During the Aug. 18 San Clemente City Council meeting, Chad Wilcox, the newly appointed president of the San Clemente Girls Softball League, spoke to council regarding a funding discrepancy the league is trying to correct.
Wilcox told council members the league is trying repay $18,000 in debt after former president Jack Cannon had mismanaged the league’s funds.
The council was voting to approve or disapprove subsidies for various sports entities.
Council members voted 3-2 to approve a one-year “platinum” partnership, the city’s highest subsidy, for the league, with council members Lori Donchak and Kathy Ward dissenting.
Much of the misuse was attributed to overextending the budget for using the city’s field lighting and appropriations of league dues and tournament registration fees, Wilcox said.
Orange County Sherriff’s Department officials confirmed on Monday there is an open embezzlement investigation taking place under the Economic Crimes division regarding Cannon’s involvement with league funds.
The exact amount, which has not been accounted for, could be as large as $100,000, according to OCSD Deputy David Zill.
“We’re seeing some inconsistencies in our figures,” Wilcox told the San Clemente Times on Saturday. “We’re going to piece together the records and once we get the numbers we’ll figure out how to pay what we owe. I’m confident by this time next year we’ll be out of the red.”
Wilcox said Cannon had unilateral access to the funds and none of the other league officials were able to keep tabs on the funds. Since then a seven-member board with attorneys and chief operations officers has been established, he said.
Wilcox said the league started to get pressure from the American Softball Association regarding league dues in May. On June 16, a check to the ASA bounced and Cannon was nowhere to be found, Wilcox said.
“It started falling apart, and we had a Memorial Day Tournament in May and we bring in quite a bit of money,” Wilcox said.
Teams pay almost $500 to enter the tournament, which helps fund the league throughout the rest of the year.
Once bank accounts were able to be accessed by the rest of the league’s newly formed board, it was realized the softball league was in a negative balance for the year.
Wilcox said during the meeting the league has had the top tier subsidy agreement with the city for years and not getting the status approved would result in a 1,800 percent increase to the operating costs to the softball league.
“This financial hardship is different and unique to other (sports) organizations,” Wilcox said.
Despite the allegations, Wilcox said Cannon was a very “well-liked” individual who had a history of performing good deeds for the San Clemente community and the softball league.
“He’s a nice guy and everybody loved him; he has that Southern charm,” Wilcox said. “For whatever reason this last year that we know of he started mismanaging funds. We saw a trend in uniforms arriving late and girls playing without uniforms and things didn’t look like they were going to be done on time.”
Laura Slye, a volunteer who has worked with the San Clemente Girls Softball for years, said she does not believe there was an embezzlement but that Cannon wanted to escape the pressures of the declining league fund.
“That’s not typical of the Jack Cannon that I’ve known years,” Slye said on Tuesday. “This is a man who was the announcer for the high school softball program. This is somebody who did significant things for the community.”
Calls to Cannon from SC Times were not returned by press time.
The council’s approval comes with a stipulation that the league must provide a report within 30 days from Aug. 18 to the city in order to continue to receive funding. The league must also work closely with the Beaches, Parks and Recreation staff. Softball practices start Tuesday.
“We’re paying people back. We’re not walking away,” Wilcox said. “And we’re on the right track.”