Some board members at northeast Modesto's Bel Passi Baseball brushed aside accusations that a coach sexually harassed a 16-year-old girl working at the ballpark's snack bar, according to a lawsuit.
The unnamed coach, a 37-year-old man, is married to a board member, said a former board member who witnessed the incident and resigned in protest when it appeared the coach would face no discipline, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Bel Passi board did nothing to address reports of coaches harassing an autistic child, inciting violent behavior among players, and admitting to cheating, and that the board suspended two players to punish their mothers. The board also bought and drank alcohol "excessive(ly)" using Bel Passi's nonprofit money, and changed bylaws to rig elections to keep board members in control, the lawsuit says.
Modesto attorney James Struck, representing Bel Passi, said Wednesday that the two sides are nearing a settlement to the lawsuit, filed in February in Stanislaus County Superior Court. He refused to comment further, and the plaintiffs' attorney could not be reached.
Bel Passi has nearly 1,000 players ages 3 to 14, its website says. The league began in 1953 and shares boundaries with the Sylvan Union School District; its ballpark is on Roselle Avenue north of Enochs High School.
Suing are Tara and John Case, Jonathan Raymond and Dina Huelsenbeck. Tara Case and Huelsenbeck are the parents whose children were suspended. Bel Passi board president Misty Hansen and other board members are named as defendants.
The coach last year brushed up against the girl in the snack bar and "(told) her what he wanted to do to her sexually," the lawsuit says.
The former board member secured the girl's safety, then immediately reported the incident, she said, but defendants decided "to turn a blind eye in the self-interest of protecting a (board member's) family member from potential criminal liability," the lawsuit says.
An inquiry with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department received no response.
Court documents cite a criminal code requiring adults who work with children to report to authorities suspicions of abuse or assault.
The board did nothing about coaches who "told players to take out opposing players by sliding into their legs," the lawsuit says. A coach also threatened violence against a teen umpire, and the family of the harassed autistic player was "forced to leave the league," the lawsuit says.
The board violated law by refusing to provide financial records and meeting minutes to those who eventually sued, the lawsuit says. Requests were met by the board's "open hostility," says a letter written in October to officers of PONY Baseball and Softball, the league's umbrella organization in Washington, D.C.
Suspensions banning two players from the 2018 season were handed down last year because the board determined that their mothers had violated the league's policy in emails and social media postings, court documents say.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390