A Baseball Story In The Birthplace Of Little League Baseball – PART IX

The following is the result of a more than 18-month long investigation by Fox Sports Williamsport into the Williamsport Area High School Baseball Team trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the spring of 2018.

This story is graphic and contains details related to multiple indecent sexual assaults.

The author and editor of this story have made the editorial decision to not publish the names of the individuals under the age of 18 at the time of the incident who have been clearly identified as committing these acts in this case since they have not been formally charged with a crime.

A Baseball Story In The Birthplace Of Little League Baseball

IF NOTHING HAPPENED IN MYRTLE BEACH

WHY WON’T THE WASD TELL US THE STORY?

PART IX

By Todd Bartley, Fox Sports Williamsport

Todd@Foxsportswilliamsport.com

570-327-1300

 

WASD BOARD REFUSES TO OPEN DISCUSSION ON MYRTLE BEACH INQUIRY

Foxsportswilliamsport.com exclusively reported on February 4, 2020 following the Williamsport Area School District School Board meeting,

Tonight at the Williamsport Area School District School Board meeting, board member Adam Welteroth made a motion to open a discussion on beginning an independent third party investigation into the incidents on the 2018 Myrtle Beach baseball team trip.

The motion did not receive a second.

Details to follow on this developing story.

WASD School Board Members, Pictured: Standing from left is Patrick Dixon, Barbara Reeves, Marc Schefsky, Star Poole and Adam Welteroth. Seated from left is President Lori Baer, Vice President Dr. Jane Penman, Dr. Nancy Story Somers and Jennifer Lake. (Photo courtesy, WASD.ORG)

 

WELTEROTH STATEMENT AT WASD BOARD MEETING

WASD Board Member Adam Cole Welteroth offered a public comment following Part VIII of “A Baseball Story” series on Foxsportswilliamsport.com at the February 4, 2020 WASD School Board meeting.

My fellow board members, I would (sic) like to take a moment to express my concerns with the incident that occurred in Myrtle Beach in the spring of 2018.

We as a board were advised of this incident on June 5, 2018.

We were given a narrative of what occurred and what actions the district did in response to this incident.

We the board were advised that the district’s actions were within the wishes of all parties involved effectively leading us to believe this matter was handled and done with.

On August 21, 2018, the board was advised that a reporter, Todd Bartley, was going to be running a story on the Myrtle Beach incident.

As we all know, Todd Bartley did report his story and his account of the incident did not mirror what the board had been previously told by the administration.

Todd Bartley also began the narrative which has continued to this day as the District has employed measures to cover up this incident.

On August 26, 2018, I expressed my concerns in light of new allegations and details reported by Todd Bartley and from Facebook posts by other members of the public in an email to administration.

In this email I called for the district to re-investigate old and new allegations objectively and to present the results and the interviews to the board in a timeline format.

To this day, the district has yet to honor my request; though the district has answered some of my questions and concerns.

For almost two years, the district has remained silent on this matter while being subjected to RTK requests, expanded accusations of wrong done, and a multi part news series on the accounts and handling of the Myrtle Beach incident.

The narrative of this incident has had many twist and turns of accounts and accusations of cover ups by the district.

The Williamsport Area School District, its students, and employees have for all intents and purposes received a black eye in the handling of this incident.

This bothers me.

It is time, we as a board take steps to put this matter to rest.

We cannot let students and employees of the district to be smeared in public if they have done nothing wrong.

On the same hand, we cannot let this incident go if any of these allegations and accusations are true.

Either way, we must seek an independent investigation and review of this incident by the district to put this matter to rest.

I have called for it in the past and the public has called for it as well. I make a motion to commission a third party investigation and review of this incident.

It should be contracted to a law firm who does not have a vested interest with the district professionally and/or privately.

The scope of this investigation shall attempt to answer: What happened in Myrtle Beach?

A timeline detailing what the district did in response to the incident.

A review of the districts investigation.

Review of possible conflicts of interest with those involved in the investigation to included members of outside agencies and representation of the parties involved.

Was this matter handle properly by the district and in the future providing a suggested protocol for investigating such matters?

The results of this investigation shall be released to the public as a show of good faith that the district will be transparent in this matter within the amount allowable by law as to not violate any party’s rights to confidentiality.

With this motion, I would invite a second by my fellow board members to allow discussion as to why we should not commission a third party investigation and review at this time.

The motion made by Welteroth was met with 10 seconds of stunned silence from the other 8 members of the WASD School Board including President Lori Baer, Vice President Dr. Jane Penman, Patrick Dixon, Barbara Reeves, Marc Schefsky, Star Poole, Dr. Nancy Story Somers and Jennifer Lake as well as WASD Solicitor Fred Holland, multiple WASD administrators and did not receive a second.

Lori Baer, President of the WASD School Board after the 10 seconds of stunned silence, said, “I don’t hear a second, Adam at this point in time. I think this is pry (sic) something that pry (sic) we need to talk about in executive session with legal advisement may not be quite appropriate to do it right now, so…but unless somebody would like to offer a second.”

Welteroth responds, “the second motion is to talk about this it’s not saying (inaudible).”

Baer concludes, “I’m not seeing anybody (inaudible).”

 

NO REPORT PROVIDED TO WASD SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

Fox Sports Williamsport has confirmed through multiple sources that a final report on the individual investigations related to the Myrtle Beach incident conducted by Lycoming County Detective Willie Weber and WAHS Head Principal Brandon Pardoe have to date not been provided to the WASD School Board.

 

DID WASD SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT VIOLATE THE PA SUNSHINE LAW?

When Lori Baer, President of the WASD School Board after the 10 seconds of stunned silence, said, “I don’t hear a second, Adam at this point in time. I think this is pry (sic) something that pry (sic) we need to talk about in executive session with legal advisement may not be quite appropriate to do it right now, so…but unless somebody would like to offer a second.”

Welteroth responds, “the second motion is to talk about this it’s not saying (inaudible).”

Baer concludes, “I’m not seeing anybody (inaudible).”

Did her statements constitute a violation of the PA Sunshine Law since the WASD had a motion regarding an official action to be taken by the board?

According to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records Office website, the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 701-716, requires agencies to deliberate and take official action on agency business in an open and public meeting. It requires that meetings have prior notice, and that the public can attend, participate, and comment before an agency takes that official action.

Which agencies are subject to the Sunshine Act?

Any state or local government body and all sub-units appointed by that body that perform an essential government function and exercises authority to take official action or render advice. It can include boards, councils, authorities, commissions, and committees.

The Sunshine Act defines an “agency” as the “body and all committees thereof that are authorized to render advice or take official action” on behalf of the governing body.

What’s considered a meeting?

The law defines a meeting as “any prearranged gathering of an agency which is attended or participated in by a quorum of the members of an agency held for the purpose of deliberating agency business or taking official action.”

Note that the Sunshine Act applies any time a quorum deliberates agency business or takes official action, no matter the physical location of those deliberations or actions. The use of the term “prearranged” does not allow agencies to thwart the intent of the Sunshine Act simply by holding an unscheduled discussion about agency business.

What’s considered official action?

The definition of “official action” includes four categories:

  1. Recommendations made by an agency pursuant to statute, ordinance or executive order.
  2. The establishment of policy by an agency.
  3. The decisions on agency business made by an agency.
  4. The vote taken by any agency on any motion, proposal, resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance, report or order.

What’s considered agency business?

The law defines agency business as “the framing, preparation, making or enactment of laws, policy or regulations, the creation of liability by contract or otherwise or the adjudication of rights, duties and responsibilities.” Agency business specifically does not include administrative action (i.e., the execution or carrying out of previously approved official action or policies).

What’s considered deliberation?

Deliberation is defined as the “discussion of agency business held for the purpose of making a decision.”

What notice must an agency provide prior to public meetings?

For regular public meetings, agencies (including committees) must provide at least three days advance notice prior to the first regularly scheduled meeting of the calendar or fiscal year, along with all further scheduled meetings for the remainder of the calendar or fiscal year. The notice – which must include the date, time, and location of the meetings – must be printed in a paid newspaper of general circulation. A notice must also be posted at the location(s) where the meetings are to take place.

For a special or rescheduled public meeting, agencies must provide at least 24 hours advance notice, with the notice bring printed in a paid newspaper of general circulation and posted at the location where the meeting is to take place.

Although not required by the Sunshine Act, including the purpose of a meeting, particularly a special meeting, is a good practice followed by many agencies. Some local government statutes, such as the Borough Code, require the subject to be included in special meeting notices. (See 8 Pa.C.S. §1006.)

Can the public comment during public meetings?

Yes. The Sunshine Act gives the public the right to comment on issues “that are or may be before the board.” Agencies must provide a reasonable opportunity for residents and/or taxpayers to comment on an issue before a decision takes place.

Agencies are permitted to establish rules to oversee public comment by, for example, limiting the time for each commenter. The OOR encourages agencies to take care when imposing time limits on public comment. Three minutes is a common limit and may be more than enough at most public meetings. However, it may not be adequate at certain meetings, such as when a complex draft budget is being discussed. It can be a good practice to allow for flexibility in any policy imposing time limits on public comment, taking care to ensure that the agency does not show partiality to some commenters over others.

Agencies are also permitted to limit comment to residents and taxpayers of the area served by the agency.

Can the public ask questions during the comment period?

Yes. Although members of the agency are not required to provide an answer, it is a good practice to do so whenever possible. Answering questions can demonstrate a commitment to helping constituents and, in many cases, answering questions informally at a public meeting can reduce future requests under the Right-to-Know Law, which saves time and money for both the agency and the commenter/requester.

Can public meetings be recorded?

Yes. The Sunshine Act allows meetings to be recorded with an audio recorder or a video recorder. It also allows agencies to issue reasonable rules concerning the use of recording devices in order to avoid any disruptions. However, such rules cannot be an attempt to prevent a member of the public from recording a meeting.

The law does not require the recording of a public meeting to be announced in advance; however, it may be helpful for the chairperson in the opening statements to alert the public that the meeting might be recorded.

Must agencies keep minutes of their public meetings?

Yes. Agencies are required to record the time, date, and place of their meetings; the names of the members present, the substance of all official action taken during the meetings, and a record of how each individual voted. The minutes also must list all members of the public who participated in the meetings and a summary of their comments.

Can an agency have a closed meeting?

An agency may discuss certain matters in Executive Session, which is not held in public. Section 708 of the Sunshine Act enumerates seven reasons an agency may hold an Executive Session:

  1. Discussing personnel matters;
  2. Holding an information, strategy and negotiation session related to the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement;
  3. Considering the purchase or lease of real property;
  4. Consulting with an attorney about active or pending litigation;
  5. Discussing agency business which, if conducted in public, would violate a lawful privilege or lead to the disclosure of information or confidentiality protected by law;
  6. Discussing certain academic matters (this reason is specifically limited to certain institutions of higher education); and
  7. Discussing certain public safety issues if disclosure of the information discussed would be reasonably likely to jeopardize or threaten public safety or preparedness or public protection.

The specific reason for an Executive Session must be announced in the public meeting either before or directly after the Executive Session. See Reading Eagle Co. v. Council of City of Reading, 627 A.2d 305 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993), (“[T]he reasons stated by the public agency must be specific, indicating a real, discrete matter”).

Closed gatherings may also beheld “solely for the purpose of collecting information or educating agency members about an issue.” See Smith v. Township of Richmond, 623 Pa. 209, 223 (Pa. 2013) (“[T]he Supervisors’ four closed-door gatherings did not violate the [Sunshine] Act because they were held for informational purposes only and did not involve deliberations”).

Can official action be taken at a closed meeting?

No. Official action cannot be taken during Executive Session or a closed gathering. All official actions must be taken during the public portion of a meeting.

Can agency members discuss agency business via email and/or social media?

It’s important to draw a distinction between an individual agency member discussing agency business with members of the public and multiple agency members discussing agency business among themselves.

An agency member is permitted to discuss agency business with members of the public, whether by email or social media (or in person, on the telephone, via postal mail, etc.). In many cases, such communications are public records available under the Right-to-Know Law.

However, voting members of an agency are not permitted to deliberate except at a public meeting. In other words, agency members exchanging opinions about an upcoming vote or encouraging other agency members to vote a particular way in an email discussion or a discussion held via social media would violate the Sunshine Act.

What legal remedies are available for violations of the Sunshine Act?

Section 710.1(c) of the Sunshine Act permits anyone attending a public meeting to object to a perceived violation at any time during the meeting. Additionally, for state agencies, a member of the public can file a complaint with the Commonwealth Court. For local agencies, a member of the public can file a complaint with the local Court of Common Pleas.

Any complaint must be filed within 30 days of the public meeting in which the alleged infraction occurred. If the alleged infraction occurred during a closed meeting, the complaint must be filed within 30 days of the discovery of the infraction, as long as it is no longer than one year from when the meeting was held.

The person alleging the infraction bears the burden of proof. See Smith v. Township of Richmond, 623 Pa. 209, 223 (Pa. 2013) (“[I]n view of the presumption of regularity and legality that obtains in connection with proceedings of local agencies, the challenger [of an agency meeting] bears the burden to prove a violation”) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

Are there penalties for violating the Sunshine Act?

Yes. In addition to being assessed attorneys’ fees, any member of an agency who is found to have willfully violated the act can face criminal charges and subject to fines of $100 to $1,000 for the first offense, and $500 to $2,000 for the second offense. Any fine must be paid personally; an agency cannot pay the fine.

A court can also award attorney fees to the prevailing party if the court determines that either (1) an agency willfully or with wanton disregard violated the Sunshine Act or (2) the legal challenge was of a frivolous nature or was brought with no substantial justification.

 

TAKEAWAYS FROM WELTEROTH STATEMENT

The Myrtle Beach incidents documented in multiple videos and fact witness statements occurred during late March 2018.

Based on the Welteroth statement, “We as a board were advised of this incident on June 5, 2018.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 was the same day WASD Solicitor Fred Holland billed the WASD for a 1.8 hour meeting he had with George Lepley and Brandon Pardoe in the office of WAHS Head Principal Brandon Pardoe.

The meeting was noted as discussing “VM” and “investigations.”

Foxsportswilliamsport.com has confirmed with the FAMILY OF JOHN DOE #1, they left the voicemail noted as VM” on the Holland Invoices.

Welteroth continued in his statement, “We were given a narrative of what occurred and what actions the district did in response to this incident.  We the board were advised that the district’s actions were within the wishes of all parties involved effectively leading us to believe this matter was handled and done with.”

Welteroth invokes this author in his statement, “On August 21, 2018, the board was advised that a reporter, Todd Bartley, was going to be running a story on the Myrtle Beach incident.”

As we all know, Todd Bartley did report his story and his account of the incident did not mirror what the board had been previously told by the administration.

Todd Bartley also began the narrative which has continued to this day as the District has employed measures to cover up this incident.”

On August 24, 2018 “Millionaire Baseball Mayhem in Myrtle Beach”  was published.

Welteroth sent an e-mail to the WASD administration, “On August 26, 2018, I expressed my concerns in light of new allegations and details reported by Todd Bartley and from Facebook posts by other members of the public in an email to administration.

In this email I called for the district to re-investigate old and new allegations objectively and to present the results and the interviews to the board in a timeline format.”

Welteroth has yet to have his e-mail request fulfilled by the WASD administration, “To this day, the district has yet to honor my request; though the district has answered some of my questions and concerns.”

“A Baseball Story” multi-part series of articles on Foxsportswilliamsport.com is cited by Welteroth, “For almost two years, the district has remained silent on this matter while being subjected to RTK (Right-to-Know) requests, expanded accusations of wrong done, and a multi-part news series on the accounts and handling of the Myrtle Beach incident.

The narrative of this incident has had many twist and turns of accounts and accusations of cover ups by the district.

The Williamsport Area School District, its students, and employees have for all intents and purposes received a black eye in the handling of this incident.

This bothers me.”

Welteroth calls for action, “It is time, we as a board take steps to put this matter to rest.

We cannot let students and employees of the district to be smeared in public if they have done nothing wrong.

On the same hand, we cannot let this incident go if any of these allegations and accusations are true.

Either way, we must seek an independent investigation and review of this incident by the district to put this matter to rest.

It is time, we as a board take steps to put this matter to rest.”

Welteroth makes motion, “I have called for it in the past and the public has called for it as well. I make a motion to commission a third party investigation and review of this incident.”

He outlines parameters of the proposed third party investigation, “It should be contracted to a law firm who does not have a vested interest with the district professionally and/or privately.

The scope of this investigation shall attempt to answer: What happened in Myrtle Beach?

A timeline detailing what the district did in response to the incident.

A review of the districts investigation.

Review of possible conflicts of interest with those involved in the investigation to included members of outside agencies and representation of the parties involved.

Was this matter handled properly by the district and in the future providing a suggested protocol for investigating such matters?

The results of this investigation shall be released to the public as a show of good faith that the district will be transparent in this matter within the amount allowable by law as to not violate any party’s rights to confidentiality.”

Welteroth makes the motion and invites a second in order to open discussion on the possibility of a third party investigation.

“With this motion, I would invite a second by my fellow board members to allow discussion as to why we should not commission a third party investigation and review at this time.”

The motion and invitation made by Welteroth were met with 10 seconds of stunned silence from the 8 other members of the WASD School Board as well as WASD Solicitor Fred Holland and did not receive a second.

The next WASD School Board meeting is slated for Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. in the District Service Center, 2780 West Fourth Street, Williamsport.

What is the fear of the WASD and the administration of informing the public that its employees and staff followed protocols and did not violate any laws or any students rights by opening a third party investigation?

 

COUNSEL FILES ENTRY OF APPEARANCE IN MILLER LAWSUIT

Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport, LLC has retained the law firm of Marshall Dennehey of Scranton, Pennsylvania for the case brought against it by former Williamsport Area High School Baseball head coach Ryan Miller.

 

WASD SOLICITOR FILES ENTRY OF APPEARANCE FOR WASD IN TAX CASE

WASD Solicitor Fred Holland submitted an Entry of Appearance on behalf of the WASD tax office in the case against Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport, LLC.

The same case as previously reported a warrant was issued on December 19, 2019 by the WASD to have this author arrested.

That warrant has subsequently been withdrawn.

 

HOLLAND ENTRY OF APPEARANCE CAUSES RECUSAL IN WASD TAX CASE

The Entry of Appearance filed by WASD Solicitor Fred Holland has caused the Judge in the case to recuse himself in the matter.

Magisterial District Judge Aaron Biichle informed Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport, LLC this past week his intention to recuse himself based upon the fact he was previously an associate attorney with Murphy, Butterfield & Holland, P.C.

The continuance requested by Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport, LLC was based on a schedule conflict as well as any number of WASD employees, administrators and staff members failing to respond to subpoenas issued in the case.

The continuance was granted by Magisterial District Judge Aaron Biichle prior to his recusal.

A new Magisterial District Judge has yet to be assigned to the case and a new hearing date has yet to be scheduled.

 

MILLIONAIRE BASEBALL PLAYER CODY SHIMP IN HIS OWN WORDS

After not responding to a request for comment prior to the publication of Part VIII of “A Baseball Story”, Fox Sports Williamsport with the interest of the public in mind and in complete transparency provide now former Millionaire player Cody Shimp the opportunity to allow his personal Facebook publicly posted thread from September 7, 2018 to speak for itself.

When Shimp says, “No foolish sports writer” does he mean this author bringing to light as WASD Solicitor Fred Holland and the “WASD Official Statement” is quoted as saying “indecent and inappropriate behavior” as it relates to one of Shimp’s teammates in Myrtle Beach?

When Shimp further offers, “No ignorant parents because their kid wasn’t good enough to play for the program” does he mean athletic ability level dictates whether a player as JOHN DOE #1 experienced, become the victim of “indecent and inappropriate behavior”?

“No ignorant parents”, is Shimp saying the parents of the victims should never bring to light what happened to their children?

Is he also saying no one else should bring it up? “No uneducated people in the community”.

Shimp offers insight into the Millionaire mindset he learned, “I learned that as being a Williamsport Millionaire, your (sic) always under the spotlight. You ever hear of any other stories coming out about other local schools?

No.

That’s because people are jealous of us. They won’t admit it, but they are.

They’d kill to be a part of a legendary community that sticks together until the end.”

If nothing happened in Myrtle Beach in 2018, why would a “legendary community that sticks together until the end” need to stay silent on the matter?

Shimp is a freshman baseball player at St. Bonaventure which opens the season with a doubleheader at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland on Friday, February 21, 2020 scheduled for a noon first pitch.

History shows the Williamsport Millionaires baseball team started in the mid-1980’s, under then head coach Scott Grove, they lost in two state finals in 1989 in Altoona and 1995 in Harrisburg.

The Williamsport Millionaires softball team won a PIAA State Championship in 1989 in Altoona, the same day the baseball team lost.

Fact is, the legendary community Shimp references has yet to win a PIAA State Baseball Championship, while “other local schools”, have won multiple PIAA State Baseball Championships and did not have to “kill to be a part of”.

In the absence of a PIAA State Baseball Championship, where did the narrative of “legendary community” come from?

Foxsportswilliamsport.com confirmed with a number of legal community resources in South Carolina and Pennsylvania and who have offered the following assessment; “the Myrtle Beach incidents story is far from over, it is just getting started.”

At this writing, the 2-year anniversary of the 2018 Myrtle Beach trip is 6 weeks away.