The former director of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa started a nonprofit organization more than a year ago that now will run a competing bike ride, according to allegations Tuesday from the media company that owns the Des Moines Register.
According to the Register, the RAGBRAI alternative will be operated under TJ Juskiewicz’s nonprofit called the Iowa Festivals and Events Association.
But in an interview with The Gazette, Juskiewicz denied the characterization made by his former employer, saying he is using the association only as a “temporary landing spot” for the rival ride until a foundation is formed to organize the event.
“We’re talking to attorneys right now to get it set up,” he said Tuesday, “but it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Juskiewicz, who resigned last week after 16 years as director of RAGBRAI, formed the nonprofit with his wife, Jodi Juskiewicz, more than a year ago. Gannett/USA Today, however, alleges the newspaper’s leadership was not aware of it.
“T.J. never disclosed to us that he and his wife had formed the Iowa Festivals and Events Association,” Gannett Chief Marketing Officer Andy Yost said in a statement. “We have company policies in place that require our employees to avoid any activities that constitute a conflict of interest or any outside interests and associations that may interfere with their employment with our company or create the appearance of impropriety.”
Juskiewicz said the association was not created with the intention of operating the RAGBRAI rival, called Iowa’s Ride, which he said he didn’t plan to create until two weeks ago.
The former RAGBRAI director said when forming the nonprofit more than a year ago, he wanted to create an annual event to gather festival organizers to network with the goal of creating better events and festivals. He cited 2018’s “newbo evolve” financial debacle in Cedar Rapids as a mishap the association could help avoid.
Iowa Festivals and Events Association this week is hosting a two-day conference in Coralville, partly sponsored by Iowa City and Coralville convention and tourism officials, where a reporter for The Gazette participated as an unpaid moderator of a discussion panel.
According to filings with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, Juskiewicz has been the president of the Iowa Festivals and Events Association since September 2018. His wife, Jodi, is a director.
Juskiewicz said he informed Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Register, and a marketing colleague about the nonprofit in September or October 2018. He said he also invited the Register to participate in this year’s conference.
Juskiewicz and the rest of the RAGBRAI marketing staff, who were Register employees, resigned last week in protest of their inability to speak freely about the way the newsroom reported on Carson King, the 24-year-old Iowan who raised millions of dollars for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
The former Register employees created Iowa’s Ride, which is slated to take place July 19-25, 2020 — the same as RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI will continue in 2020, the Register has said.
Juskiewicz said a third party since has reached out to him to facilitate conversations between him and the Register.
“Who knows what will happen in the long run, but it would be a disservice to the riders who are relying on me to put on this event if I didn’t listen to the conversation,” he said.
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