Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parental Penalty

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parental Penalty

Article excerpt

NRPA Law Review

Angry hockey dad fights five-year ban from city arena.

A director of parks and recreation didn't have the legal authority to ban a parent from entering a public recreational facility following an altercation in another municipality, according to an Ohio court.

In the case of Kelly v. City of Mentor, No. 2001-L-066 (Ohio App. Dist. 11 12/31/2002), plaintiff Robert Kelly was the head coach of his son's team in a youth hockey league in Mentor, Ohio. Following allegations that he was "too physically and verbally rough," Kelly was removed from his position as head coach in November 1999. Shortly thereafter, the manager of the Mentor Civic Arena, Terri Rosenwald, called a meeting to allow the parents to air their differences. At the meeting, Rosenwald warned the parents that "poor behavior would cause her to have to ask the parent to leave the arena, to remove a parent from watching practices or games for the season or to disband the team."

On Feb. 28, 2000, Kelly's son's youth hockey team traveled outside of Mentor to play a game at the Garfield Heights Ice Arena. The incident which gave rise to the lawsuit occurred during this trip. The circumstances were as follows:

After the game, which the Mentor team lost in overtime, the children were in the locker room removing their equipment, with parental assistance. Kelly's wife came into the locker room and made a comment about the coaching being bad. One of the coaches replied: "Wah, wah, wah."

Kelly then came into the locker room and accused the coach of mocking his wife. Kelly said to the coach, "You're nothing but a puss; I'm gonna kick your ass back in Mentor." During the same incident, Kelly also told three other coaches that he would "kick their ass [sic]" back in Mentor. No altercations occurred at the Mentor Civic Arena or in Mentor.

After the Garfield Heights incident, Rosenwald sent Kelly a letter notifying him that it would be investigated. Rosenwald also sent letters to all the parents who were present, requesting a written statement describing what occurred that evening. Kelly also submitted his account of what had happened.

After reading these accounts, Rosenwald made a recommendation to the director of parks, recreation and public lands, Kurt Kraus. She recommended that Kelly be banned from entering the locker room and the bench area for five years.

Kraus reviewed the statements and the recommendation, and sent a letter to Kelly informing him that tie was prohibited from entering the entire Mentor Civic Arena for five years. Kraus told Kelly, in his letter, that Kelly was permitted to pick up and drop off his wife and children in front of the arena, but that, should he enter the arena, he would be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing.

Kraus intended this penalty to punish Kelly for his actions on Feb. 28, 2000.

Kelly filed suit, seeking a court order to prevent Mentor from enforcing the five-year ban. The trial court returned a judgment in favor of Kelly that prohibited the city from enforcing its five-year ban on Kelly entering the Mentor Civic Arena. Mentor appealed.

Authority for Actions?

On appeal, Mentor claimed that its parks and recreation director was authorized to issue such a ban because Kelly's conduct had constituted threats to harm others. Kelly maintained that, without specific legal authority to issue the ban, the director of parks and recreation had "acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner" in denying him access to the civic arena.

According to the appeals court,

"[t]he powers possessed by Kraus are only those which were delegated to him." Pursuant to Mentor Municipal Ordinance 31.52, the appeals court further noted that Kraus, as the director of parks, recreation and public lands, was delegated the authority by Mentor to "be responsible for the maintenance and operation of municipal public lands and related programs. …

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