After quickly reviewing the more routine matters that follow each Little League season, members of the volunteer board squarely addressed allegations of financial mismanagement lobbed by former league president Anthony Lazzara during an annual end-of-the-season meeting held Aug. 30.
The board’s comments on the dispute that flared up over the purchase of six hats for a total of $72 marked the first public discussion of the issue since Lazzara’s resignation one month ago.
“The hat situation is squashed,” Vice President and Interim League President Rich Gray said.
Gray and the league’s treasurer, Dave Pyan, stood by comments Gray made in early August that authorization to purchase six extra hats for tournament teams did not need to come from the full board, as argued by Lazzara. Pyan acknowledged there was some confusion over the last-minute purchase, but said that was a result of poor planning and not something more sinister.
Each tournament that Forest Park Little League teams entered had different rules on the number of coaches allowed in the dugout. Pyan said the original purchase of uniforms and hats accounted for only two coaches per team in accordance with one tournament’s rules. However, six additional volunteers stepped forward to coach in tournaments that did not restrict the number of coaches, Pyan said. Auxiliary board member Terry Watson asked Pyan whether hats could be purchased for those additional coaches, and Pyan said he authorized the expense.
“We probably should have bought three [coaches’ hats] for each team and we would have been fine,” Pyan said.
At the time of his resignation, Lazzara said the dollar amount was not important, but that allowing individual board members to decide on expenses sets a bad precedent.
“As far as I’m concerned, whether it’s $12 or $1,200 it’s parents’ money and it’s sponsor money,” Lazzara said in an interview last month.
Lazzara did not attend the Aug. 30 meeting, but said in a subsequent interview he stands by his claim that the league is stepping onto a slippery slope that could lead to bigger financial problems. He also questioned the group’s motives for discussing the issue almost a month after he turned in his resignation.
“They know they’re going into next season with people questioning them,” Lazzara said.
Turning the tables on their former president, Little League board members also presented invoices and e-mails at the lightly attended meeting that they said prove Lazzara and his wife Kristine Lazzara bilked the league for at least $145. Gray said he hesitated to go public with this allegation and his explanation for the purchase of the hats because he hoped Lazzara would settle the matter.
“We were hoping that they would come up with the money,” Gray said. “We were hoping to settle it in-house rather than airing it publicly.”
Kristine Lazzara, who resigned from the auxiliary board, was reimbursed $325 for a purchase that she said in an e-mail was charged to her daughter’s personal credit card. However, an invoice for that purchase, board members said, shows the cost was only $180 and that it was paid in cash.
Lazzara said he was not present when his wife returned the balance of the funds to the league, but is certain she returned the money in cash at the same time she handed over the profits from a Fourth of July fundraiser.
Gray said the board is considering filing a small claims suit to recover the money.