Cascade Director: If I get fired for protecting my staff, then so be it

The Cascade Bicycle Club members meeting last night got a little ugly. But through the yelling and demands, it came out that the club’s Board had advised Executive Director Chuck Ayers to fire Advocacy Director David Hiller, and Ayers decided not to.

“If I get fired for protecting my staff, then so be it,” said Ayers to an eruption of applause from the crowd, many of whom were vocal supporters of Ayers. Applause quickly turned to anger at Board President Chris Weis, who had stated only minutes earlier that the Board had never issued Ayers an ultimatum to fire Hiller or be fired.

However, it would seem that Weis’s place on the Board is in a bit of limbo. Some members, such as those in the Bike Club Rescue Squad, have raised concerns that some club election bylaws had not been followed this year. Namely, the Board was supposed to elect a nomination committee, whose members should have been announced months ago. Weis admitted that this did not happen and the election would be postponed.

Two current Board members were up for reelection this year, Don Volta and Weis. Without an election, their terms should end in January. However, Board member Jim Oswald announced that the Board plans to appoint them both until elections can take place. There was some arguing over whether the Board has this power, and Oswald acknowledged that there was nothing in the bylaws that predicted this exact situation. The Board does have the power to appoint any club member to the Board to fill a vacancy, according to the bylaws. It does not appear to say anything about whether the new member and the member vacating the spot can be the same person (you can read the bylaws yourself, if you’re into that kind of thing).

Chuck

Throughout the night, some members made calls to reinstate Ayers as the Executive Director permanently. But Weis said recalling the Board would not bring Ayers back, since Ayers had agreed to return only for a six-month interim period while the club searched for a new permanent Director. But when Weis asked Ayers if it was correct that he had agreed to this, he responded, “Under duress.”

Ayers clarified the disagreement between himself and the Board about the severity of some statements Hiller had made to the media. Ayers said that he was not too concerned about Hiller’s statements, but that the Board expressed a lot of concern about it.

The centerpiece of the disagreement surrounded statements Hiller made to The Stranger in January while advocating for the Vulnerable Users Bill. He was quoted saying, “I’d love to hang these people up by their toenails at the edge of town and paint ‘killer’ across their chest and let them hang there until the buzzards peck their eyes out,” in reference to people who hit and kill cyclists or pedestrians while driving carelessly. Ayers said he only received one email from a member who was upset about it.

But Weis said he was very upset about it. He said The Stranger ran a photo of a Critical Mass ride next to the story. “So Cascade Bicycle Club is associated with Critical Mass,” he said. After some more comments in the media that the Board did not like, Ayers proposed that staff undergo media training before going on the record, Weis said. But Hiller continued making comments to the media, and Weis said Ayers did not stop him. They asked for Ayers’ resignation, but he declined, so they fired him.

Loose ends

The meeting ended with very little resolved. Ayers’ future at the club is still up in the air, and the Board’s President is only on the Board as an appointed replacement for his own vacancy. The Board has formed a committee charged with suggesting changes to the bylaws to make the election process more democratic, amid concerns that the Board has too much power over it’s own membership selection process (see our previous story). The Bike Club Rescue Squad is collecting signatures on a petition to recall the Board, which could take some time.

We need advocacy right now

After tempers got hot, it’s not yet known whether letting off steam was good for the Club’s membership or if division within the Club — what Keith Hoeller of the Rescue Squad called a “civil war” — has grown wider.

But as a bicycling advocate, I hope this fight does not weaken bikers’ voices at this very important political moment. Ballots have arrived in mailboxes, and bike-friendly candidates could use Cascade’s help. At the same time, the City Council is in the midst of public hearings over the mayor’s proposed budget, which includes a modest increase in non-car transportation funding that will help continue the work of reshaping our roads to fit the needs for all roads users.

Cascade is clearly at a crossroads of some kind. It has grown dramatically in just the past 10 years. If the club needs to change things around, they should do it. If that requires arguing, then that’s great. A healthy club’s direction should always be debated and refined. But we need a strong cycling voice supporting the mayor’s proposed funding and supporting Joe Fitzgibbon in West Seattle.

If the cause of safe biking in the region takes a step back because of an ill-timed fight, we all lose.

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7 Responses to Cascade Director: If I get fired for protecting my staff, then so be it

  1. rich says:

    So I sent some money to BikePAC early in the month and got back a nice thank you letter personally signed by Chuck Ayers and David Hiller. These are names I’ve heard often over the years. Names that I associate with progress on issues important to bicycle transportation in the Seattle area. Then the next day came the word of Ayers’ firing and all the drama that has ensued. I read the names of the board members, and I’ve never heard of any of them. Who are these bozos? What have they done to make Seattle a better place to get around by bike?

    • Ubi Dajudge says:

      Who is Christopher N. Weiss? This from the Stoel Reeves website. All it takes a google search to find out who the Board President of Cascade is and what he stands for every day. Please judge for yourself who the people are and just be sure to read the whole thing…

      Experience
      Chris Weiss is a partner of the firm. He is a trial lawyer representing clients in business, securities, products liability and employment litigation. Major cases have involved a wide range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, computer software and hardware; forest products; chemical production; mining; insurance; financial institutions; real estate; retailing and health care.

      Since the 1980’s, Chris has represented businesses in complex litigation pending in federal and state courts, including Albertson’s, Amgen, ARCO, Attachmate, Bank & Office Interiors, Bellevue Square, Camco Cutting Tools, ConocoPhillips, Data I/O, Ederer, Emerson Electric, Exxon Shipping, Harvard Drug Group, Mariposa, McDonald’s, McFarland Cascade, Occidental Chemical, Olympic Pipe Line, Publicis, QFC, Ricoh, Safeway, US Natural Resources and Watermark Credit Union.

      Chris has first-chair experience in both class action and multi-district litigation. He also has handled mass tort cases presenting dozens of claimants joined in single lawsuits. Chris served as national coordinating counsel in the Fen-Phen litigation. More recently, he represented distributors and retailers in the national PPA litigation.

      Chris is the immediate past chair of the firm’s Litigation practice group.

      Bogle & Gates, PLLC (1985-1999); judicial clerk to the Honorable Thomas A. Wiseman, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville (1984-1985).

      Representative Work
      Products Liability, Toxic Torts, and Personal Injury Litigation

      * National coordinating counsel for Harvard Drug Group, LLC in Fen-Phen litigation.
      * Retailers’ counsel in PPA multidistrict litigation (MDL).
      * Directed verdict dismissing claims against psychiatrist in malpractice case involving dosage and management of Nortriptyline and borderline personality disorder.
      * Following explosion, secured full reimbursement for losses and attorneys’ fees in settlement of petroleum pipeline’s suit against manufacturer of electric switchgear.
      * Obtained jury verdict award for parents in one of Washington’s few slayer’s statute cases, establishing that husband had killed his estranged wife.
      * Defeated class certification in defense of mass tort asbestos exposure at an office building. Negotiated settlement followed shortly thereafter.
      * Defeated effort to allow punitive damage case to proceed in California courts against company alleged to have exposed workers to asbestos and mold.
      * Since 1987, primary counsel for more than a dozen different defendants in more than 1,000 asbestos personal injury cases. Representation includes ARCO, Asbestos Corp. Ltd., Center for Claims Resolution, Combustion Engineering, Flintkote, H.K. Porter and Phelps Dodge Industries. Faculty speaker at annual DRI Asbestos Conference.
      * Representation of manufacturer on claims arising from chlorine gas exposures.
      * Representation of Exxon Shipping in the Valdez spill litigation. Led discovery of a native corporation, obtaining summary judgment dismissal of claims.
      * Obtained dismissal without payment for manufacturer of yarder used in logging operations, defeating claims that equipment had caused grievous injury to worker.

      Securities Fraud and Shareholder/Officer/Director Disputes

      * Negotiated resolution of many disputes among shareholders in closely held and pre-IPO corporations, including buy-out and funding arrangements for minority shareholders.
      * Defended large privately held IP company in a securities fraud case involving redemption of alleged stock options.
      * Negotiated settlement for multi-state retailer against employment discrimination claims pursued by ousted president.

      Insurance

      * Regularly advise clients on coverage issues arising under CGL, D&O and E&O policies triggered by defense of litigation claims.
      * Secured full payment of claim and recovery of attorneys’ fees for IP company in suit alleging bad faith denial of a fidelity bond claim.
      * Obtained insurance coverage for company facing claims arising from conduct allegedly occurring in the 1960s and 1970s.

      Employment Litigation

      * Successful prosecution of enforcement of non-compete clauses against former employees attempting to solicit former employer’s customers.
      * Defense of employers against claims for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, age discrimination, gender discrimination and failure to accommodate disability claims.

      Financial Institutions

      * Obtained seven-figure settlement on a fidelity bond claim for a financial institution.
      * Secured dismissal and attorneys’ fee award in defense of financial institution on a letter of credit claim.

      Real Estate Development and Property Management

      * Represented Bellevue Square and Kemper Development Co. for many years in a variety of tenant disputes and lawsuits ranging from right-to-picket issues, to resolving lease disputes, to unlawful detainer actions.
      * Co-lead counsel in trial for developer against Washington Mutual, obtaining million dollar award in the Seattle Club bankruptcy litigation after establishing the priority and value of developer-client’s Article 9 security interests.

      Professional Honors & Activities

      * Selected as one of “America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” (Washington) by Chambers USA (Litigation: General Commercial), 2009

      Civic Activities

      * Board member, secretary, Cascade Bicycle Club
      * Leadership Tomorrow, Class of 1993

      Publications

      * “Corporate Governance – The Importance of a Compliant Record Retention Program”, Corporate Counsel Newsletter, ABA Section of Business Law, Feb. 2007
      * “Practical Considerations for National Coordinating Counsel in Complex Litigation,” Defense Counsel Journal, 2004

      Education

      * Vanderbilt University School of Law, J.D., 1984
      Order of the Coif
      * Hamilton College, B.A., 1981, magna cum laude
      Phi Beta Kappa

      Admissions

      * Washington

  2. Biliruben says:

    Exactly. From an outside observer’s perspective, Hiller is smart, engaged, knowledgable and, above all, effective.

    I know he may step on some toes, but if that what it takes to move the biking agenda forward, so be it.

    Sounds like Weiss is out of step with the times even more than critical mass is.

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  4. Matt Weatherford says:

    I have seen David Hiller at numerous bicycle advocacy events on evenings and weekends around the Seattle area for years… he clearly cares deeply about cycling, is forward thinking, committed to the cause, and passionate… we should be celebrating that Hiller’s efforts, not focusing on one isolated incident. Besides, it sounds like his statements to the Stranger were just the kind of shock-media statements that that particular rag loves…

    That said, it makes sense for Hiller to consider the reach of his statements a bit more carefully. We need cycling advocates in this town if we’re ever going to get the infrastructure bicycles and pedestrians deserve. We’re finally starting to see these efforts bear fruit and we’d be fools to change horses mid-ride.

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  6. Pingback: A call for grassroots action « Seattle Likes Bikes!

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