SCARBOROUGH – Four days after calling a press conference to demand the dismissal of Scarborough’s high school wrestling coach, booster president Kim Kinsman was herself dismissed March 29, by club members who said she misappropriated funds to pay her lawyer.
Kinsman paid attorney Dan Warren, of Scarborough firm Jones & Warren, $5,363 between Feb. 11 and March 26. Kinsman approached Warren after she was rebuffed by school officials after initially bringing to them allegations of misconduct by the high school coach.
Booster members at Friday’s annual meeting demanded Warren repay that money, saying Kinsman acted out a “personal vendetta” that was “built on lies” against coach Shane Stephenson. She solicited his advice without consulting any member of the group, they said, and paid him without obtaining executive board approval to spend more than $500, as required by the group’s by-laws.
Kinsman argues that she had to act out of concern for the safety of the wrestlers on the team, who she said were put in danger by the actions detailed in her allegations.
More than 50 parents and other interested residents attended the annual meeting of the Scarborough Schools Wrestling Booster Club Friday evening – reportedly a record turnout since the group’s 2000 founding – which made for standing room only in the police department classroom where the gathering was held.
On Monday, Warren called the meeting “unruly, out of control and unsettling.” Attendees were clearly agitated following Kinsman’s public comments earlier in the week and turned on Warren from the moment he attempted to start the meeting, challenging even his right to sit at the head table.
“You’re not our lawyer, you’re her lawyer,” shouted pee-wee coach Michael Arangio, pointing to Kinsman, when Warren introduced himself as the club’s attorney.
Kinsman has said she felt empowered to pursue concerns about Stephenson only after the surprise Feb. 1 resignation of high school Principal Dean Auriemma, with whom she felt Stephenson had a close bond.
Ten days later, Kinsman approached Warren, citing five key policy violations amid a host of other allegations. Among these, Kinsman claimed, Stephenson allowed team members to travel to an away meet without adult supervision other than a bus driver, allowed them to drive to another meet in their personal vehicles, and let a sixth-grader act as team manager – all violations of school policy. Kinsman said Stephenson further violated rules of the Maine Principals’ Association, which oversees most high school athletic contests, by making at least three wrestlers, including her own son, “wrestle up” two or more weight classes, and that he let them participate in at least one meet unsupervised. She also said proper protocols were not followed related to a concussion suffered by one of the wrestlers.
Warren helped Kinsman prepare a series of 19 affidavits sent to Athletic Director Michael LeGage on Feb. 14. On Feb. 19, the school department’s attorney, Melissa Hewey, advised Warren the school had “looked into the allegations” and “taken whatever action, if any, it felt is warranted under the circumstances.”
According to Stephenson, his attorney objected to those affidavits. Although Warren says “only two very minor” statements were altered, a new series of 22 affidavits was prepared on March 5 and submitted to the school board. A March 14 letter from school board Chairwoman Christine Massengill denied Kinsman’s request to meet with the board and echoed Hewey’s letter, saying, “The administration has looked into the information you have provided and has taken whatever action, if any, is warranted.”
Superintendent George Entwistle said March 25 that a “full investigation” was made into Kinsman’s claims “in conjunction with the Maine Principals’ Association.”
This week, the MPA clarified its role in the investigation.
“The MPA was not directly involved in any investigation,” said the MPA’s executive director, Dick Durost. “MPA staff members were contacted by the Scarborough administration who asked for clarification and interpretation of MPA policy.”
According to MPA Assistant Executive Director Gerald Durgin, the MPA only retains a record of the “alpha weigh-ins” for each wrestler taken during preseason, not weights measured at each meet. Moreover, during the regular season, he said, the MPA is provided with full team results only, not records from individual contests.
“If a kid didn’t meet the weigh-in requirements that day, he or she wouldn’t be allowed to wrestle,” said Durgin. “Weigh-ins are done by officials at all meets, so there are checks and balances right there. And, if a coach was not there, or someone authorized by the school, the kids would not be at the meet.”
Regardless, no one at the boosters’ annual meeting seemed to share Kinsman’s belief that Stephenson broke any rules, or that the administration was covering for him.
“I know none of those terrible things happened,” said Janice Cyr, elected Friday as the new booster vice president.
“What the school said, I’m satisfied with that,” said the group’s former vice president, Ellen O’Keefe.
“Oh, I’m totally satisfied with that,” said Cyr. “And I’m here to tell you this about Mike LeGage, the athletic director – the man is a rule follower. I have all the faith that if anything was amiss, Mike would have been on it.
“Even if I didn’t know Shane to be a kind, generous and wonderful man in all respects – giving, giving, giving – if Mike tells me it’s been looked at and we’re good, I’m OK with that,” said Cyr.
Kinsman said that before going to the school board, she refused a meeting with LeGage when he wanted to include Stephenson, focusing her attention instead on the school board and other administrators.
“I couldn’t even get a meeting,” she said, explaining the need to go public.
Kinsman was faulted at the annual meeting for saying at the press conference that there were only two officers on the booster board, listing just herself and Ted Sutton, who resigned as treasurer Jan. 2 but later agreed to help with the group’s books through Friday’s meeting. Both Sutton and O’Keefe – the latter seemingly surprised to have been overlooked – said Kinsman did not advise them of her issues with Stephenson or her intent to hire Warren until after the fact.
Warren said the group is no longer a formal corporation, having failed to keep up on the proper paperwork. He also called into question the legality of the vote at Friday’s meeting, saying that the people who voted did not properly identify themselves, as is usually required by such groups, and was by the boosters under the by-laws his firm drafted. He also said Kinsman was allowed to act by herself to address the problems she saw because they constituted emergencies by endangering the health of the students involved.
A great deal of time was given at the annual meeting to $9,000 Kinsman took from the booster account in the form of a cashier’s check made out to the group’s “mat fund.” That money was placed in a safe-deposit box, she said, out of fear the school department would freeze the boosters’ account once it got word of her campaign against Stephenson.
“I didn’t trust the school, bottom line, because I had already hired an attorney,” said Kinsman. “I didn’t have confidence in the school system to cover the cost that I was trying to do to protect our kids.”
The $9,000 was eventually returned to the booster account, although most at the meeting held the view of Garret Champlin, who said, “Even if the money was returned, it was misappropriated.”
Apart for the election of an entirely new officers’ group, the balance of Friday’s annual meeting was given over to demands that Warren return the funds Kinsman paid him.
Warren said he is still advising Kinsman, who will “decide later this week” on how to proceed. At a minimum, he said, the school department should answer each policy violation she has cited individually, stating publicly whether each did or did not happen, rather than relying on a blanket assurance that issues were dealt with, “if” they happened.
Meanwhile, new president John Stolz said after the meeting that “it’s really too soon” to say if the boosters will file suit against either Kinsman or Warren to regain the lost funds. Instead, he echoed the words of Stephenson, who said in an exhausted tone, “I’m ready to just get back to wrestling.”
And, it may be, that there is a silver lining in all the recent hullabaloo.
“Absolutely,” said Cyr. “It’s true, this year, there was no activity. But, like I said to our new treasurer [Ben Holbrook], do you realize, you’re coming in on a new wave of enthusiasm that’s just the coolest thing ever?”