The Lincoln Youth Soccer Club has friction between past and current board members and club members, according to a handful of club members. The turmoil, according to club members, stems from a lack of fiduciary responsibility and a lack of transparency between the board and club members.
Lincoln Youth Soccer Club is a nonprofit club founded in 1978 and has a recreational and competitive league with 1,237 players in 2019.
On May 22, 10-year Lincoln Youth Soccer Club member Kurtis Aranson sent a complaint to Cal North District Six, the overseeing organization of youth soccer in the region, about the soccer club’s board and its new President, Justin Whitsell.
On June 3, Cal North District Six commissioner Max Barteau held a hearing to hear Aranson’s complaints and provide Whitsell an opportunity to defend himself from the allegations.
“It saddens me to have to be here today to testify against the members of the board, to include the President, Mr. Justin Whitsell,” Aranson said in his opening statement of the June 3 hearing. “I am truly disappointed that it has come to this, and I’m certain that you will see with the statements and evidence provided this evening, that I and many others have tried to work with Justin and the board for the past five months to correct their wrongdoings.”
According to Aranson and former Lincoln Youth Soccer Club board secretary Brian Plummer, Whitsell joined the board as vice president last November.
During that November meeting, Aranson and Plummer said, Whitsell allegedly brought an uncommonly large number of members to the meeting to vote for him.
“There were serious irregularities that happened at the election in November of 2019 that led to this certain situation and to be honest, people like Kurtis (Aranson) and Marc Boisvert have been working since that time to correct those irregularities,” Plummer said.
On June 26, Whitsell emailed The Lincoln News Messenger and the club, saying that he had no intention of joining the board at the November meeting and the only reason that he was now president is that then President Boisvert left the board.
Cal North District Six’s findings of the June 3 hearing state that “the elections conducted in November 2019 were irregular and that some parties felt personally attacked and threatened, which is no way to conduct an open and fair election.”
Cal North District Six recommended that the board hold an annual general meeting at the next regular meeting in which elections could be held.
On June 28, the district found Whitsell to be in “bad standing” with Cal North District Six and Cal North District Four and suspended him from participating in the association.
Cal North and District Six also established a special meeting for Lincoln Youth Soccer Club members to hold new board elections.
The first “red flag” that Aranson noticed was bylaws being amended during a special Dec. 29 meeting that was not announced to club members and being revised before the new board officially took over on Jan. 1.
Whitsell and the board then held a meeting in January where they voted in the new amendments that they had made during the special December meeting, according to Aranson.
“We find that the LYSC bylaws were improperly amended, both on procedural (notice) grounds and on substantive (the bylaws themselves) grounds,” Cal North District Six noted in its findings and recommended that the 2018 bylaws be restored at the next meeting.
The board discussed restoring the former bylaws at a June 22 meeting but a vote on restoring the bylaws could not be held since there was no quorum.
On June 25, the 2018 bylaws were restored and placed back onto the club’s website, according to Plummer
The News Messenger was unable to contact the board to find out how the bylaws were restored.
The second issue that Aranson brought to Cal North District Six was the board removing previous years’ meeting minutes from the club website, not providing meeting agendas to club members and limiting club members ability’ to make public comment during meetings.
When the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order was made by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19, Aranson said, club members received an email from the board of directors that all meetings were stopped until the order is lifted.
“Then comes April with everyone assuming there is nothing going on with soccer as all meetings are suspended and it is discovered that there is going to be a meeting via Zoom and without any notice to the membership,” Aranson said.
As Lincoln Youth Soccer Club is a nonprofit organization, its board is not required to adhere to open meeting laws that require public comment and provide agendas to the public at-large.
In his June 26 email to the club, Whitsell never mentioned anything about public comments, meeting minutes or the agenda. He did not respond to questions asked by The Lincoln News Messenger on those topics.
Aranson and Plummer were concerned with the increased expenditures in the 2020 budget.
According to documentation provided by Aranson, the board budgeted $186,655 in expenses for 2019 and the 2020 budget posted on the club’s website shows expenses anticipated to be $351,622.
Due to COVID-19, though, the board reworked the budget for January through May with expenditures at $7,149.
One of the largest pay increases on the proposed budget was for the registrar position that saw a stipend increase from $8,645 in 2019 to $15,000 in 2020.
Former 2019 club registrar Scott Stuckey, contacted The Lincoln News Messenger and was in “disbelief” that the club would increase the position’s stipend to $15,000.
While the position is year-round because of the competition league, Stuckey said, the busiest time is from May through July when the recreation registration runs and makes up 83 percent of the club’s annual registration revenue.
Stuckey said that he never asked for more pay as registrar because “it was for the kids and the love of the game.”
Another area with an increase in expenses was “travel and entertainment,” which went from $956 in 2019 to $3,500 in 2020.
According to Plummer, the travel and entertainment funds were meant to be used for out-of-town meetings.
Although the club was planning to increase its expenditures for 2020, according to the 2020 budget, it did not mean that the club was making more money.
In 2019, the board ended the year with a $5,311 deficit and, in 2020, the board was planning to propose a budget with a $55,273 deficit.
The Lincoln News Messenger reached out to Whitsell for all items mentioned above but did not receive comment before his suspension from Cal North District Six.