At Little League® International in Williamsport, Pa., and at 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 omitted in the following scenario, but the situation is real.

The Situation

After the local league elects the volunteers who will serve on the Board of Directors for the upcoming season, the Board meets and elects its President and Vice President. Additionally, it forms an Appointment Committee, which includes the League President and Vice President. The Appointment Committee asks the Board members to suggest position recommendations for the upcoming season. Taking the suggestions under consideration, the Committee meets to discuss the recommendations. At the first meeting of the new Board, the proposed positions and staffing recommendations are presented to the quorum and the floor was opened for discussion. Following the discussion, the President asks for a vote on the recommendations, and the Board approves the appointments. Even though there was an opportunity for open discussion prior to voting, and the vote was properly conducted, a group of returning Board members later approach the President with concerns about the two first-year Board members recommended to oversee the concession stand. The group claims that it had recently become aware of alleged fiscal improprieties by the two volunteers while they served in another local youth sports organization. Citing these suspicions, these Board members asks the League President to instruct the Appointment Committee to do an investigation before allowing the Concession Stand Managers to assume their duties.

The Outcome

The League President and the Vice President first confirm that the Safety Officer had completed the mandatory Little League background checks before the Appointment Committee finalized its recommendations. No prior criminal convictions were discovered. However, the League President did speak with the head administrator for the other youth sports league, and did receive confirmation that there was an on-going police investigation into the misappropriation of funds from the league’s concession sales. The investigation was not complete, so no charges had been filed. With this new information, the League President met with the Board’s senior officers – namely, the league’s Vice President and the Vice Presidents of each of the league’s divisions – and the Chairman of the Appointment Committee. Sharing this new information, it was decided to re-assign both Board members, pending the outcome of the investigation, and place two other Board members in charge of the concession stands. The decision was communicated by the League President to the volunteers, who subsequently stepped down from the Board prior to the next month’s meeting. The local media learned of the situation, and ran a series of news stories reflecting poorly on the league.

Note to Leagues

When recruiting, accepting, and nominating new volunteers to serve on the Board of Directors, it is important to be diligent about getting to know these individuals. Little League’s national background check program will only reveal convictions for a crime, and in some states may only provide a general overview of a person’s criminal history. If you do not know them personally, ask other members of your league, as well as friends and colleagues, if they can provide any insight in their personality, background, work ethic, and service in other local civic organizations. Also consider developing a more thorough nomination form for individuals wishing to join your Board of Directors. Keep in mind that you are volunteering in service of the children and the local Little League, and that to protect the best interests of both. Undergoing a thorough review process prior to making appointments can help prevent situations that can lead to negative publicity or other issues that arise from a Board shakeup.