MADD MONEY – PRIVATE PIGGY BANK? – News – MADD’s Outspoken Founder Punished

Kevin Donovan
Staff reporter

The founder of MADD Canada, who spoke out against the national organization’s fundraising practices, has been stripped of his role on the charity’s two key committees.”I feel betrayed,” said John Bates, 79, whose quarter-century battle against drinking and driving earned him the Order of Canada.Bates learned Monday evening he was gone from the charity’s finance and policy committees, which monitor the organization’s expenditures and revenues, and set the tone for the charity.The news came to Bates during a brief teleconference involving five of the 17 board members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“This seems to be in response to asking too many questions,” Bates said yesterday. “But I don’t believe in spending donor money the way MADD head office does and I feel I had a responsibility to speak out.”

A recent Star investigation, in which Bates was quoted, revealed that most of the millions MADD raises stays with the paid telemarketers, door knockers and direct mail companies hired by the charity to raise cash.

While MADD insists that 83.6 per cent of donated funds goes to the charity’s programs, the Star found that it was virtually the reverse, with about 81 per cent of MADD money spent on fundraising and administration.

MADD is doing an internal review of its fundraising practices and has hired consultants to survey chapters to see if they are happy with the organization. The results of those initiatives would normally be discussed next month at the two committees from which Bates has been removed.

A MADD lawyer who spoke during the conference call told Bates “it would be inappropriate, perhaps uncomfortable” for him to remain on the committees, but did not elaborate. The lawyer did not return a call from the Star.

The Star received an email from the board’s vice-chair, Al Newton, who said Bates was removed because he is a non-voting member of the board and the board had decided that only voting members should be on committees.

The Star has attempted to ask Newton why only five members of the 17-member board were able to remove Bates but Newton did not respond.

Tony Carvalho, one of the five board members who voted in the Monday night meeting, was helped by Bates in 1990 when Carvalho’s son was killed in a drunk driving accident.

Told later by the Star that Bates felt betrayed by the board members who voted, Carvalho said: “Yes, John was helpful to me. We are friends and he was very supportive when we went through our situation (when his son was killed).”

Carvalho would not discuss his reasoning for voting against Bates. “I think there are always two sides to a story and I would like to leave it at that.”

Long-time MADD volunteer Nancy Codlin, of the Durham chapter, reacted with dismay when she learned what had happened to Bates. “It’s a sad day when the founder of MADD cannot ask questions. John is a dear, dear man who has the organization’s best interests at heart.”

At his home in Etobicoke yesterday, Bates tried to make sense of what happened.

On a wall in his cramped office hangs a series of plaques, including the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. Bates was awarded the distinction in 1998 for “his tireless dedication over the years to raising awareness of the tragic consequences of impaired driving.”

It notes that his work resulted in a groundswell of support for legislative reform; made roads safer; reduced drunk driving fatalities; and his leadership and voluntary efforts with MADD “led to the development of a nation-wide support network for accident victims.”

Bates, a retired magazine executive, took up the anti-drunk driving crusade in the early 1980s after a friend of his daughter’s was killed by an impaired driver.

Bates was also awarded the title of “Founder of MADD” in 1993 for his “outstanding achievement and dedication” to the cause. This gave him a lifetime seat on the board.

MADD’s top honour “ the John Bates Volunteer of the Year award “ is awarded in his name.

Strewn on his desk yesterday were unused notes for the Monday night call. Unused, because MADD chief executive officer Andrew Murie (who is not a board member) spoke up and called for the vote.

Bates had just told the people on the call: “Even though I am the one being held out as a bad guy (by MADD head office) I am the one trying to save this organization.”

Bates told the Star he had very much wanted to discuss the fundraising issue and also remark on the importance in any organization of speaking out.

He had planned to quote slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Bates, who founded MADD in the early 1990s (he was founder of an earlier group started in the 1980s which became MADD), remains on the board but he does not have voting rights.

MADD is Canada’s largest anti-drunk driving charity, with revenues of about $12 million annually.

In its investigation, the Star found that the local, volunteer-driven chapters of the charity do a great deal of good work on a shoestring budget. But the majority of the fundraised millions stay with paid fundraisers.

Murie, MADD’s chief executive officer, has told the Star that the telemarketers and others the charity hires to ask for cash are conducting charitable works because they are spreading the message of the organization.

The federal charity regulator does not condone this type of accounting.

Murie, who has previously said his charity is being criticized by a few “disgruntled” volunteers, did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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