LAB election irregularities

1.  The LAB Election Scandal of 2003
Misconduct by a faction of the Board





A Poor Start, Nominating a Weak Candidate

Problems with the 2003 LAB Director election started with the nominating committee.  The chairman, Richard Killingsworth, is an appointed (unelected) director who represents outside interests (health and fitness) rather than cycling.  Killingsworth was determined to have his friend S. Mark Terman on the board.  Terman was nominated supposedly to represent LAB cyclists of Region 4 (IL, IN, MI, OH).  However, Terman is only an occasional recreational cyclist.  He has no record of supporting the interests of cyclists in his region.  Instead, Terman, like Killingsworth, represents the fitness industry.  He is also a fund raiser.  As far as we can tell, like Killingsworth, he has no interest in protecting the rights of cyclists.

Because nominee Terman seemed unlikely to improve the board's dismal record of supporting cyclists' rights, Fred Oswald collected petitions to get on the ballot.  Fred is an active board member of the Ohio Bicycle Federation who has written many articles on cycling education, advocacy and traffic law reform.  Fred has lead the OBF effort to reform Ohio bicycle traffic laws and has surveyed and rated local bicycle traffic ordinances for 60 NE Ohio communities.  He also developed Model Laws to improve the ordinances.

Fred organized a committee for a similar project to rate bicycle traffic laws in all 50 states.  However, the faction that controls LAB would not support this effort to reform cycling laws.  This was another reason that Fred ran for the board.

Jon Orcutt was nominated for the Region 1 seat (NY and New England).  Reform candidate John Allen collected petition signatures to qualify for the ballot to run against Orcutt.  Although Allen has a much stronger record, Orcutt has reasonable cycling credentials and he was the incumbent.

Amanda Jones was nominated for Region 6 (West Coast).  Her nomination and election were not controversial except that she was the only candidate, thus members in her region had no choice.


Lax Election Procedures

The election procedures were extraordinarily lax.  The League seems to place a very low value on the wishes of the members.  The ballot was buried in the Almanac with no mention of it on the cover.  Thus, many members were unaware of the election.  There was no control of the ballots -- no identifying number, mailing label, etc.  Members were allowed to submit a photocopy of the ballot page.  Member signatures were not required, only names.  The only measure to deter vote fraud was the space on the ballot for the membership number and the instruction to "complete the ballot".

Another security lapse was the instruction to return ballots to League headquarters, rather than to impartial election tellers.  This is especially troubling because LAB president Chris Kegel has been blatantly partisan about the election (see below).  There is no possibility that the League staff, who were collecting ballots, were unaware of the desires of the board president.

Note:  Although we have no evidence of ballot tampering, considering the sloppy procedures and the actions of the board president, tampering was very possible.  It would be easy for one or more staffers to "lose" a few ballots for the reform candidates so strongly opposed by Kegel or to "manufacture" ballots for a board candidate.  In addition, staff may have provided intelligence about the vote count useful to supporters of the endorsed candidate.


Was the Election Stolen?

The suspicions above might have been merely hypothetical but for several improprieties committed by a faction of the board, particularly in the Region 4 election.  These vary in importance from minor to scandalous.

  1. A last-minute mailing by seven* members of the board set a new precedent of board interference in the election.  The mailing supported the Region 4 nominee, Terman.
    * The seven are: President Chris Kegel, Vice President Mike Greehan, Richard Killingsworth, Barbara Sturges, Jon Orcutt, Martha Roskowski, Don Sparks.
    (Note: Sturges and Orcutt left the board in fall 2003.)

  2. The mailing was sent using a computerized mailing list that was denied to the opposition.  This is clearly a breach of ethics and is blatantly unfair.  The reform candidates had asked for a computer list earlier but were sent only a much less useful printed list.  We tried to counter 3000 computer-addressed letters with hand-addressed postcards but ended up getting out only about 460 cards.

  3. The most serious misconduct involves the instruction "You do not need your member number in order to vote."  This contradicts the instruction to "complete the ballot."  The ballot included a space for the member number, name and address.  This instruction removed the only security device to deter voting fraud.

  4. The "number not required" instruction encourages vote fraud.  One person who knows other LAB members that are unlikely to vote (such as in hospital or away on travel, etc.) could easily mail in several ballots this way, supplying names and addresses from a local club mailing list.

  5. This partisan mailing urging incomplete ballots, followed by a suspicious board decision to accept incomplete ballots, is an obvious conflict of interest.

  6. Much later, we found that several of the statements in the mailing are misleading or downright untrue.  See section 6 of this article.

  7. When we complained about the unethical conduct of the election, the board quietly sent the ballots to their lawyers' offices in Chicago, who started opening ballots immediately.  This made checking envelopes and ballots or monitoring of the vote count impossible.  President Kegel claims the lawyers are impartial.  Considering that they are working for the board, this is a ludicrous claim.

  8. The mailing introduces the concept that it takes significant money to run in an LAB board election.  This gives an advantage to people with moneyed contacts.  (Sending the 3000 letters cost over $1100 just for the postage.)

  9. The last-minute timing of the mailing was designed to forestall genuine dialogue about the issues and instead substitute the advantage of money and a sneak attack.

  10. Two board-nominated candidates were listed first on the ballot, giving them an advantage over opposition candidates.  In past elections, the ballot order was rotated.

  11. The ballot listed the board's endorsements not once but several times.

  12. Both opposition candidates were first notified that they qualified for the ballot only three days before the publishing deadline for the Almanac that contains the ballot.  Thus we had only three days to prepare statements and provide photographs for the ballot.

  13. Neither opposition candidate was mentioned on the League web site.  Both board candidates were prominently described along with an appeal for members to vote for them.

John Allen and Fred Oswald tried to fight this blatant attempt to steal the board election.  We warned board president Kegel that his heavy-handed tactics are unethical and possibly illegal.  This scandal puts the very reputation of LAB at risk.  We believe that those who particated in this unethical activity are unfit to be directors of the League.


Conference Call with Chris and Elissa

On April 28, President Chris Kegel and Executive Director Elissa Margolin had a conference call with John Allen and Fred Oswald to "establish a dialogue".  Chris and Elissa gave the charm treatment.  They offered a chance to give input and dialogue if we treat everyone with "respect".  The funny thing about this sudden thaw is that it runs completely counter to our previous experience as well as what we have heard from other LAB reform people.

For about an hour, they encouraged us to tell of our concerns.  They urged "respect" and "working within the system".  Elissa said that she cares about what John and Fred can bring to the table.  She wants us to feel that we can bring up issues in the regular course of business and "affect outcomes".  But we were told that we need to understand that there is a process, and that we must make a commitment to work according to "the rules".

The problem with this process for listening to LAB members is that it has been completely ignored in the past.  Good people like John Schubert and Bill Hoffman tried to get the board to correct serious problems in training League Cycling Instructors.  They were stonewalled.  When they tried to publicize their concerns, they were sacked for "lack of respect" and disloyalty.

It is obvious that the process means that the board will act only if and when Chris wants to act.  But otherwise nothing will be done.  A "respectful" board member is expected to keep quiet and let Chris have his way.  Respect is not a two-way street at LAB.

We are suspicious that Chris and Elissa were "nice" to us that night only because they know we have a strong complaint about the election and they want to stifle criticism.  The white gloves will be replaced by brass knuckles after the election is over.

When we discussed the election scandal, Chris would admit only rather nebulously that it could have been done better and that they would learn from experience.  But he insisted on maintaining the unfair advantage gained by unethical means.  He refused to call a new election.  We told him we will not accept a stolen election.  He then threatened to "fight hard".


The "Winner"

The announced election results for Region 4 were:  Terman 379, Oswald 165.  We have asked repeatedly to inspect the ballots and ballot envelopes to check for evidence of fraud and to see if ballots from people who said they voted for Oswald are missing.  We were stonewalled.  We have no way to determine whether the vote was fraudulent.  Our demands to see the ballots were ignored.

Fortunately, there was no interference in Region 1 and John Allen was elected.  Strangely, Jon Orcutt did not campaign for reelection.


Please Help Reform the League

Please join a group of LAB reformers determined to return the organization to its members.  This means restoring democracy to elections, respecting long-serving members, promoting and educating society about the best cycling practices and standing up for the rights of cyclists.

We need to replace most of the members of the Board in order to return LAB to its members.  We need your help to do this.  Please get on our mailing list so we can tell you when new information is posted or when news breaks.

Please send the following information by email to fredoswald_AT_yahoo.com.
Name, address, phone, email, your local cycling club(s),
Your level of interest, any special skills or other info., how many LAB members you can reach

We plan to frequently update the LAB Reform web site with new information and new articles to keep our supporters informed.  These will also include links for informative articles about cycling -- things that should be in the LAB magazine. If you provide your email address we can tell you when new information is posted or when news breaks.


Please join us and help restore the BikeLeague to members.

See www.labreform.org to join LAB Reform.
© Copyright 2004 Fred Oswald.  May be copied with attribution.
Updated links 5/5/07