Civil suits filed against Wal­dorf Youth Sports

Al­lege un­safe play­ing con­di­tions, re­tal­i­a­tion against mem­bers

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

The mother of a Wal­dorf boy is su­ing Wal­dorf Youth Sports and its man­ag­ing board for al­legedly not per­form­ing back­ground checks, not pro­vid­ing re­quired fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion and pro­vid­ing chil­dren with used, un­safe and un­san­i­tary equip­ment, as well as chang­ing the non­profit’s by­laws to pre­vent changes in its cur­rent lead­er­ship.

“We’re trying to shed some light on this dilemma, be­cause they’re

putting our chil­dren in dan­ger,” said Keisha Matos-Joaquin of Wal­dorf, the par­ent who filed the law­suit.

A separate law­suit was filed by William Drake­ford, a for­mer coach for WYS.

WYS, or Wal­dorf Wild­cats, fields basketball, base­ball, cheerleading, foot­ball and track pro­grams.

The civil suits were filed last week in Charles County Cir­cuit Court against the 43-yearold youth sports or­ga­ni­za­tion, its pres­i­dent, sec­re­tary, trea­surer, vice pres­i­dent and sales ex­ec­u­tive.

Richard Cowans, pres­i­dent of the WYS, de­nied the claims in the suits but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther, be­cause the case is pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

The law­suits con­tend the or­ga­ni­za­tion did not per­form back­ground checks on its vol­un­teers, as re­quired by the Calvert County Parks and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment, the South­ern Mary­land Youth Ath­letic Con­fer­ence and its own by­laws.

The suits say sev­eral other coaches were never asked to sub­mit to a back­ground check, de­spite be­ing will­ing to do so.

“What kind of peo­ple do we have in our or­ga­ni­za­tion?” Matos-Joaquin said. “With­out the back­ground checks, we don’t know.”

The suit al­leges that the lack of man­dated back­ground checks is en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren as “ is un­known if any of the coaches have a crim­i­nal record that would dis­qual­ify them from coach­ing.”

Drake­ford said he and the coaches he worked with were never asked to fill out any pa­per­work for back­ground checks.

“They didn’t check me, they didn’t check my coaches, any­body,” Drake­ford said. “That’s just a no-brainer; you’ve got to have that.”

The suit also con­tends that Richard Cowans, WYS pres­i­dent, has en­gaged in phys­i­cal and ver­bal as­saults both on and off the play­ing field.

Ac­cord­ing to the suit, in 2016, Cowans en­gaged in a ver­bal al­ter­ca­tion with an­other coach, yelling and us­ing foul lan­guage in front of chil­dren.

“He got into an ar­gu­ment in front of all of our boys, right be­fore they went on the field,” said Daz­zlin Slaugh­ter, who has two chil­dren in the WYS. Slaugh­ter said her son wit­nessed the dis­play.

Matos-Joaquin said that in prior years, team mem­bers re­ceived new uni­forms with pay­ment of their dues, but that in 2016, they re­ceived un­clean, ripped uni­forms and bro­ken, faulty hel­mets. Par­ents were re­quired to do their own san­i­ta­tion of uni­forms and equip­ment, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

“We re­ceived dirty, old ripped uni­forms,” Matos-Joaquin said. “Some of the items we were sup­posed to re­ceive we didn’t re­ceive at all.”

The suit fur­ther al­leges that the de­fen­dants changed the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s by­laws this year, adding a re­quire­ment that only those who have served at least two years on the board of di­rec­tors may run for pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent or sec­re­tary and re­mov­ing a re­quire­ment that rel­a­tives not hold sim­i­lar po­si­tions on the board, as well as a re­quire­ment that the pres­i­dent not also serve as a head coach.

“They’re new; they came in, and they started chang­ing the by­laws,” Drake­ford said. “This guy [Cowans] has made this his per­sonal toy.”

Drake­ford, who has been coach­ing for WYS for more than three years, said that when he tried to bring par­ents’ con­cerns to the board, he was let go as a coach in the mid­dle of his team’s base­ball sea­son. Drake­ford said he was never given an ex­pla­na­tion for the fir­ing.

“For Coach Will to be re­moved the way he was, it was just shock­ing,” said Thomas Jef­fers, a coach who had one child in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Jef­fers said he ini­tially didn’t want to get in­volved with board pol­i­tics, but that things seem to be get­ting out of con­trol.

“It seems to be a house of cards on fire,” Jef­fers said. “It’s a mess.”

Jef­fers said that when he and other par­ents tried to get an­swers from the board, they were called names. Jef­fers filed a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der against the board this week.

“I can’t have my son go back to that or­ga­ni­za­tion where I’m not even com­fort­able be­ing part of that or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Jef­fers said.

Matos-Joaquin said that when she re­quested in­for­ma­tion from the board, her son’s mem­ber­ship in WYS was ter­mi­nated and her mem­ber­ship fee was re­funded. She said other par­ents who re­quested in­for­ma­tion re­ceived the same re­sponse.

“In­stead of an­swer­ing our ques­tions, they kicked us out of the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Matos-Joaquin said.

Matos-Joaquin said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has not pro­vided re­quired fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, leav­ing par­ents un­sure where their mem­ber­ship dues are go­ing.

The suits are seek­ing in­junc­tive re­lief declar­ing that board ac­tions this year are null and void, restora­tion of mem­ber­ships, re­moval of cur­rent board mem­bers, sub­mis­sion of re­quired back­ground checks, doc­u­men­ta­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s fi­nances, in­clud­ing fundrais­ing rev­enue, bank state­ments and re­ceipts and safety cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of all WYS foot­ball hel­mets.

The suit is also seek­ing com­pen­satory dam­ages and re­im­burse­ment of court fees.

“It’s just been a lot of abuse of power en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren, a lot of funny busi­ness, which you shouldn’t have when you’re deal­ing with chil­dren,” Drake­ford said.

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