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Earnest vows to continue USA Cycling reform effort

The election results are in and tallied, but the dispute over the future direction of USA Cycling is far from over, says Les Earnest, the man who forced the governance issue on the organization’s annual election ballot. Earnest said that despite the lopsided defeat of Proposition B, his democratic reform initiative, he plans to continue a legal fight challenging the means by which USA Cycling and the supporters of the competing Proposition A presented the issues on the ballot and campaigned for their proposal. Proposition A, which was supported by San Francisco investment banker Thomas

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The election results are in and tallied, but the dispute over the future direction of USA Cycling is far from over, says Les Earnest, the man who forced the governance issue on the organization’s annual election ballot.

Earnest said that despite the lopsided defeat of Proposition B, his democratic reform initiative, he plans to continue a legal fight challenging the means by which USA Cycling and the supporters of the competing Proposition A presented the issues on the ballot and campaigned for their proposal.

Proposition A, which was supported by San Francisco investment banker Thomas Weisel, Lance Armstrong, the USA Cycling Development Foundation and others, garnered 6007 “yes” votes, easily defeating Earnest’s Proposition B, which drew only 432 positive votes. Indeed, Proposition B didn’t even fare as well as a couple other major reform and legislative measures on the ballot, including Proposition C, which received 455 votes; and Proposition E, which drew 549. Only Proposition D showed less support, with 310 “yes” votes.

“We expect that the USA Cycling legislative results will be set aside by the courts because of numerous irregularities,” Earnest said. “The fundamental problem is that the election was conducted under the direction of people with substantial financial interests in the sport of cycling who chose to act both unethically and illegally in order to gain control of the organization that oversees their activities.”

Earnest has had success in the courts in the past. A Colorado appeals court set aside a comprehensive reorganization of USA Cycling earlier this year on the grounds that the governing body’s board of directors violated their own rules by rushing the proposal through under “emergency” provisions of its bylaws.

The appeals court ruled that the procedures used in enacting the 24-page “reform” of the organization’s bylaws and articles of incorporation were a violation of USA Cycling’s own rules, because the board failed to meet its own standards as to what constituted an “emergency,” a requirement when legislation is “fast-tracked” as the case in 1999. The decision effectively negated the package of structural changes passed by the USA Cycling board and most major actions taken by the board since the adoption of its new by-laws, including a decision to add the USA Cycling Development Foundation as an affiliate organization of USA Cycling. The court decision opened the door for Earnest to submit a competing proposal. Supporters of the original reorganization effort presented their own proposal and campaigned aggressively to get it passed. Indeed, the effort was significant enough to attract enough votes to meet the organization’s required 10-percent quorum, a first in USA Cycling history.

But Earnest told VeloNews that the effort – combined with the conflicts of interest inherent in an election overseen by supporters of a given proposal – violates fair election standards. Earnest said he remained confident that the courts would support that argument.

“Whereas Proposition B supporters ended up investing only their personal efforts, major financial expenditures were made on advertising and vote solicitation in support of Proposition A by the supposedly charitable nonprofit USA Cycling Development Foundation,” Earnest wrote in an e-mail to VeloNews. “The resources of USA Cycling were also fully exploited in their campaign.”

“We will seek to have the bogus legislative results set aside and have a substitute election conducted by a neutral third party,” he added.

Earnest outlined the following five issues as being central to his planned legal challenge.

1. ”Many members were misled and induced to sign “petitions” that were actually proxies giving their votes to Proposition A. They were not shown the text of the Proposition s and so had no opportunity to consider alternatives. The disparity between the vote totals on Proposition s A and B and those of other Proposition s is a measure of this unethical and illegal activity.”

2. “Both the balloting procedures and the vote counting procedures were contrary to the bylaws and were designed to discriminate against Proposition B.”

3. “When a member attempted to place an ad supporting Proposition B in USA Cycling magazine it was refused, in violation of case law.”

4. “Voters were unable to find out how the bylaws would be changed by the Proposition s. Our earlier successful lawsuit had restored the bylaws that were in effect at the beginning of 1999 but the staff refused to make that text publicly available.

5. Staff comments in the ballot materials, which should have been analytical and politically neutral, instead contained many false statements that were evidently aimed at supporting Proposition A and arguing against Proposition B.”

Earnest’s first step is likely to be a request for an immediate injunction barring the implimentation of bylaws adopted under Proposition A. After that, it could be several months before the case is heard and a decision issued.