Catoosa County Commission investigates financial records of Ringgold Youth Sports Association

Catoosa County Commission investigates financial records of Ringgold Youth Sports Association

May 6th, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

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In a dispute over a travel basketball team, the Catoosa County (Ga.) Commission has asked to review the Ringgold Youth Sports Association's financial records.

The commission forced association president Earl Epps to return a key to a county gym last week after parents complained about how he used the facility. The complaint concerned one of Epps' operations, the North Georgia Thunder basketball teams. During a commission meeting Tuesday night, parents on both sides of the dispute bickered.

County Manager Jim Walker said the commission began investigating the association in early April when one of the nonprofit organization's board members complained.

Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker

Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Earl Epps

Earl Epps

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Travis Barbee in his new Catoosa Parks and Rec uniform.

Travis Barbee in his new Catoosa Parks and...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"Do you care to name the board member?" one woman asked from her seat.

When the commissioners did not answer, another woman shouted, "It's a lie!"

Ringgold Youth Sports Association teams participate along with other recreation sports associations in the Catoosa County Youth Basketball League. The Thunder teams, which come from Ringgold, participate in that league. But, Epps said, they also play as a separate travel team during the weekends.

Last week, Parks and Recreation Director Travis Barbee asked for financial records for the sports association and the Thunder. Epps said the association's treasurer is turning over the league's documents, but there are no separate records for the Thunder.

He said coaches for each age group of Thunder teams raise their own funds to travel and participate in weekend tournaments. He does not keep track of that funding in one place.

"There is no organization doing that," he said. "It's a bunch of parents. There are no financials."

Under the gratuities clause of the Georgia Constitution, Walker said, a group can't use a public building without a formal contract with the county. The Ringgold Youth Sports Association has an agreement; Thunder's weekend league does not.

Concerning Thunder players, the commissioners say they are confused. If the teams practice in the Poplar Springs gym on a Wednesday, are they practicing for the sports association or the separate, weekend league?

For the county's purposes, Epps said, the Thunder players should be considered sports association participants during the week, when they use the gym. When they travel on the weekends, they are their own separate, traveling entity.

"The Thunder is under RYSA," Bret Sullivan, one of about 20 parents in attendance Tuesday night, told the commission. "It's not a separate league. If it is, someone please prove to us how that is true."

A couple of parents of former players told the commission the sports association has become too intense. Matt Williams, whose daughter quit the league, said one coach told players not to smile during games. He said his daughter was confronted for playing with another team in a separate organization one night.

"We had a child that loved, lived for basketball," he said. "Suddenly, she would come home from the gym crying, [from] practice crying. We kept asking, 'What's going on? What's going on?' She wanted to quit ball altogether."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


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