Coaches who allegedly conspired to bar athletes from a Liberty County Recreation Department all-star team will face some consequences, but the punishments have yet to be determined.
Recreation board Chairman Kenny Howard, along with recreation department Director Jimmy Martin, spoke about the matter Thursday with the Liberty County Board of Commissioners.
As a result of the coaches’ reported misconduct, the Mite League team of 9- and 10-year-old players is the only one from Liberty that will not participate in this weekend’s Georgia Recreation and Parks Association District Games.
“Our whole intent is just to try to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said about asking the men to speak.
Martin said an estimated 300 all-star teams have been fielded under the standing 15-year-old regulations.
“Everything is not fool-proof,” Martin said. “If people band together and decide they want to beat the system, they can do it. I just think we should keep that in mind before we jump overboard with any conclusions. We certainly want to correct any problems we may have, and if there’s a way we can make sure that it doesn’t happen again, we’re all for it.”
The recreation department has discussed protocol changes but will not act on them until its July meeting.
“The coaches will be held accountable for this, so we will address the coaches,” Howard said. “I think it would be premature to state what we’re going to do now, but we will address the coaches and hold them accountable.”
One idea is requiring wider selection committees to field the teams, so coaches would be part of a larger decision-making group. Under this plan, LCRD staffers would have a hand in the decisions and would factor in athlete performance and statistics.
Another policy under consideration would establish that the coach whose team wins a league division becomes the all-star coach.
“That takes all the politics out of it,” Howard added. “If you’re good enough to win the league, you should be good enough to represent the league.”
He added that the team was disbanded for several reasons, and the LCRD board gave the coaches a prior shot at selecting a new team but observed that unfair practices still were being used. The coaches reportedly did not field players from the Walthourville B&A team, which won nearly every game by the run-rule.
Howard said after the meeting that B&A team participants had vowed not to participate in the team even upon a second selection, which is why the board decided to disband the team. They also did not feel it would be fair for the board to select the coaches and the teams.
During a June 10 recreation board meeting, volunteer coaches Tommy Carter and Kim Woodward Carter argued that the team was not subjected to the same type of evaluation process that other teams underwent prior to the season because they are an outlying team.
Outlying teams — those whose rosters are determined by residence because they live too far from the centralized practice fields that most teams use — are composed of athletes who reside near each other in areas that do not have enough players for an entire league.
They participate against the other teams in the county, which are fielded through a skills display and then a draft “as a means of dispersing the talent,” Martin said.
Commissioner Gary Gilliard said he thinks outlying teams should remain because eliminating them would create logistical hardship for players who live in areas like Riceboro and Gum Branch, which could prevent them from playing.
Martin said the LCRD verifies residency compliance with outlying teams.
The commissioners also adopted three budgets for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
Budgets adopted include those for the general fund, special-revenue fund and capital-project funds. The budgeted amount is $26,407,513, up by $124,420 from the previous year, County Finance Officer Kim McGlothlin said.
“That’s less than half of a percent,” she said. “So we don’t anticipate revenues jumping up. Matter of fact, they’re pretty flat.
“Your proposed budget recommendations are based on our best estimates at this time, and further revisions may be done once the digest is available,” she added. “In years past, we have gone back and said, ‘Revenues aren’t going to be there, sales tax is down, digest is down,’ and we’ve gone back and cut the budget.”
Capital projects will be authorized on a cash-available basis, McGlothlin added.
In other financial matters, the board voted Thursday not to grant property-tax returns to three petitioners who presented their requests during a called meeting in March.
Liberty County attorney Kelly Davis spoke briefly when he recommended that requests from Debra Dykes, Becky Wells Carter and Damini Inc. be denied.
“After your hearings and after reviewing the petitions, I didn’t find any legitimate grounds for a tax refund for three of the four petitions that we submitted … all of them involved evaluation areas, which are not legitimate grounds for a tax refund,” Davis said.
The board voted unanimously to deny the refunds.
The board did authorize a return to the Liberty County Development Authority for tax years 2010 and 2011, which will end an ongoing dispute between the authority and the county over taxes unpaid by defunct industrial tenant BioAgra. Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. opposed, and all others voted in favor of the refund.
Because Davis also serves as counsel for the LCDA, County Administrator Joey Brown said the county contracted with Jim Smith of Ratcliffe & Smith to provide a legal rendering on the request for $46,063.
“I think that quite often, we, as lawyers, are put in a position where we can argue either side of a case,” Smith said. “This is one of those where I think there is only one side.”
In other business Thursday, the Liberty County BoC also:
• Approved a $363,255 bid with Ellis Wood Contracting for work on Rye Patch, Seabrook Island, Dairy, Wells Cemetery, Mobley, the intersection at Wells and Mitchell, the intersection at Japonica and Cattle Hammock, Sunshine Lake, Interstate Paper, Camellia and Kings roads and Islands Highway.
• Authorized a three-year, $55,000-per-year auditing contract with Carr, Riggs & Ingram.
• Approved an ordinance authorizing the limited sale of alcoholic beverages by nonprofit organizations for special events in locations where alcohol legally can be sold.
• Made appointments to the following boards:
- Coastal Regional Commission Council: Allen Brown, Matthew Barrow
- Coastal Workforce Investment Board: Rose Mullice, Anthony Golden, Douglas Harn
- Cultural and Historic Resources Committee board: Randy Branch, John Pirkle, Vicki Davis, Della Martin, Pete Clark, Douglas Harn
- Liberty County Development Authority: Melissa Carter Ray (to fill an unexpired term vacated by Paul Krebs)
- Division of Family and Children Services: Donna Popour
- Georgia Forestry Board: John Martin
- Library Board: Sandra Hicks Sheffield
- Public Facilities Authority Committee: Paul Johnson
- Recreation Board: Charlene Godley