City of Seattle
In the unfolding saga of the Cascade Bicycle Club, a new player has quickly emerged and asserted its weight: the Bike Club Rescue Squad. Formed and named within a week of the firing of Cascade’s executive director Chuck Ayers, the group is led by a handful of members seeking the recall of the club’s 11-person board “for dereliction of duty, negligence, and actions not in accordance with the purposes of the club.”
Rescue Squad spokeswoman Kelli Currie, a five-year member of Cascade, said her breakaway group is now “well on our way” to securing enough signatures to demand a recall election of the board. According to club bylaws, the Rescue Squad must first get a petition signed by the greater of 100 members or five percent of the membership. Since the club has close to 14,000 members, almost 700 signatures would be needed to trigger a recall election.
“It’s difficult to gauge numbers,” Currie said, “but we have quite a few people that are actively getting signatures.”
The group is also looking into whether board president Chris Weiss and director Don Volta should be allowed to remain in office because of an earlier violation of club bylaws. The two men were both up for re-election in October (board members can serve two terms of three years each). That election was postponed because it was discovered the board failed (back in June) to post an open notice to members, inviting them to nominate candidates for the open board positions. Club bylaws require the board to invite members to submit nominations four months before the election.
Weiss admitted the oversight, saying “we missed it; we spaced on it… We didn’t do it and we acknowledged it was a mistake.” Because nominations were not opened up to the general membership, the board agreed to postpone the election from October to March. In the meantime, Weiss and Volta remain in office; the bylaws do not spell out exactly what happens to incumbent board members if the nomination process is bungled.
Under typical circumstances (presuming the oversight was an innocent mistake) the board and the membership probably would not make much of the matter. But in the midst of the power struggle going on, the Rescue Squad intends to use the club’s rules to its full extent.
The nomination issue might not matter if the Rescue Squad is successful in its recall effort. If the membership succeeds in holding a recall election and removes the current board, it will have pulled off what amounts to a coup. The membership could, in theory, vote in a board friendly to Ayers and advocacy director David Hiller, thus preserving their jobs.
Officially, Ayers was rehired a week after his firing on a temporary basis. He agreed to stay on for at least six months, and then month to month after that. Hiller’s future is uncertain, although Ayers said Hiller is concerned that once Ayers is gone, Hiller will be fired by the new director. Hiller, whose sometimes confrontational style does not sit well with everyone, was a key figure in the events that led to Ayers' firing last month and the rift between the staff and the board.
“We cannot have an advocacy organization where the board is undercutting the advocate,” Currie said, referring to critical comments Weiss made to the Puget Sound Business Journal about Hiller. “If they have personnel issues, they need to be dealt with within the organization. They’re the ones who let the cat out of the bag.”
Weiss is no longer commenting publicly on the board’s dealings with Ayers or Hiller, or its reasons for dismissing Ayers.
“I have made no judgment on whether the initial decision was correct,” Currie said. “I see a board making one decision and then saying ‘we’re not sure, this is the new plan’ and I don’t know if I trust the decision-making process of the organization I believe strongly in.”
“I don’t know Chuck personally. Many people are supporting the recall because of their fondness and loyalty for Chuck Ayers… I’m kind of a stickler for the rules. My personal interest in this is that the membership has a voice, and that the board can no longer make unilateral decisions without the membership.”
As for Weiss, Currie said, “he has been more than kind to us, he’s let us state our case. I have nothing bad to say about him personally…I just question the way they’ve handled this whole scenario.”
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