Thursday night's Cascade Bicycle Club membership meeting, held in an upstairs meeting room at the flagship REI in South Lake Union, was a high-drama affair filled with accusations and counter-accusations, profanity, and allegations of abuse of power. (You can find my live twitter account here.) From the perspective of someone who usually covers local government, it was also an astonishingly (and admirably) transparent meeting about personnel policy, with grievances and counter-grievances laid bare for all to see.
The subtext of last night's discussion was the group's internal debate over Cascade staffer David Hiller, the group's controversial lobbyist. Hiller has been criticized for making inflammatory statements to the press and for what some have characterized as a strong-arm lobbying style. Cascade functions as both a recreational riding group and an advocacy organization---a dual mission that has sometimes split the group into pro-recreation and pro-advocacy factions.
Last night, board chairman Chris Weiss acknowledged that a primary reason the board fired popular executive director Chuck Ayers was the fact that Ayers refused to fire Hiller. Although he initially said that Ayers "was not given an ultimatum by the board to fire David Hiller or be fired," Weiss eventually acknowledged that the board had voted "ten for termination, one against. While it was a hard decision, we think it was the right decision."
"There have been periodic statements in the media that have given the board concern, and we have worked with the executive director on that," CBC chair Weiss said. "Chuck is very mad with me---very angry with me----but I feel that I was discharging my responsibilities as chair of the board."
The board's controversial decision to fire Ayers (ultimately, they opted to reinstate him temporarily until a permanent director can be found) has led to efforts by Cascade members to recall the board.
During last night's meeting, the vast majority of members who spoke expressed their support for Ayers and Hiller. "If David's not here ... I'm not going to be here," one new Cascade member said.
Last night, Ayers continued to defend his decision not to fire Hiller (who, incidentally, was sitting in the back of the room the entire time his professional fate was being publicly discussed), saying, "I stand on my record, and David Hiller's a part of that. The board made the decision to let him go, and I made the decision that he should not be fired, and I stand on that. And if I get fired for protecting my staff, so be it."
Ayers didn't seem to agree with Weiss' statement that Ayers had returned to the board voluntarily. When Weiss said Ayers had accepted the board's decision to fire him, then agreed to come back temporarily, Ayers shouted, "Under duress!" Asked what his plans were with regard to the "transition," meanwhile, Ayers snapped from the audience, "I don't have any."
Although Cascade was supposed to vote on its board composition (or to recall the board) last night, the group decided to postpone the vote until next month, because, in Weiss' words, "we didn't comply with the process" to invite nominations.Instead, the board members who would have been up for election will be retained until next year without an election---effectively, an additional one-year term.
Meanwhile, the recall effort continues: According to recall leader Kelli Currie, the groups is collecting signatures online to recall the board, a proposal that, last night at least, prompted loud applause from more than half the room.
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