Sunday, September 29, 2019

What kind of "Non-Profit" is the White Clay Bicycle Club?

The White Clay Bicycle Club does not appear
in any search of the IRS Non-Profits database.
What kind of "non-profit" is the White Clay Bicycle Club? Virtually everyone you ask -- including past Board members -- believe it is a 501(c)3. However, the organization does not appear on any search of the IRS non-profits database, using the simple keywords "White Clay". Six other orgs do appear, however (see image on right).

Assuming WCBC is missing in the results somehow, and it is indeed a 501(c)3 or (c)7 or other 501-type, is it appropriate for them to donate relatively large sums of member dues and event fee monies to another 501(c)3 that does not follow the recommended rules of transparency? The recipient org, Bike Delaware is a confirmed 501(c)3, but has:

  • No annual report
  • No periodic newsletter of any kind
  • No annual meeting with minutes and election results
  • No search feature on their website to search out these items or topics of interest
  • No posted meeting minutes
  • No lobbying records or reports at the county and regional level, much (if not most) of which centers around land use

WCBC's main source of revenue is membership dues and event fees; probably half or more is sourced from non-members participating in their recreational cycling events that are open to all. Is it legal and appropriate that non-members (and members alike) are helping fund activities that they may not approve of, in this case lobbying for developer and builder interests at the expense of parks, green space, and retrofitting the built environment for multi-modal transportation?

John Haupt, President of WCBC, gave these terse replies when asked about his org's Form-990 and/or a financial disclosure:

Q: Is WCBC a 501(c)3, or (c)7, as described here?

  • ... do not include the WCBC or any members of the WCBC Executive Committee on your email messages or correspondence.
  • The White Clay Bicycle Club is not a 501(c)(3) as you state in a prior message.
  • The White Clay Bicycle Club is not a "political organization" as you possibly elude to in a prior message.

Summary: According to the IRS website at this time, WCBC is not a non-profit org. Even if this is an oversight on their part, it would still appear that there is a 509(a)3 "Type 3" relationship between WCBC and Bike Delaware, meaning that regardless of revenue totals each year, they should still file a Form-990 (or other documentation) and be transparent about it. This can be found in the IRS' 4221-PC Compliance Guide (pdf).

Given this is an inquiry, of which we can only hope there is nothing fraudulent in the end, we will update this article as we learn more. Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Is WCBC's sponsorship of Bike Delaware a conflict of interest?

Does the White Clay Bicycle Club (WCBC) care if their generous annual donations are used in lobbying efforts to dismantle development codes, zoning rules, and open space requirements? To promote density waivers, and other pro-development initiatives? Are their members aware that by supporting what is purported to be a "non-political" 501(c)3 organization, they may be supporting the loss of green space, decimation of wildlife/biodiversity, hastening of climate change, and increases in traffic congestion and stress on the very roads they ride on?

This may be the case with WCBC's generous annual financial support of Bike Delaware. In addition to a vocally pro-development Executive Director James Wilson, at least two of Bike Delaware's Executive Board members have ties to the building industry. SB-130, first opposed by the New Castle County Civic League, was widely recognized among advocates as a developer windfall. Since then, similar legislation has been introduced and passed. Recently, NCC Council largely dismantled traffic impact requirements in the approval of even major building/land use projects in much the same context as Bike DE's SB-130.

Because they are a top sponsor, WCBC should be asking the tough questions, and holding Bike Delaware to the highest standards of accountability and transparency. This goes well beyond their Form 990; it needs to include detailed lobbying reports (beyond this), meeting minutes, and donor lists. As the 4th most corrupt State in the nation, Delaware has no County-level mechanism for tracking lobbyist interactions over specific Council legislation unlike the State, which maintains a reporting system for all lobbying on bills and is overseen by the Public Integrity Commission.

We raised these concerns with WCBC's President John Haupt on June 27, asking whether or not pro-development/anti-open space lobbying fits his org's mission, and if they do demand transparency from Bike Delaware. If the document(s) are there to prove it, his org should present this (or make it available to) their membership. Contrary to similar organizations, nothing except Bike Delaware's Form 1023-EZ and 2019 Form 990 is made available on the Internet.

It's also noted that WCBC's Haupt has a land-use connection as an Associate Vice President & Manager with a major land surveying company. While that may or may not directly implicate him given everything above, it is fair to ask for WCBC's position on open space, the environment, and road safety and education. It directly relates to what his organization endeavors to provide for their sanctioned rides and events, in terms of more rural and scenic roads with fewer cars. Historically, WCBC has also supported the 6 Es of bicycling advocacy, few of which Bike Delaware actively pursues in the built environment.

Summary: WCBC has claimed to be a "non-profit" since the early 1970s, but the club cannot be found in any search of the IRS's "Tax Exempt Organization" database. They raise significant funds (possibly up to half of their income) from non-members -- mainly in the form of event fees -- and donate said funds to Bike Delaware, another non-profit that lacks transparency (no newsletter, no annual report, no annual meeting, no posted meeting minutes, no website search tool, etc) and engages in lobbying activities for pro-building and development causes.

WCBC is one of Bike Delaware's top sponsors, and as the largest recreational bicycling club in the State, that makes them responsible for transparency and accountability for monies donated. Its President and Executive Board owes it to those who pay dues, event fees (non-members included) and other monies into the organization, believing it has their best interests at heart. WCBC needs to demand detailed transparency from Bike Delaware before handing over thousands of dollars in member dues and event fees on an annual basis.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Where is Bike Delaware on projects that really matter?

Wawa, new shops planned for Christiana area

From the Delaware On-Line. Excerpts from the article:

Construction is expected to begin this fall on a new Wawa off Del. 273.

The Wawa will be in a new development east of the University Plaza shopping center, which includes Burlington and Acme. The convenience store will also have gas pumps.

Plans for the site also call for two retail pads, one designed for a fast food or quick service restaurant, and the other for a larger restaurant or retailer.

A new road will be constructed west of the development off Del. 273 and across from Browns Lane, which leads to the Christiana Town Center.

Another Wawa is nearing completion at the corner of Wrangle Hill and Red Lion Roads in Bear. It is expected to open in late 2019 or early 2020.

Every time these overwhelmingly car-centric development plans surface, is Bike Delaware even remotely advocating for protected bicycle facilities, bike parking, and place-making in general? They easily find time to arrange meetings with developers and County Council members while advocating for high density zoning and maximum build-out of DE's last remaining open spaces. But why are they absent when & where they're truly needed, in projects where cars dominate and inviting bike-ped accommodations aren't even considered? Projects that include stores like WaWa, Royal Farms, and other mega-"convenience" stores with a dozen or more gas pumps are a major disaster for the environment, safety, community building and place-making in general. At the very least, Bike Delaware should be at the forefront, demanding safe bike-ped accommodations.

But then, unless it's high profile and to their advantage, Bike Delaware never rallies around (much less attends) workshops for individual DelDOT reconstruction and/or pave & rehab projects either. These usually include marginal sidewalks and/or shared-use shoulders, with clear opportunities for upgrades to (e.g.) cycle tracks and/or protected bike lanes. An organization whose "mission" it is to build complete bicycling networks suitable for everyone -- including children -- would have a major presence with each and every project, regardless of size and scope. Instead, we have roads, sidewalks and intersections routinely rehabbled or reconstructed using the same bad engineering practices instead of, for example, installing min. 8' wide asphalt multi-modal pathways that afford bicyclists equal right of way with car traffic.

Bike Delaware's mission statement: Bike Delaware advocates for safe, convenient and fun cycling and walking for everyone.

Whatever Bike DE's advocacy entails, it isn't anything holistic and doesn't include the networking of safe inviting pathway facilities that would enable Delawareans to replace car trips with active transportation modes.