Darien mother battling Little League Board of Directors over noncompliance issues
After a recent move to place players on teams by grade level rather than age and previous division for the spring season, one resident has challenged the Darien Little League Board's decision.
Margaret Stefanoni alleges that her son was the victim of a new policy change that resulted in a two-level demotion from the minors as a result of the Stefanoni's continuing battle with the town over the Fair Housing Act.
"What they did to my son was wrong," Stefanoni said. "Now the Board hides behind carefully-worded rhetoric that says that all they want to do is provide a fun and fair experience for each player. Really? It was not in the least bit fun or fair for my son to be singled out and wrongly excluded from his league."
However, DLL President Tony Farren asserts that the change wasn't made to single out a specific child.
"When the board was discussing the change, they didn't discuss any specific kid," Farren said. "There was nothing secretive about this."
Farren said the change affected other players as well but was unable to say exactly how many were also affected.
Farren explained that the board decided to place players in specific leagues by grade level because of the increased number of players participating in fall ball and because the fall league is "more laid back."
Stefanoni also argues that the Darien Little League Board of Directors is "a clan exclusively of men who keep track of favors they owe each other and repercussions they owe others." Stefanoni is referring to a dispute about one of the sites the Stefanoni's own that they are trying to develop senior affordable housing. The property the Stefanonis own abuts the property of a former DLL board member, Mark Gregory.
In a series of letters addressed to Code Compliance Officer Robert Woodside from July, the Stefanonis address a complaint from Gregory that the Stefanonis were acting outside the rules and restrictions by cleaning up their lot which is deemed an open space. The Stefanonis say that Gregory was encroaching upon their land and that they were well within their rights to clean up the lot which was littered with debris, according to the letter.
Gregory was not available for comment.
Stefanoni's argument doesn't end with the board changing the structure of fall ball teams.
She also questions the integrity of the board because of the 22 members, 20 are also managers or coaches.
"This Board is so arrogant that it overtly flouts the rules of Little League. The new fall baseball grade-based policy is contrary to Little League's official age-based policy," Stefanoni said. "It also turns out that the composition of the board is completely out of compliance with the Little League regulations, and has been for years. In 2009, 18 out of 21 board members were managers or coaches. In 2010, 20 out of 22 board members were managers and coaches. This pattern of disregarding the rules cannot be explained away, even with the best rhetoric. The Board is upset, but they hurt my son, so they should be upset."
According to official league rules, "Player agents shall not manage, coach or umpire in their respective division. Manager/coach representation on the Board of Directors shall not exceed a minority."
Major League Commissioner Tom Luz declined to comment on the issue.
Since the DLL Board of Directors has 20 of their 22 members who also manage or coach, they are not in compliance with league rules.
Stefanoni said she contacted a representative at the Little League Headquarters in South Williamsport, Pa., and was told that any deviations from the regulation regarding the number of coaches and managers on the board of directors would have to be addressed immediately.
Calls to the regional headquarters were redirected to Little League International which did not return a call as of press time.