Two suspended Columbus Parks and Recreation employees were ordered by the city manager’s office to halt their involvement with an elite youth basketball team they coach.
Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams and Herman Porter, both on administrative leave as a two-month police investigation into the department continues, were sent certified letters Friday by City Manager Isaiah Hugley.
The letters were sent as the two men coached their Nike-sponsored team in an AAU invitational tournament in Orlando. The team made it to the semifinals and came one win from playing for the championship in a nationally televised game.
“As you are on paid administrative leave as a result of a pending criminal investigation, I am requiring that you refrain from coaching and participating in any City sponsored athletic event of team activity during such leave,” Hugley wrote in both letters.
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Mayor Jim Wetherington, who ordered the police investigation after an internal audit found money-handling and operational issues in the department, would not comment Thursday. He referred all questions to the city manager. Hugley did not return phone calls or emails, but the city attorney’s office released copies of the letters sent to Adams and Porter.
Last week, Wetherington questioned whether or not Adams and Porter should have been in Orlando with three teams that are part of the city’s Innovative Sports Program.
As a result of the audit, the city manager’s office has recommended the teams be separated from the city-funded program. That action has not been taken and will not be discussed until the conclusion of the police investigation, the city manager’s office said.
Don Jackson, the Montgomery, Ala., attorney representing Adams and Porter, took exception with the city’s directive.
“They are not coaching a city-sponsored team,” Jackson said. “It is not an issue, because the city is not a sponsor any more.”
The city did not fund the recent trip to Orlando, Jackson said.
“They are telling these guys they can’t be affiliated with a summer basketball team,” Jackson said. “They can’t tell them what they can do in their private lives.”
Jackson also took exception to a letter written last week by Assistant City Attorney Jaimie DeLoach to the Georgia attorney general’s office asking for help in acquiring a sponsorship agreement between Nike and the city’s elite 17-under Blazers team. Adams’ team has a deal with Nike that is handled by East Marietta Basketball, Inc., a non-profit organization. East Marietta has refused to release the terms of the deal after numerous request under Georgia’s Open Records Act.
As part of the Nike sponsorship deal, the Georgia Blazers receive free shoes, uniforms and travel to Nike-sponsored events. Adams’ team has played in Virginia, Texas and California this year.
“Every county and city government, as well as their citizens, should be able to review the programs offered through that government to children and have the ability to determine whether free trips, meals and brand-name clothes are correctly balanced with the moral development of minor children,” DeLoach wrote.
“Those comments are paternalistic, racist and as insulting as hell,” Jackson said.