How CIF and CCS are Breaking the Law and Why Conflicts of Interest Matter to Athletes and Schools

CCS Watchdog has learned that CIF and CCS have refused to release any information related to conflicts of interest for the Central Coast Section. State law requires CIF and CCS to redact privacy information, but to release the remainder of the information contained in a conflict of interest to the public upon request. How many conflicts exist, are public monies being abused because of these conflicts, that information is required to be released. For over 5 months CIF and CCS have refused to provide any information related to potential conflicts of interest in the Section and how those conflicts have been properly managed by CIF. Instead CIF and CCS have incurred tremendous legal bills , which have been charged to schools, to keep this information from coming forward. Schools, families, athletes and coaches have a right to know this information . Failing to release it is not only breaking the law, it is keeping important information from the CCS Community and escalating athletic fees and burdens unnecessarily.

The CIF policy very specifically calls for all CCS officials to annually disclose conflicts of interest they may have that could give them personal gain by nature of their position. Legally one would be considered to improperly gain from things like: You or a close relative owns a building , equipment or services that you pay for with Section funds. You give a buddy an Independent Contractor job to do a website even though that person was already receiving a pension from the Section and may not be the most qualified to do a site. Your kid or a relative gets an award, scholarship or other benefit over a more deserving athlete because you are a big mucky muck within the Section. You are married to a school principal and don’t act on that school if required. You fail to punish a school because you ride horses with buddies from that school and don’t want them on probation. Your kid gets more play time and visibility and gets into college over a more deserving athlete but the nature of your position and your longevity in that position prevents anyone from complaining. It could mean turning the other way because a coach you have known for 20 years couldn’t possibly be guilty of a complaint that crosses your desk. Finances are supposed to be managed at arm’s length so they prevent conflict of interests. Audits should address potential conflicts of interest that could lead to misconduct like embezzlement or improper personal gain and it is not always as simple as making sure people don’t sign their own checks. When people are allowed to manage for too long, when they don’t follow the rules and when they intimidate people from speaking out, there is usually a much greater problem.

If the finances of CIF and CCS are managed properly, conflicts of interest should be openly disclosed and fairly managed. Appointments should be made with greater input from the CCS Community and the ” we have to just deal with it because nobody else will do that job” can’t be allowed to be the rationale for letting a select few run things without transparency and proper oversight for long periods of time. There certainly are hundreds of well qualified individuals able and willing to manage the Section that in return pays a high salary, benefits, retirement and expenses. And certainly for a million dollars a year we can get paperwork, including conflicts of interest filed properly.

Yes, there are rules and associations that may give an appearance that refs are neutral. Yes, there are requirements that CCs officials can’t sign their own paychecks or expenses. But the way to steal money isn’t usually so obvious. The way to get personal gain may not even be noticed and that is why conflicts of interest filings are so important. If these have not been filed and managed properly, then it puts every CCS decision in question.

We call on CIF and CCS to stop breaking state law and to disclose all conflicts of interest in the Section. Whom is married to whom, who may benefit from a CCS position, personally and economically. It shouldn’t be a secret.

Figures Don’t Lie, but Liars Often Figure- are Accounting Firms in on the Abuse of Public Funds in our High School Sports Programs ?

Postings on Rivals.com by FUBO recently increased our site traffic by over 500 hits per day and generated hundreds of emails inquiries.  Most were startled to learn that the Section Commissioner and her small staff take almost a million dollars per year- the majority of CCS funds – for their own salaries, benefits , retirement, car allowances, telephones and management decisions, yet the total given to athletes and coaches annually is a mere $3,000. CIF is not much better. Many believe the Section and CIF have forgotten who they serve. While the Commissioner is enjoying her big TV deal making , the numbers suggest she may be over her head in  managing CCS finances. And everyone from Rivals.com was stunned to learn Section officials are a far cry from the volunteers they  believed them to be. In addition to salaries, expenses and retirement all of the CCS staff  receive generous vacation time, medical benefits, travel allowances and an ability to give jobs and contracts to their closest circle of friends and family.  The Section Commissioner alone is paid more than any superintendent of any school district in the Section.

In 2010 , the Section Commissioner retained an accounting firm to conduct the 2009 Section Financial Audit. The numbers in that audit tell part of the story, but not all of it:

The accounting firm Lautze and Lautze was retained by the Section Commissioner to audit the Section, as required by CIF, for the financial year 2009. In the opening cover letter the firm specifically states that the financial statements they review are the responsibility of the Section, and that the firm’s responsibility is to “ express an opinion on these statements based on our audit”.

True, the audit stated the opinion that all the numbers appeared to be in order. BUT those numbers are generated and reported by the CCS Management. So while the numbers may all add up on paper, Lautze and Lautze neglected  to address critical aspects of CCS finances that may serve to expose member schools, families and athletes to significant financial risk:

  1. Failure to properly manage the business finances of the Section. Everything from the $88,000 per year the Section spends on leases  to the $100,000 for computer and telecommunication equipment , the Section has done little to control  their expenses despite the economic climate  and budgetary issues faced by member schools. For example, CCS has committed to a 3 year office lease and the audit describes the lease is “ Non- Cancelable”. However, if managed properly it would be reasonable to expect the CCS office spaces could be renegotiated to lower the expense burden on the Section. It is hard to understand why vast office space is needed at a premium price when 80% of the surrounding commercial spaces are vacant . In this economy, nothing is “non- cancelable”. Also, the audit failed to note if any conflicts of interest may exist  related to these leases. Is it a buddy of a staff member , could there be kick backs to someone’s kids?
  2. Potential Loss of Tax Exempt Status- True, the audit reports the Section pays no taxes under the Federal Income Tax Code 501(c) (3) and state code 23701d. BUT the auditors fail to address requirements for an organization to operate and maintain that  tax exempt status. Since such a huge portion  of CCS finances benefits only  the CCS Commissioner and staff, it is possible that the Section is in violation of these tax codes and such should certainly be addressed in an audit. If the Section is not in compliance with these requirements, it could jeopardize the tax exempt status of the Section in the future. Loss of this status would mean additional tax burdens and potential loss of donor funding.
  3. Failure to Contain Excessive Salaries and Retirement for CCS Commissioner and her staff. True, the Audit reports that the Section management benefits from the Section participation in CalPERS, a retirement plan for public employees which the Section contributes 22% of the payroll . In 2009 the Section paid  $95,000 dollars which went only to the Commissioner and possibly 2 other full time staff members.  BUT the audit fails to address the overall burden this places on the Section in the future. The burden to provide retirement to CCS officials may simply be too great to be sustainable.  Is it fair to give the Commissioner full retirement when most coaches and teachers  are unpaid and have no retirement?????? AND….At the same time this audit was rubber stamping the Section , a CalPER Audit found a number of significant issues and exposed numerous financial problems  in the Section accointing and reporting. These included an unreasonable number of late payroll reports, inaccurate reporting, and double dipping. In a response to the CalPER audit the Commissioner states the staff is not capable of keeping up and current with all requirements. Yet isn’t that what they are expected to do for the member schools they serve? How much would the Section have to pay to get someone capable of managing their own retirement benefits properly if $1,000,000 for four people is not enough to get it done?  The Commissioner was also supposed to report further on this matter to the various governing CCS committees and simply failed to do so. The Commissioner was also suppose to set up a special budget committee to review these issues and failed to do so.  An independent audit should expose these issues as potential for financial misconduct. A truly independent audit would evaluate conflicts of interest in the Section and how those could pose financial risk. It should also expose the potential for embezzlement or other  misconduct that could have criminal and civil inplications.
  4. Failure to Contain Excessive Professional Fees- True, the 2009 Section audit did not find professional fees out of line. However, immediately following the CalPERS audit the Section expenses for legal and accounting fees began to soar. Excessive legal fees are usually an indication of much larger problems. 400% increase in legal fees in recent months is a major red flag.  Also did the 2009 audit serve the public interest as it should? 

Maybe it is time to insist these audits not only count the numbers but provide further insight into the story behind the numbers. Maybe it is time to ensure Section money goes for athletes and sports programs rather than excessive salaries, retirement and benefits for a very  select few individuals.

How Abuse and Lost Opportunites Impact the Athletes in High School Sports Programs

An article in today’s San Jose Mercury http://www.mercurynews.com/scott-herhold/ci_19894306?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com by Scott Herhold sheds some light on the type of treatment high school athletes endure every day.  A toxic high school sports structure and culture provides for coaches, administrators and officials to act with little transparency or accountability. Nowhere else in our society do we tolerate any individual being verbally, mentally, physically or sexually abusive to children as we do in our schools and sports programs.

While the vast majority of our coaches are good hard working individuals with the best of intentions, if the system provides for even one coach to harm a child, it is one too many. Yes, coaches must set rules, players must follow rules and hopefully coaches should lead by example. Unfortunately civility cannot be regulated , but we can enforce that coaches and administrators follow the law.

Joe Paterno said days before he died, that he just didn’t know what to do with “  that”  complaint. That he was  from an era that didn’t allow him to mentally  grasp that complaint such that he knew what to do with it.    Sadly, not much has changed.  How many athletes have been abused, lost opportunities or been negatively impacted because nobody spoke up or knew what to do?

In the letter written by the Gunderson High basketball players there are issues that clearly do not have merit. Players should not be late and expect that to be okay because the   coach may be late. Most coaches are volunteers who have day jobs and 90% of them do their best to fulfill the commitment to the teams they coach. Players have an obligation to follow the rules, to be prepared and to warm up or be productive while they wait on a coach.

Coaches must follow rules as well. If a coach hears a racial slam from another coach, as the adult, he owes it to both teams to address it. Referees owe it to the game, the players and the spectators to address it as well. That behavior doesn’t belong in the game. When it is tolerated it is allowed to flourish and likely continues well beyond the visibility of the game. The letter is now public, what will the administrators and officials at Gunderson and Los Gatos High do with that information? Has the coach from Los Gatos High had similar complaints filed that were brushed under the mat? Is that how he speaks to his players? Is that the example and tone he sets for his team?

Verbal abuse must be addressed as well as it is often a precursor to other bad  or illegal behavior.  The players bravely spoke up and described how  they had heard a teammate be treated. That is direct testimony , it  is a complaint.   The sports culture may say this behavior is a necessity of the sport, society should say otherwise. If adults want to grow up and play in the Super bowl or get that big shoe deal, they may choose to endure that type of culture, but it doesn’t belong in high school sports.

These young men  should be applauded for breaking the code of silence and bravely coming forward.  If parents treat their children that way, a mandated reporter is obligated to report it. So why is this coach not reported? If the complaint has merit, the administrators have an obligation to address it both internally and according to state law. The Supreme Court has ruled that students do not check their civil liberties at the door when they go to school and this applies to the sports they play while  in school as well.

Gunderson High School has a legal obligation to address this. If the coach is in fact abusive and the players have been falsely denied the opportunity to participate, he should be fired. The firing should be well documented and public such that  he is  not be allowed to appear on another team on another day.

This story illustrates what our athletes face every day and how the adults embedded in the sports structure and culture respond. What if these were female athletes who had been sexually abused- would we act more rapidly? What if the abuse that was reported wasn’t the worse of it? And what about the children who don’t tell ? The students should be commended for speaking up. The code of silence and protection of those in charge of our young athletes must be broken.

Ironically, adjacent to this article was an article about an Ex Prosecutor who was charged with misconduct and creating phony lab reports, but she was allowed to cut a deal and kept the details private. She left the DA’s office in 2010 and is pursuing a career in teaching! Where is that reform Jeff Rosen promised? It is time to do better for our high school athletes here .