About 1,000 Greenwich youngsters will be playing flag football after all on Sunday—weather permitting—despite a town employee's decision to revoke field permits that would have banned all games from being played on town fields.
Permits to use the fields at public schools throughout Greenwich were revoked by Recreation Supervisor Donald Mohr late Friday morning — a move that created a mini firestorm of e-mails and accusations, and would have left the league without a field for any games. It was the wording and tenor of accusations that Greenwich Flag Football League (GFFL) coaches continue to disregard field-use regulations contained in a follow-up email from Parks & Recreation Superintendent Peter Mandras to GFFL Assistant Director Romano Orlando, that prompted an intervention by First Selectman Peter Tesei.
Tesei's office on Friday afternoon received calls and complaints about the tenor of Mandras' email.
Orlando acknowledged that there have been instances of coaches using fields for which a permit had not been issued and that GFFL was working to resolve the issue. "Our main goal we just want to do what’s best for the kids and work with the town abide by the rules and do our part," Orlando said.
But according to a copy of the email Mandras wrote to Orlando that was obtained by Greenwich Patch, "We are sick and tired of "Baby sitting" [sic] Boorish coaches, who you claim are a great example of leadership for the "less fortunate" kids in our community. I say bull."
Mandras continued: "Your coaches have been seen in such places as the clambake area of Greenwich Point. Enough is enough! Your organization has no one to blame but yourselves and your response shows a lack of acceptance of the basic approval and permit rules to use Town of Greenwich fields. Do not blame us. For that, all you have to do is have the ADULTS affiliated with your program look in the mirror. P.S. This also goes for parents like the one a week or 2 ago who after being told it was not permissible to bring food and juice on the turf field at halftime, simply ignored the request and did it anyway. Shame on all of you and your selfish, self serving program. Peter J. Mandras, Jr., Supt. of Recreation. Tell the true story to the parents. Many of those adults responsible for their children cannot seem to follow the rules. Now do you "get it"?!!!"
Orlando said, "I thought the email was a little unprofessional—I thought the reaction was a little harsh. I know that one coach made a mistake to play on the field but to get that reaction to cancel the games and to get the email, I was definitely shocked."
It was only after Tesei intervened that Parks & Recreation Assistant Director Tom Greco rescinded the permit revocation, allowing Sunday's games to go on as scheduled.
"It was an inappropriate tenor for anyone to take with the public and doesn’t reflect positively on the town and I work hard to maintain a civil demeanor and when things like this happen, it erodes that ability," Tesei said.
According to an email Greco wrote to Orlando late Friday, "Unfortunately there has been much consternation surrounding the Flag Football program which has resulted in revoking permits for this weekend's schedule. Upon examination the issues are significant and frankly seem to have been with us all for some time."
Greco added, "Unfortunately the downside of revoking permits results in youth being denied the opportunity to participate in a sport for events/practices for which they are involved. We simply must find a way to resolve the myriad issues and develop mutual respect for those involved.
"We commend the GFFL for taking the first step wherein they have advised us that they will suspend any team caught on the GHS grounds without a permit. Our position is do everything possible so that the youth will not be penalized."
Greco's email continued, "Therefore, we are reopening this weekend schedule to the GFFL with the caveat that mandatory meetings will be called over the next week or so between Parks and Recreation staff and key team/league members to clarify the issues and reach agreement with respect to non conformance."
Orlando said, "Our main goal is we just want to do what’s best for the kids and work with the town abide by the rules and do our part. ... We were in the wrong to have a team out there but sometimes the punishment didn’t fit the crime."
Orlando added, "The town said they thought the reaction was overreaction on the part of Parks and Rec. I thought it was a little scathing and personal."
Tesei said, "The games are going to on and I applaud Mr. Greco for his quick attention to addressing the situation that Mr. Mandras email created."
In response to an interview request from Greenwich Patch Friday, Mandras said in an email, "With cooperation from the GFFL we will play the games as scheduled this weekend and begin meeting next week to iron out our differences."
Orlando said he was looking forward to meeting with town officials this week. "We’re all grown men and we should work it out together." He added, "I just don’t want ot do anything that will hurt the league long-term. It’s all about the kids playing. We should just handle it like adults."
When asked whether Mandras could face disciplinary action, Tesei said, "We’ll be talking with Mr. Siciliano on Monday and we’ll go from there. It’s really something for the supervisor and in this case Mr. Siciliano, to address in response to me and the sentiments expressed by the public."
Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Siciliano was not in the office on Friday as the situation developed throughout the day.