A parent who protested the firings of two coaches on her daughter's cheerleading squad may have been banned from participation in the sport because she contacted the press about the dispute.
Jim Robinson, president of the Edgewood Recreation Council, told the county's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Wednesday night that Cyndy Minacapelli might have been banned because she brought the dispute over the coaches' firings to the attention of the press.
Robinson's testimony came at a special hearing convened in a final attempt to put to rest a dispute that began last fall when two coaches for the recreation council's cheerleading squad of 6- to 8-year-olds were dismissed.
The controversy escalated in November when theEdgewood Recreation Council voted to ban the two coaches from the sport for three years and "sanction (Minacapelli) from having anything to do with the Edgewood cheerleading program other than being a spectator for a period of one year."
The hearing was chaired by Emory Plitt, the county attorney.
Two lawyers, one for the recreation council and one representing the coaches and Minacapelli, produced witnesses who gave their versions of the events that led to the dismissalsand bannings.
The advisory board will make a recommendation on resolving the issue to County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who will make the final decision.
Robinson, questioned by Plitt and board members, testified that the Recreation Council does not have a specific appeals procedure and said, "I back my board members."
He said he never tried to set up a meeting to mediate the dispute, but said the women were told at the time why they were dismissed.
When questioned by Plitt about why the council voted to ban Minacapelli, Robinson said, "I can't speak for the Rec Council."
Pressed again by Plitt,Robinson said, "There were some discussions about how the Rec Council was looking bad and was bad-mouthed."
When Plitt asked if Minacapelli's contact with the media had prompted the ban, Robinson replied, "I don't really know."
Asked a second time for his opinion, Robinson said, "Maybe it could have."
Jane Wiley, director of the Edgewood Recreation Council's cheerleading board, said she dismissed assistant coach Vickie Tolson after Tolson refused to move a squad practice indoors at Wiley's request. Wiley said she and other members of the board also decided to dismiss coach Cathy Potter after Potter allegedly allowed Tolson to coach on two occasions after her dismissal.
"I saw no choice," said Wiley. "This whole thing has been a nightmare. I'm sick of reading about it in the newspapers."
Wiley testified that she had been told by other parents at a football game that Minacapelli and the two coaches had used profanity in front of the children.
Tolson, Minacapelli and Potter have denied they ever used profanity in front of children.
Randy Wase, a lawyer representing Minacapelli and the two coaches, said she felt the trio's rights to due process were violated.
Said Wase, "The coaches were not told the reasons for their dismissals for months after the dismissals, and the Edgewood Recreation Council has no guidelines to determine the policies for dismissal."
,.5l Mahoney, the lawyer representing the Edgewood Recreation Council, said he thought the need for an appeal, especially the forum convened, was "ridiculous."
He said the cheerleading program administrators and the recreation council followed appropriate procedures in dismissing the two coaches and had a right to ban Minacapelli for "demonstrative behavior."