Don’t Let This Happen: Approving a Volunteer With a Criminal Record
At Little League® International Headquarters and in our Regional Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about situations that are happening at one of our 7,000 local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some very positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations.
“Don’t Let This Happen to Your League” details a real world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.
The names have been changed in the following scenario, but the situation is real.
In Georgia, a local league completes its election and a new Board of Directors is seated. During registration, the league begins to publicize and encourage volunteers to participate for the upcoming season. John, a volunteer, who had been approved in past seasons and was among those responsible for the league’s facility and fields, completes a volunteer application for the upcoming season.
Upon completing the volunteer application and conducting the required background check necessary for any league volunteer with regular service and/or repetitive access to children, the league discovers that John has a conviction for driving under the influence (of alcohol) and reckless driving. The crime is not against a minor, which would be an automatic disqualifying offense. However, the new League President, following consultation with the Board of Directors, decides to appoint other candidates to fill the positions.
Upon hearing the decision of the Board, John elects to retain legal counsel and sues the league.
A lawsuit is brought against the local league, but the case is later dismissed. The dismissal is based on the facts that John was not terminated from the position. All positions within the Little League program are volunteer in nature and potential league volunteers must apply annually, receive approval, and then be appointed by the local league’s Board of Directors. The Little League Volunteer Application form, which is signed by each applicant, states that all positions are annual appointments. The League President retains the right to nominate coaches, managers, and other volunteers within the league and all nominees require majority vote of the local league’s Board of Directors.
Local league officials must carefully review EVERY volunteer application. Background checks are required for all volunteers with regular service and/or repetitive access to children. Any conviction, guilty plea or no contest plea for crime against a minor or minors automatically disqualifies a person from participation in the league. Other crimes that do not involve children will not restrict a person from volunteering in a local league, but it is in the best interest of the league to recognize and understand the charges against an individual when considering their application and position within the league. The Board has final approval on all nominations and appointments. Be aware that each state may have specific laws and requirements governing participation in volunteer organizations.
If a local league votes to appoint a person with a criminal record to a position within the league, the Board of Directors must be accountable to its constituents (parents and other volunteers) if the appointment is called into question. This situation is an example of how an applying volunteer can be forthcoming and transparent with this sort of information. If such an incident is brought to the league’s attention prior to the background check, a discussion amongst the Board members may have provided a greater understanding and impacted the opinion of the Board.