June 29, 2016

Partly cloudy

Medina will form a youth sports panel

MEDINA — The city is forming an oversight committee for two youth football leagues, and it eventually may oversee all youth sports leagues that use city fields.

The oversight committee is composed of parks director Tim Swanson, Medina Schools athletic director Jeff Harrison and assistant law director Matt Lanier. The committee also will have one representative from the Medina Youth Football Association and Medina Gridiron Youth Football.

Dennis Hanwell

Dennis Hanwell

“The board can hopefully resolve some of those issues we presently have, and then move on to other points,” Mayor Dennis Hanwell said.

The city previously said neither league could play on city fields unless they joined into one group.

In early May, Hanwell attempted to form a Medina Athletic Association to combine the two, but the boards of both leagues rejected the idea.

Medina Youth Football plays in the All-Ohio Football Conference and Gridiron plays in the Northeast Ohio Youth Football Conference.

Each said combining would mean they would not be permitted to play in their respective conferences, but they wanted to stay due to differences in use of weight classes, kickoffs and roster size.

“What we’re doing to get by in two youth football associations is to have board representation on an oversight committee,” Hanwell said.

Each league is required to present the board with a business plan by the fall football season that begins in about six weeks.

The plan will review what money is on hand and how they will pay for equipment and conference and referee fees for the 2011 season.

At the end of each season, Medina Youth Football and Gridiron each will submit an annual report to the board to document the number of registered athletes, revenue received, amounts paid and remaining cash.

Each league also must file a copy of their federal IRS 990 form with the city.

Hanwell said representatives from the football leagues eventually will be removed from the oversight committee and the panel will be used to oversee all youth sports in Medina.

The board would continue to require an annual financial report and a copy of the IRS 990 form.

“Hopefully, once we get some issues resolved, we will remove the board member and use a three-member committee for all youth sports and have them follow this concept,” Hanwell said.

The oversight committee was formed in response to accusations of fraud against Medina Bees Youth Football league’s former director, Mike Butts.

Parents of children in the league said they had trouble obtaining refunds from Butts and vendors also said they were not paid, leading to several civil cases in Medina Municipal Court.

Medina police searched Butts’ home in May after a recently formed league’s board said it found suspicious activity on one of the league’s credit cards. Soon thereafter, the entire Medina Bees Youth Football board resigned and the league disbanded.

Hanwell said he thought problems arose due to a lack of oversight of the leagues.

“We don’t want to be blindsided by this again,” he said to parents at a meeting at the Medina Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night, where he announced plans for the committee.

Part of the committee’s duties include hearing the concerns of parents and mitigating any complaints they might have. The committee will be the contact point for anything related to youth football in the city, he said.

Many parents expressed reservations about the changes at the meeting. One said he was concerned about the viability of the Gridiron league, formed by former Medina Bees Youth Football board members who left after the league’s financial problems came to light.

As part of the oversight committee proposal, the Gridiron league will be placed on probation for three years to ensure it progresses.

“We are in full support of the mayor’s proposal, and very thankful to the city and everyone involved in the city who put this together,” Gridiron board member Dave Clardy said.

Also part of the plan, Medina Youth Football will have first choice of field scheduling because it has been established for more than 40 years.

Medina Youth Football president Tony Piloseno did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Athletic director Harrison said he hopes having an oversight committee will diminish some of the animosity between the two leagues, leading to more success at the high school level.
“Both organizations feed the high school program,” he said.

Despite concerns, parents at the meeting said they simply want their children to play sports.

“My son’s got no clue about what’s going on,” one mother said. “He’s 10. He doesn’t know about the animosity between the two groups. He just wants to play football.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.