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Little League ruling expected soon

September 14, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The fate of Hagerstown's National Little League should be decided this week, a local official said Monday.

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Little League's eastern regional headquarters in Bristol, Conn., served notice last week that National's charter might not be renewed for 2000.

The regional headquarters also ordered a regular election scheduled for last Sunday for the league's board of directors to be postponed.

An election will be held when regional Little League officials lay out guidelines for an election and explain what steps must be taken to preserve the charter, according to District I Administrator Debbie Everts.

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Everts, who oversees 17 leagues in Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties, said she expects she will have some role in overseeing a new election. She said those details will be spelled out by officials in Bristol.

She said she expects to receive word on Wednesday.

"Hopefully, by then we'll know when the election will be," she said.

Everts said National Little League President Kelly Cromer has not given her a list of candidates for the board. Cromer declined to comment on the league's election.

When they work out details like when and where, league officials also will have to settle another contentious issue - whether to conduct criminal background checks of candidates for the board of directors.

Two candidates for the board of directors were disqualified after background checks revealed criminal records, according to league officials.

Cromer said the organization instituted the checks this year to ensure the safety of its 300 children. She declined to say who conducted the checks or give other information about how they were done.

"It is not in response to anything except for the protection of the children," she said.

The practice has drawn fire from some people who believe the checks were used to eliminate candidates who disagree with the current board. Several candidates said they were not told a check would be conducted.

"I really don't think it's appropriate" not to tell candidates for the board about the background checks, said candidate Paul Crampton, who was not disqualified. "I think there should have been something said to that effect, or maybe something on the application."

Crampton, who also is the assistant mayor of Funkstown and whose son plays T-ball, said he does not object to background checks as long as they are fairly applied and people are told up front.

Everts said she does not know of other local Little Leagues that conduct background checks. She said background checks are used by other leagues across the country for managers and coaches.

Everts questioned how the checks were conducted.

"I'm not sure if that was done properly or not," she said.

The operating manual that all Little League organizations use recommends criminal background checks for coaches and managers but says nothing of investigations of board members, Everts said.

Cromer said ensuring the safety of children demands weeding out adults who have been convicted of crimes like assault and child abuse. Theft also is a serious crime because the league owns thousands of dollars worth of equipment, she said.

"Those kinds of people do not belong in an organization for children," she said. "These people are entrusted with other people's children Who in their right mind would complain that we were doing criminal background checks?"

Some parents have complained, however, that Cromer used the checks to disqualify those she doesn't want on the board.

Mark Bloyer and Robin Tasker said they found out about the background checks for the first time on Aug. 29 when they were told at the league's banquet that they were ineligible to hold office. Both said they were also told they no longer would be able to manage or coach in the league.

Bloyer, 33, of Williamsport, said he was rejected because of a misdemeanor theft charge when he was 19. He said he and a friend stole beer from a beer truck.

Bloyer's record also includes probation in 1986 for disorderly conduct and a theft charge that was dropped.

"Some petty theft that happened (14) years ago? That's ridiculous," he said.

Bloyer said Cromer targeted him because he spoke out against the current board. He said some board members favored their own children with spots on all-star teams and retaliated against the children of parents who challenged them.

Tasker, 36, of Noland Drive, said her conviction on assault and battery charges in 1996 stems from an incident in which she slapped her daughter's face.

Tasker and Bloyer both said their brushes with the law were never an issue during their years of coaching in the league.

"Now they want to do a background check after everything is all over?" Tasker said. "Because I made one mistake, you're going to hold that against me?"

Cromer vehemently denied any ulterior motive for the checks. She said they were not invasive because the information is public record.

As for the timing, Cromer said only one of the current board members is running for election. She said she is not running again.

"It has to start sometime. I thought we were doing a good thing," she said. "Hopefully, it will continue to happen I wish we would have done it in the beginning of the year."

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