October 15, 2007
Dear UMCA Member,
Hello, I hope all is well with you.
Recently you may have received your issue of Ultra Cycling Magazine, July-Aug edition. Depending upon how closely you read it, you may have noticed a report about the May/June Board of Director's election, and the mentioning of my name in regard to a letter I wrote the Board on August 5th. You might want to take time to read the passage. It's also included on www.ultracycling.com.
[Editor's note: UMCA's report about the election is no longer locatable on the UMCA website. Click here to see the report copied from July-Aug UMCA magazine.]
The partial information the UMCA reported is really just the tip of the iceberg, thus the reason for this letter. I believe the UMCA has made an error in their representation of me in regard to this issue. The UMCA characterized the information in that letter as "subjective and personal in nature," however, omitted many of the details that prompted me to write of that August 5th letter. Since Ultra Cycling Magazine does not include a "Letters to the Editor" section, where I could rebut what was written about me, I decided to write to you personally.
What's this all about?
The best place to start is at the beginning. The UMCA Board presented the Board of Director's election this past May/June. Six seats were open. A total of 18 UMCA members entered the race, six won, and 12 lost.
All 12 losing candidates believed that the election was run unfairly. I mean ALL losing candidates - not half, not four, not eight, but all. Some of these losing candidates approached selected Board members to complain about specific events that led them to feel this way. They were essentially told that the election was over and that the Board had approved the results.
I learned about this situation from one of the losing candidates and decided to get involved. I began by conducting my own investigation. This involved communication with various members on the Board, as well as past Board members, and people in the general membership. After about three weeks of intense focus on this matter, I too, arrived at the belief that the election was unfair. Altogether, I spent about three months thinking about this, practically during all waking hours of the day and some sleepless nights. It was that troubling to me.
It's important for you to know that my primary goal was to learn the truth. I have no personal stake in choosing one side or the other in this argument. The identity of the winning or losing candidates has no bearing on my desire to get involved. My only interest is fairness. In my opinion, fairness in competition is the cornerstone of the UMCA and must never be compromised.
I decided to be the representative for the 12 losing candidates around early July. Due to my history as a co-founder of the UMCA, we hoped that the Board would open their minds to my (our) complaints and conduct a proper investigation. We did not want to involve the membership in this dispute. I agreed to address only the Board and the 12 losing candidates with respect to this issue. We all would try to seek a resolution amongst ourselves, without membership involvement.
Over the course of the next two months, I presented the Board with our complaints through a series of emails. Since we live throughout the U.S., Great Britain and Europe, emails were our primary method of communication. I asked on several occasions if I could participate in the Board's teleconference meetings to engage in discussions with the Board, and essentially get some answers to some very important questions that could possibly resolve opposing views. I was refused on two different occasions. I eventually was allowed to address the Board, however I was not allowed to engage in a discussion. I was permitted to "give a speech" for about 15-20 minutes at 4PM Pacific Time on Sept. 6th. What I needed was feedback, a discussion with the Board, something that was never granted.
The 12 candidates and I were essentially asking for a repeat election which would allow all members of the UMCA to cast a vote. Under the current structure, only members who signed a waiver promising never to sue the UMCA were allowed to vote. I believe that this is an actual UMCA Bylaw violation, per Article 4, Section 1 of our Bylaws, and possibly a state law violation for non-profit organizations. Nothing is mentioned in the Bylaws that in order for your vote to count, you must sign a waiver not to sue. We asked that all members be sent a self-addressed, stamped post-card which would serve as a ballot, along with a cover letter basically explaining that the reason for a repeat election was low voter turnout (only about 13% of the members voted, and even fewer in the past two elections).
I also presented seven other complaints and questions surrounding the election, each significant and worth evaluating, and contributing to our belief that the election was unfair. I will not mention the details of these complaints at this time, however they relate to the following: improper publishing of candidate biographies, improper campaigning on the part of the UMCA management, improper use of membership directories, conflict of interest improprieties, and non-equal access to mailing lists. I have written over 20 pages of emails to the Board, expressing all these complaints and questions. I believe that all complaints are valid. I provided emailed documents and witness statements relating to our complaints. The Board never acknowledged the validity of the evidence, never asked any questions regarding the evidence, and never would engage me in any type of verbal dialogue. The Board never offered any investigative measures they used to evaluate the complaints. We asked for copies of UMCA documents that were instrumental to the evaluation of our complaints, but never received anything. Per UMCA Bylaws, (Article 7, Section 4), any member has the right to demand and receive UMCA documents for inspection. Nothing was ever received. Whether this "cold shoulder approach" was intentional or not, it ultimately led to no resolution, and certainly did not seem like a non-profit democratic organization. I was not permitted to engage in any type of dialogue with Board members, despite making myself available to call them or be called by them any day of the week, from 8AM to 11PM PST.
The Board later voted not to re-do the election and proclaimed the past election fair and valid.
In the public statement the UMCA made to the members, which I raised at the beginning of this letter, the UMCA made reference to my letter of August 5th. The UMCA had asked me to assign all of our complaints to actual UMCA Bylaw violations, which I did. My letter was never published by the UMCA - just the few select words you saw in the July/Aug Ultra Cycling Magazine.
Most disturbing to me...
Due to the serious nature of this complaint by the 12 losing candidates, I asked that the UMCA Board assign this complaint to an independent arbiter or special independent UMCA committee to review all claims made by the 12 candidates. I offered to pay for a repeat election as well as contribute $1,000 towards an arbiter, to erase the financial deterrent of this option. If this was done, the 12 candidates agreed to abide by whatever new decision was reached. One reason the 12 candidates felt it was important to have an independent group/person take a look at the election was because six of the winning candidates, now seated on the Board, were not exempt from voting on the validity of this election. If these six new Board members were allowed to participate in the discussion, re: the validity of the election, then the 12 losing candidates (or their representative) should have also been allowed to participate in the discussion and present their views. This did not happen. The Board essentially decided this issue "in house," by taking a vote among the 15 Board members.
One way to compare this action is by imagining how RAAM would settle a dispute over the outcome of a race. Let's say 18 racers entered the solo division, six were official finishers and 12 were unofficial finishers. The 12 UF waged a complaint against the directors of the event for questions involving fairness. The RAAM management rounded up all the race directors/staff and the "six official finishers" and held a vote. The vote resulted in proclaiming the race as fair. Are you OK with that?
The complaints and questions about this recent election have prompted the UMCA Board to form a special committee to address election protocols, so obviously the Board feels something was wrong with the past election. I believe that 12 UMCA members were mistreated. If you don't believe me, ask them. I presented ways to attempt to make it right, however it led me down a disturbing and threatening road that no member should ever have to travel.
Perhaps the UMCA should formally establish a mechanism whereby members can address personal complaints, without legal fears. If it means we use a professional arbiter, fine. Perhaps a committee made up of members from all walks of life can be called into action when members feel their rights are being trampled.
What Now? For starters, I believe either an independent entity should evaluate the complaints of the 12 losing candidates or repeat the election. As I mentioned in my 15 minute "speech" to the Board, 12 disgruntled candidates in an election could easily turn into 100 disgruntled UMCA friends, etc. Does that help the UMCA?
If you agree, let the Board know since they represent you. In a real democracy, our representatives must reflect the will of the members.
In no way do I want you to use this letter or information as a reason to not support the UMCA and RAAM. In fact, this letter serves as a reason why you should continue to offer your support. The UMCA is a nonprofit democracy and, therefore, YOUR organization. Stand up for the rights of your fellow members.
To all the 12 losing candidates, don't give up.
Lastly, nothing in my complaint is directed towards the six new board members who won in this last election. They were never individually involved in any of my personal complaints. I believe they were given an advantage in this past election, however it was not due to their actions.
Also, since Board voting is private, I do not know how each individual Board member has evaluated this complaint, therefore I have not publicly assigned blame to anyone on the Board. All my references are directed to the group, "the Board," because the UMCA President made it clear to me that this is the manner in which to direct my complaints. I was told that the Board speaks as one.
UMCA co-founder 1980
PS: The information in this letter is directed to official UMCA members on the public mailing list only. If you know of private members who express an interest in receiving this letter, please have them contact me. The reproduction of all or part of this letter is prohibited by John Marino. This is UMCA business and should remain UMCA business.
15 Current UMCA Board members with emails, per UMCA public directory
Joe Jamison, President, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Hopkinson, Vice President, email email@example.com
Russ Loomis, Treasurer, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Guth, Secretary, email email@example.com
John Hughes, Managing Director, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Boethling, RAAM Director (ex officio), email email@example.com
Ken Bonner (2007 - 2009), email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Buckley (2005 - 2007), email email@example.com
Don Norvelle (2006 - 2008), email Dnorvelle@aol.com
Muffy Ritz (2005 - 2007), email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Roark (2006 - 2008), email@example.com
Jerry Segal (2007 - 2008), email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindi Staiger (2006 - 2008), email@example.com
Merry Vander Linden (2007 - 2009), firstname.lastname@example.org
Terri Gooch, (ex officio), RAAM Qualifier Representative email@example.com