road.

John: is a moderate on facilities issues, as made clear on his campaign Web pages; can see that rail trails serve other constituencies than cyclists, and can’t be judged entirely on their effects for cyclists. Paths may also be useful as shortcuts and for access where there are no roads. Does not condemn all bike lanes; in some situations, they are OK. But won’t cross certain lines, having to do with fairness to cyclists.

Chris: You can come up with good things when you have a good team with the best minds. He wants to get to this. In terms of his leadership with the League, wants to stay respectful, doesn’t have problem with people having strong opinions, but has problem with personal attacks. He saw that when he first came onto this Board. The situation then made him so sick he was ready to leave the Board. The problem was President Earl Jones’s picking on John Schubert in an offensive way. Chris stepped forward to be President even though he felt inadequate because he didn’t have enough time, but agreed to take on that position as long as Board members treat each other respectfully. When "John Schubert started treating people the same way Earl treated him," Chris saw it as his responsibility to stand up to John. It is important for everyone to abide by the same rules. When Chris asked John to step down John did have the option to decline; Chris asked only because John broke the agreement to be respectful and honest. Chris wants to make sure that we’re staying respectful. It’s a high sign of intelligence when we can have differences of opinion but respect each other.

Elissa: Wanted to ask John to recommend his replacement. The problem with him was not the perspective, but his approach. Bill Hoffman took John’s seat, did not want to continue. Bill recommended Tom Helm to succeed him; Tom ran.

Chris: Just wants everyone to get along. He is trying to find a win-win. Elissa also.

Fred: Can we go on to the contentious issues.

Elissa: Wants opportunity to have input – She had 95 people scoring Bicycle Friendly Communities, 20 on the Bicycle Education Leadership Conference committee, Fred and John should make a commitment not to disrupt the process.

Fred: Hadn’t heard that anyone was listening. That raises his frustration level.

Elissa: Wants Fred and John to understand that there are appropriate venues for discussion.

Fred: how do you avoid radicalizing people? That happens if ideas are picked up. By not making mistakes. There are a lot of misconceptions. Fred doesn’t see the League doing things to reduce those.

Elissa: Did get a lot of good ideas. Hasn’t got into the policy project yet. We could have a healthy disagreement on the rating system. She thinks ratings are a very powerful tool. She has perspective on having dismantled the old program and put together the new one, now based more on the carrot than the stick. The majority on the BFC advisory committee works this way.

Fred: Most of things he sees that need to be done take little money.

Elissa: League has a budget around $1.8 million per year. Anything added to that needs another source. The League, through BFC, is committed to the policy project including the traffic ordinances piece. The grant proposal to fund that has been delayed.

John: Will be part of a team if he feels that he is on the team –

Fred: Agrees.

John: And just playing to get Fred and him into the loop isn’t sufficient. They are not the only ones with concerns and with ideas. It’s not only John and Fred, and they will not be comfortable in being singled out to be in the loop while others are not.

Elissa: Having Fred Meredith on the Education Committee has led to fixes. There is a process.

Fred: The frustration is that we see the League doing some things that are detrimental. You can accomplish what you want to without the collateral damage. If you make a criterion for a Bicycle Friendly Community how many miles of bike lanes it has, without saying when they are and aren’t appropriate, that is a problem.

John: Admitted to being plodding and factual.

Elissa: John and Fred can e-mail Elissa at any time. And as to the staff role in the election, the staff has fielded only requests for copies of the ballot to send out, and that is all. She has worked with Bill Hoffman on elections, and understands what can and can’t be done as Executive Director.

Fred: Is also not much of a name caller – if things are wrong, he will say they are wrong.

Elissa: Would prefer to have a call with him rather than have a protest rally at the education conference.

Fred: If we see things going right, we will pat people on the back rather than to complain.

John: Described the issue of speculation about staff improprieties in the election. Reiterated that he had not alleged any improprieties, only reported speculation, which was a fact, and that he had not instigated it. Mike Greehan had said that John had made insinuations.

Chris: The League needs to do things better in future elections, send ballots to another address.

[Elissa signed off at this point]

Fred: Would like to understand how the election problem happened.

Chris: Here is a synopsis of his understanding. In a nutshell, Barbara [Sturges] and a couple other Board members were concerned about the whole overall elections and campaigning, and so talked about what would be needed to help Mark Terman win. Jon Orcutt also touched base, "thought he had things handled" in his own region. They discussed how to put together a campaign. Chris asked the League’s attorneys, is it legitimate for a board member to campaign for another person’s candidacy. The attorney’s opinion was not to support this effort with League money or for an action beyond endorsement in the magazine. If Board members are acting as individuals rather than the Board it is OK. Every individual member has a right. Chris didn’t what to do something that wasn’t right.

Fred: Someone spent a lot of money, at least $1000 for mailing to 3000 addresses.

Chris: Acknowledged that he himself spent the money. Mark wasn’t in a position to campaign for himself.

Fred: Chuck Smith, Chair of the Ohio Bicycle Federation, wrote to Mark Terman and asked how he would represent Ohio cyclists. Mark did not reply.

Chris: "People should vote based on what they think it should be" – Rich Killingsworth is on the nomcom and wanted to have friend on the Board. He also wanted people on the Board to "take the League to the next level."

Chris: Is a believer in democracy, worked to defeat Earl Jones’s campaign to make the Board self-perpetuating. But if you step away from these issues you have a group of League Cycling Instructors who are very vocal, but they may not represent all the members. We don’t know what the votes are going to be. "To me, nobody knows what the vote is going to be, whatever happens happens."

Fred: Let’s get into the big issue. The money spent doesn’t look good. The computer mailing list is another fairness issue.

Chris: Doesn’t disagree. He can see how it happened. He would never consciously try to do something that would be an unfair advantage, and will accept responsibility to make sure things are done right next time.

Fred: This looks like a sneak attack. The mailing for Terman occurred very late in the campaign. Fred sent out 460 postcards, hand-addressed. But the membership number issue is the biggest issue of all. He urges that Chris send out a new letter admitting a mistake and calling a new election.

John: Also is concerned also about the election in his region, because it is very strange to have heard of no campaign effort whatever by his opponent — if the opponent wins, John wants want to know how he did that when John’s campaign felt like one hand clapping. Also, the known and potential improprieties other than that of the Terman letter all apply in my region.

Chris – Let’s try to go to legal precedent. What has been stated is out there. To him, it is very clear in the bylaws that every member has a right to vote, membership number or no.

Fred: The mailing was designed to give Terman an unfair advantage. Fred is going to conclude that the election was stolen.

Chris: If you threaten the humiliation, the League’s reputation, etc., I am not going to be bullied.

Fred: Frankly, you made a big mistake and you are not admitting to it.

Chris: It’s not a mistake. Can’t believe he did anything wrong.

Fred: if the membership number is not necessary, why was it on the ballot? Why don’t you just say it’s a mess? We need a new election, to start out clean, protect the League, the Board, everyone.

Chris: Can’t believe that what the Terman supporters did sounds corrupt. Elissa’s problem is that people that she had set up as impartial bailed on her. Everybody had an opinion. Nobody who seemed impartial was available to count. She went to the by-laws, which said that the highest vote total as certified by an independent organization selected by the Board, and a committee of the Board, would determine the election. The reason we use the League’s law firm is that it is an Illinois firm. To make sure we are running the election in accordance with Illinois law, let’s have a firm that specializes in Illinois law. To take the counting out of the realm of controversy with the League’s staff.

John: The counting should have witnesses.

Chris – no. We would need four people to count, the cost to the League would be high, counting would have to occur when convenient to everyone’s schedules, what if only one person is there. That would make it more difficult.

Fred: now it is a secret process.

Chris: has no problem with reviewing the process of having witnesses. But the Board felt this was not necessary. The "Attorney firm" could jeopardize its license if it acted improperly. It couldn’t take a case on behalf of the League if it had to act as a witness about its own actions.

Chris: Here’s the bottom line. If you wanted somebody to witness the counting – the "attorney firm" is basically validating memberships now. It is disregarding "people’s cats, and people who aren’t League members who might want to vote." There are a few more days before the counting process begins. It is impossible to have an observer to see the ballots before they are open. It is necessary for the Board to certify how ballots are counted. Chris can’t change this. Only the Board can change this. Maybe some Illinois law addresses this kind of issues. Legal opinion has been that although Fred and John have some valid points, nothing in Illinois law would make it proper to have a new election or a recall. If your position is "new elections or I’m suing you, or make your life hell," that’s not trying to be solution-oriented, and I don’t know why I’m having this conversation.

Fred: you’re asking me to accept a very strongly tainted election. I’m not going to give in. If your candidate wins under these conditions, I’m going to conclude that it was stolen. I’d like to work with you and the only way I can see is to start over. There are some mistakes here and there that are less important – the mention of only the Board’s candidates on the League’s Web site, the Board members’ use of the mailing list in digital form – we might overlook those, but you are asking us to capitulate, to trust you after structuring this thing to favor your candidate. I don’t see a way to recover from that short of a new election. You are asking me to capitulate, to swallow hard.

Chris: LCI’s have won the last couple elections. You guys have a lot of power and influence in the League. I just wanted to do something to compensate for it. There are lots of members out there who might not feel as you do, and we reached out to them.

Fred: I don’t see a solution. If there’s anything else you can think of, please let me know. [Call ended at 9:07 PM]

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