Rancorous River Forest baseball board tries to calm community
River Forest Youth Baseball and Softball held its first ever annual meeting Tuesday night, amid calls for board resignations and an audit of league finances.
More than 100 River Forest residents packed a Forest Park steakhouse during a Chicago Cubs playoff game, where they received an extended powerpoint presentation intended to defend existing board members, including President Greg White, who has run RFYBS for the past eight years.
It did little to settle a boisterous crowd. Emotions were high.
Board members stand accused of everything from concealing league expenses to sexual harassment.
After a parent suggested board members favored their own children, 44-year-old board supporter Lisa Brigham abruptly interrupted his statement, then challenged him to a fight.
“You wanna go?” Brigham screamed.
As a league sponsor asked the board to disclose detailed expense records to the community, former River Forest Park District Commissioner Ron Steele, 54, shouted him down.
“Shut the (expletive) up,” Steele said.
A review of public Internal Revenue Service filings shows expenses of RFYBS, a non-profit, grew from $99,791 in 2005 to $204,757 in 2014.
River Forest has a population of 11,172.
Nearby Western Springs, population 13,171, in comparison, spent $149,432.
“League finances need to be audited,” said Gino Fioravanti, a parent and former coach. “It’s time for transparency.”
Fioravanti said league expenses have soared and repeated requests for an explanation have been denied. In May, he and a group of parents started asking board members if they had ever received financial reports.
"It was a real surprise," he said. "Nobody had seen anything. Nobody knew where the money was actually going."
Kim Gladden, a parent and former board member, said she resigned because board members routinely made sexually suggestive comments during meetings.
“I left the board because I had to do so,” Gladden said. “I was uncomfortable.”
Tuesday’s meeting was supposed to be a low-key affair. Board members, all appointed by White, scheduled the event in the face of pressure to have an annual meeting and vote. But they tried to keep it secret, Fioravanti said.
Things changed last week, when someone anonymously emailed an announcement promoting the meeting to hundreds of parents.
“You deserve to know how the board of directors is chosen,“ the letter read. “It is your right as a River Forest resident and participant.”
Revenue has risen steadily over the decade, as RFYBS has raised participation fees to $200 per child, among the highest in the area.
Comparable communities like Elmwood Park ($150), Norridge/Harwood Heights ($70), La Grange ($135), Berwyn ($95), Elmhurst ($190) and Western Springs ($185) all charge less.