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, fiercely 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.

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