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Rival Group Offers to Take Over Troubled Youth Ball League : Sports: Offer comes as a surprise at City Council meeting. It puts current league officials on the defensive.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of parents and coaches this week submitted to the city a surprise plan to take over youth baseball from the Montebello Baseball Assn., which is being audited by the state attorney general for failing to file required financial information.

The association, the city’s largest and oldest youth sports league, came under auditors’ review after failing to file required financial disclosures with the attorney general, the Internal Revenue Service and the state Franchise Tax Board from 1986 to 1990.

The breakaway parents and coaches, many of whom belong to the 39-year-old association, said they will offer a better youth baseball program at a lower cost if the city grants them use of municipal parks. Their 19-page proposal includes bylaws, a budget, calendar of events, and short- and long-term goals.

The group also gave the City Council documentation on Montebello Baseball Assn. debts, which it said total more than $11,000.

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The association serves more than 700 youths ages 5 through 18 on about 60 teams. Nearly all of the participants are boys; a handful of girls play in younger divisions.

Council members at Tuesday’s meeting said they needed time to study the plan. But leaders of the embattled baseball league wasted no time blasting the proposal and its proponents.

Commissioner Larry Salazar led a contingent of about 75 league officials, parents and players who said the critics should become partners with league officials to help solve its problems rather than undermine it.

Salazar took issue with the rival group for calling itself Concerned Parents.

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“The people who’ve joined me here are concerned parents,” Salazar said. “I am a concerned parent. . . . We take the time to get involved and affect changes in the organization.”

Salazar did not contest the association’s reported debts, which include more than $8,400 for sporting goods from two suppliers and $3,000 in fees owed to the league’s national parent organization. He said the association may also owe money to its umpires.

None of the debts were extraordinary and all would be paid back through league earnings, he said. He estimated that the association takes in about $95,000 annually through registration fees, its snack bar and fund-raisers such as dances and candy sales.

In addition to the audit, league officials learned recently that the Franchise Tax Board suspended the association’s corporate status in 1989 for failure to file tax returns. The suspension could leave board members personally liable for association debts and penalties. The association, which operates as a nonprofit group, does not have tax-exempt status, according to state and federal tax authorities.

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League officials said they are confident the audit will exonerate them. They called their filing mistakes honest errors that would be avoided in the future.

The breakaway group sprang its proposal on the council after members had finished their scheduled business. Then, for more than two hours, the council listened as association defenders and opponents traded barbs and pleaded for council sympathy.

Salazar, a failed City Council candidate, said the assault on the league was partly the product of a political vendetta against him by Councilman Bill Molinari. Molinari has openly criticized the association and said the city or another group should organize the games.

Mayor Arnold Alvarez-Glasman asked in vain for both groups to avoid personal attacks. “The issue is: How do we make this a better program?” he said.

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The mayor’s admonition did not keep Councilman Ed Pizzorno, an association booster, from briefly joining the fray. “It’s pretty common knowledge that most of the people who’ve come in to complain are sore losers,” Pizzorno said. He was referring to the fact that some of the rival group’s leadership includes parents and coaches who do not belong to the league’s traveling all-star team, which typically pummels its league opposition.

Members of the breakaway group called the all-star team elitist and said it siphons off money from the main program.

Salazar denied the allegation, saying that participating parents paid all the travel costs. A parade of league officials, parents and children followed Salazar to the podium, including parent Joline Castuera.

“I get real emotional about this stuff because it hurts the children. I love every member of the (association) board because they are good people. . . . You shouldn’t have to justify what’s good,” Castuera said. “Everybody makes mistakes.”

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