Though Columbus Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams has suspended out-of-town travel for youth sports teams in the city’s Innovative Sports Program, an elite travel boys basketball team will make the trip to Los Angeles this weekend, City Manager Isaiah Hugley said.
But the city won’t be paying the bill and Adams, also the head coach, will not make the cross-country trip.
A city internal audit of the Parks and Recreation Department raised questions about money spent on the Innovative Sports Program, which offers developmental and elite teams for boys and girls basketball, track and field and boxing for about 500 children.
The most high-profile team in that program is the Georgia Blazers 17-and-under basketball team, which is sponsored by Nike and has one player from Columbus — with the remaining 12 players scattered throughout south Georgia and north Florida.
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Travel for all Innovative Sports Program teams was suspended last week in the wake of the audit, and Hugley said he supported Adams’ decision to do so.
A track and field team did not make the trip to Nashville for a meet and a boxing team counting on Parks and Recreation vans for the trip was forced to make alternative arrangements for a tournament in Atlanta.
“The 17-year-old travel team is going to Los Angeles, but Tony will not travel with them,” Hugley said.
Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin was the one who suggested Adams not accompany the team to California, Hugley said. The elite team’s travel expenses are covered by East Marietta Basketball, Inc., a non-profit organization.
“My understanding is they pay for the coaches and teams to travel,” Hugley said.
Adams has referred all questions to Goodwin.
Through Nike’s Grassroots sponsorship, the Georgia Blazers receive uniforms, shoes and funding to travel to Nike-sponsored events.
The Los Angeles event is part of the 42-team Elite Youth Basketball League sponsored by the shoe and apparel giant. The Columbus-based team played in similar league events in April in Hampton Roads, Va., and more than a week ago in Houston.
The team will be coached by a volunteer not associated with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, Hugley said.
The team’s assistant coaches listed on an ESPN web site are Bryant Thomas and Corry Black. Thomas, according to city records, is a part-time employee for the Parks and Recreation Department. Black worked for the department, but left in 2006.
The city’s Midnight Basketball League, believed to be part of Adams’ suspension of operations, is not impacted and will run as scheduled, Hugley said. The program targets at-risk young people.
Hugley said Adams has until June 8 to respond in writing to the audit, which was made public nine days ago.
“My effort is to allow Tony to have due process,” Hugley said. “Fifteen days is typically the time given to respond to an audit.”
Hugley took exception with the fact that the Ledger-Enquirer obtained a copy of the audit before the Parks and Recreation director.
“The step that allowed for management response was missing,” Hugley said. “As city manager, I will work to fix any problems Tony has not fixed in his response. Not to give him due process in the usual way audits are done puts him in an awkward position and the process in an awkward position.”
Columbus Council is scheduled to discuss the audit at its Tuesday night meeting. It begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Government Center.