Back in 2010, it looked like Brian Douglass and his Smith Rock Race Group were the answer to the prayers of the people that ran Girls on the Run.
The young girls self-esteem program needed help running its second annual Turkey Trot benefit race on Thanksgiving in the Old Mill. Douglass offered to manage the race for free. And together they made over $10,000 for the program after the successful event.
But what’s happened since then has been, in a word, ugly.
Douglass now claims the race belongs to him because he registered ownership with the state and says that proceeds should go to feed the hungry—not Girls on the Run.
“We think that’s more appropriate for Thanksgiving,” said Douglass.
The Boys and Girls Club, which now runs the Girls on the Run program, says Douglass is out of line and that the race should remain a benefit for Girls on the Run.
“We intend to continue to run this race,” said Lisa Maxwell, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Oregon.
But after going to court twice, no resolution has been found on the ownership issue.
IT GETS COMPLICATED
The result is that neither side is willing to back down and, this Thanksgiving it appears there will be a Bend Turkey Trot and an Original Bend Turkey Trot.
Complicating matters further, Douglass’ website and the Boys and Girls Club both claim their race will start at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving day at the Les Schwab Amphitheatre in the Old Mill.
And as confusing as this will be for race participants, it’s even more frustrating for race sponsors who are caught in the middle of this mess—like Brian Dioguardi, the owner of Baldy’s BBQ who signed a multi-year contract with Douglass to sponsor the Bend Turkey Trot, but thought he was signing up to support Girls on the Run.
“It frustrates me to no end to be in the middle of this,” said Dioguardi. “I have no interest in being a partner with Brian Douglass or a charity that is not Girls on the Run. He’s not willing to drop it.”
Things began to go off the rails in late 2010 when Girls on the Run dissolved as a non-profit and Boys and Girls Club took over their program and assets.
Douglass said that he had a verbal agreement with Girls on the Run officials that if the group dissolved he would become the owner of the race.
After Before Girls on the Run folded into the Boys and Girls Club, Douglass registered the “Bend Turkey Trot” with the Oregon Secretary of State, which he says makes him the owner of the race. That’s a point the Boys and Girls Club’s lawyer disputes.
Naturally, when it came time to put together the 2011 Turkey Trot, Douglass and the Boys and Girls Club had a hard time coming to an agreement. Eventually both parties agreed to give proceeds from the race to the Girls on the Run program, but not after relationships became more frayed, Douglass and Maxwell said.
Then, in February 2012, the Boys and Girls Club had its lawyer send Douglass a “cease and desist” letter requesting that Douglass stop contacting sponsors of the race, stop advertising the Turkey Trot, and that he take down the Turkey Trot website he currently operates.
THEN IT GETS UGLY
“We feel like the Boys and Girls club are just flat out wrong,” said Douglass. “At that point, we said we think that you ought to gracefully exit stage left and let us go about doing the work that we do.”
But the Boys and Girls Club was not willing to back down and, instead, attempted to bar Douglass from running the race through an injunction.
“We took it to a judge… because this is for the kids,” said Maxwell.
But the courts denied the injunction request. A few weeks later, Douglass sued the Boys and Girls Club in small claims court for more than $3,000, claiming the organization owed him for legal and other consulting fees among other things. This action was stalled when the Boys and Girls Club requested a jury trial, and Douglass declined to further pursue the issue saying they were obscuring the issue and bullying him.
“I think the community needs to take a really good look at a nonprofit organization that acts that way,” Douglass said.
He insists that the Boys and Girls Club is the real problem here, but seemingly every other person or organization involved in this dispute believes Douglass is the one who’s off base.
The Old Mill has given permission only to the Boys and Girls Club to run the Turkey Trot there on Thanksgiving day.
“He wanted us to take sides,” said Noelle Fredland of the Old Mill District about Douglass. “We had originally given permission to the Boys and Girls Club. We are honoring that.
It’s not the first time Douglass has run afoul of his business partners. Court records show that Douglass and his company have been involved in more than a dozen lawsuits since 1995. In the mid-nineties, Douglass was also convicted of writing a fraudulent check, according to court records.
Douglass said these were minor issues that many businesses face, and it’s not fair to bring them up in the context of this issue.
For Brian Dioguardi of Baldy’s BBQ, he doesn’t need to look back a number of years to know he’s furious with Douglass. Dioguardi said he's already had to pay his lawyer to wade through this issue.
“I am prepared to go to court and lose more money,” said Dioguardi, “It disgusts me to no end to technically, contractually owe money to somebody that’s not going to what it was supposed to go to. I will fight tooth and nail.”
All the “he said, she said” involved here is enough to make your head spin, but bottom line, watch out for the turkey races this Thanksgiving.
“It’s going to be confusing,” said Maxwell of the Boys and Girls Club. “Our runners need to be very aware of which event they are signing up for.”
This is one point on which both sides can agree.
Department of Corrections
The above story “Talkin’ Turkey” incorrectly reported the sequence of events around the Bend Turkey Trot race. Smith Rock Race Group registered the race name with the Oregon Secretary of State before Girls on the Run dissolved and was folded into the Boys and Girls Club rather than after their dissolution, as was reported. We also misstated Douglass' criminal history. He was convicted of writing a single fraudulent check. We regret the errors.