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National Little League told to hold election

September 29, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

National Little League must hold an annual meeting of its members and schedule a supervised election before regional Little League officials will approve the organization's charter for next year, according to a letter from a league official.

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The letter, signed by Eastern Region Director Donald R. Soucy, instructs league President Kelly Cromer to contact District 1 Administrator Debbie Everts. Copies of the letter, which is dated Sept. 14, were sent to both women.

Everts said Cromer has not contacted her to make arrangements for an annual meeting or an election.

"She's not really cooperating with me at this time," Everts said. "It's been two weeks, and I felt that was sufficient time to pull her board together."

Cromer said it is Everts, not her, who has been uncooperative. She said Everts has never adequately explained what she or the league's board of directors did wrong.

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"I answered every question that she asked," Cromer said. "The board members have done absolutely nothing wrong."

The Hagerstown-based league, in which about 300 children play, has had internal problems and the past season was marked by disagreements. The board of directors expelled two members for alleged violations of league rules. The two, in turn, have criticized Cromer's leadership.

Little League Baseball Inc. canceled a league election that was scheduled for Sept. 12 because of accusations that proper procedures were not being followed.

The letter instructs Cromer to provide written notification of the annual meeting two weeks in advance. At the meeting, the league's members must nominate candidates for the board and schedule an election to be supervised by Everts and the district staff, the letter states.

Everts said the league violated several rules related to election procedure. For example, there was no nominating committee to select the candidates, she said.

Soucy spelled out the process for a new election.

"In order to satisfy the requirements in the Election Procedures, the election must be held in a meeting forum," the letter states.

Cromer said the election process the board used was the same one that has been in place for years.

Cromer said neither officials in the regional headquarters in Bristol, Conn., nor Everts has specified what Little League rules were broken.

"I am highly insulted," she said. "I don't think the district has any business doing it Debbie refuses to answer why they're doing it."

What's more, Cromer said the letter lays out instructions that are impossible to follow. For instance, the letter says, "the regular membership must review and ratify the membership list of those eligible to vote in the election."

Cromer said she has been unable to get clarification on what that means.

"How can a membership ratify the membership? How can you get a quorum of the members?" she said.

Cromer said she has sought advice from an attorney on how to proceed.

'Improper' checks

One of the issues cited in Soucy's letter was the use of criminal background checks that disqualified two people who had signed up to run for a position on the 15-member board.

Soucy's letter called the checks "improper."

"Please be advised that Little League Baseball Inc. recommends that before any league chooses to conduct background checks on any member, the league must first adopt a policy formulated by the Board of Directors and approved by the general membership," he wrote in the letter.

Several board candidates said they were never told they would be subject to a background check. Soucy wrote that individuals must be informed and must provide consent to a background check.

A sample Little League volunteer application that Everts provided contained a clause giving permission for background checks.

Cromer said that, in hindsight, the board probably should have told potential officers that the checks would be conducted.

But she said there is no written policy governing how background checks should be carried out.

Cromer said the board started the checks to ensure the safety of its children and consisted of looking up court records.

"You don't have to be notified if somebody's going to check a public record," she said.

Soucy 'misled'

Cromer expressed frustration over what she characterized as a handful of malcontents.

She cited Ricky A. Hockensmith, a Hagerstown resident who was expelled from the league and charged with trespassing in June.

Cromer said he and his allies have won the ear of Everts because Hockensmith's brother, Denny, serves on the district board with her.

"She is definitely biased," Cromer said.

Everts flatly denied the accusation. She said she has had minimal discussion with Denny Hockensmith about the situation.

Cromer, though, said she believes Everts has unfairly influenced Soucy and his assistants at the regional office.

"I think they have been very misled," she said.

Officials at the regional office did not return phone calls Wednesday.

The fate of the league for next season likely will be decided soon, Everts said.

She said she expects Eastern Region Headquarters to send Cromer another letter with a deadline by which action must be taken.

"My only goal is to make sure the election is done in the proper way and get a new board in place," she said.

Cromer said the charter is not in danger.

"We have done nothing wrong," she said. "They can only take your charter away if you've had a serious infraction."

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