After Outcry, Ansonia Backs Off New Rules For Volunteers

Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti pulled the plug on a proposal to screen volunteers in recreation programs for criminal convictions after several residents involved in the city’s youth football program spoke out against the move.

The mayor said he’d schedule a meeting of recreation officials to look at the matter further.

Aldermen held their regular monthly meeting Tuesday.

On the agenda was a resolution that would prohibit those convicted of certain crimes from serving as volunteers for recreation programs which use city facilities.

During the public session portion of Tuesday’s meeting, several residents spoke out against the proposal.

They said good volunteers are hard to come by — and the volunteers that the resolution sought to ban are often the same people at-risk kids need to hear from the most.

Article continues after copy of the proposal.

Screening Policy

photo:ethan fry’I Feel I’m Being Targeted’

Those voicing opposition included Keith Maynard, a former Aldermen sentenced to prison time in 2011 for assaulting his then-fiancee. He is currently a board member of the city’s youth football program.

Maynard said he felt targeted by the proposal, which was first raised last month at a meeting of an Aldermen’s subcommittee. He noted that the local youth football program is scheduled to elect a new executive board this month.

“In my opinion, I feel I’m being targeted behind this issue,” Maynard said, noting that he has been involved with youth football and little league for two years, and the Boys and Girls Club for more than 10. “If none of these other organizations are worried about liability, why would Ansonia be concerned with liability?”

Click to hear Maynard’s comments. Keith Maynard

When the proposal surfaced last month, the Valley Indy asked the chairman of the Aldermen’s ordinance subcommittee and the city’s corporation counsel whether it had been brought forward because of Maynard.

Both said no — the proposal just made sense to protect both children involved in youth sports and the city from any liability.

The Valley Indy also sent Freedom of Information requests Feb. 3 seeking any city e-mails to since December 2013 referencing Maynard.

John Marini, the city’s corporation counsel, said Tuesday that a search turned up no such communications.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Marini said “the policy stems from a concern about sex offenders volunteering with kids.”

“We looked toward a national standard, and now we are having the important dialogue with the residents to tailor a policy for Ansonia,” he said.

Others Speak Out

Maynard and others said there are people with convictions employed by the city and serving on its boards and commissions.

Greg Johnson, the president of the Ansonia chapter of the NAACP, brought up Gov. Dannel Malloy’s “second chance society” initiatives to reform the state’s criminal justice system, saying he had hoped the governor’s ideas would “trickle down” to Connecticut’s municipalities.

He told the Aldermen to reevaluate the ordinance, and to involve the public more in doing so.

“It impacts a lot of lives and a lot of youth,” Johnson said.

Kente Douglas, another volunteer football coach, said he was an ex-con and conceded making mistakes earlier in life.

But he said it’s because of that he can now show kids the path not to go down — and not just on the football field.

“I serve as a mentor. I’m there all types of times, I get phone calls (about) kids (who) are going the wrong way,” Douglas said. “I show them by example: ‘This is what it’s all about.’”

Click to listen to Douglas’ comments Kente Douglas

“In no way do I make any excuses for my past, but I know where my future is going,” he said.

Kenny Tinney, who’s coaching youth football for the fourth year, said he hasn’t missed a day.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids come through this program, myself included, who went the wrong path,” Tinney said. “So my job, and our job, is to do things on a different note.”

Click to hear Tinney’s comments. Kenny Tinney

Chicago Rivers, another coach, said simply that good assistant coaches are hard to find.

“They may have a past, but it is exactly that — a past,” he said.

’You’re Not Going Nowhere’

After the outcry, Cassetti said the resolution would be tabled and that the matter would be revisited at a meeting of the city’s recreation board and the Aldermen’s ordinance subcommittee.

He told Maynard and Douglas that they would remain in the program.

“Keith, Kente, let me tell you, as long as I sit in the mayor’s office, you will still be here,” Cassetti said. “You’re not going nowhere.”

The mayor’s statement was greeted by applause.

He said he did want to move forward with new rules disqualifying certain people — sex offenders.

“We have to do that,” Cassetti said, adding that he’d try to set up the recreation board/aldermen subcommittee meeting “as soon as possible.”

Click play on the video above to see part of the mayor’s remarks.

Later in the meeting, Aldermen tabled the resolution.

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