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Ferris Sports Association’s bases loaded with rumors

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
FERRIS — It's the same game, second inning, for the Ferris Sports Association. Bases again are loaded with rumors, and answers still are scarce.

Everyone involved believes they know the truth, but no one in either dugout can substantiate their statements.

Problems came to light at an Oct. 12 meeting of the Ferris City Council when Debbie Connell asked the city to pay a bill for rewiring the concession stand and installing a new scoreboard.

'We would have to have a fund-raiser to pay it,' Connell said of the bill from DeBorde Electric for just over $2,600. 'All our money is tied up in pending litigation.'

Connell said the association had also paid $1,900 for trenching, $1,400 for bleachers, $1,500 for another needed item. Council member Lori Perkins asked if receipts were available for these expenditures.

'I don't have access,' said Connell. '(We are) tied up in a lawsuit. I was told that if I contacted any of them again I would be personally sued.'

'I haven't heard the gossip,' said Council member Fred Pontley. 'Is something going on with the Little League again?'

'Yeah,' came the answer from several present at the meeting.

While the council was meeting in executive session, Connell was asked about the lawsuit. 'No litigation has been filed,' she said.

Chief of Police Jeff Cottongame weighed into the conversation at this point. 'No comment,' he warned. 'Don't say anything.'

From that point, Connell shook her head no to further comment.

'I just want to help get (the Little League) back on its feet,' she said. 'We have been told that they have been contacted by the newspaper once, and they didn't appreciate it.'

Approached about the subject after the meeting had adjourned, council member Jim Parks managed to say, 'The Little League, years ago…' before he was cut off by Cottongame, who called out from the other side of the room, 'No comment!'

Cottongame's unsolicited admonition ended the conversation.

A small group of people gathered outside the meeting room, but dispersed quickly when approached by the Press. 'No comment!' Cottongame called out again, holding up a sign of a cross made with his two index fingers. 'No comment, no comment!'

Ferris resident Diana Espy said she and her husband went to the newspaper office after a party that was held for the purpose of passing out trophies. Espy said they were told at the party that $40,000 was missing.

'We were the last ones there because we had soccer that night,' recalled Espy. 'As soon as we walked up, they said, ‘No trophies.' We said, ‘Why?' They said, 'No money.''

'(The paper) knew absolutely nothing,' Espy related. 'We said, ‘How do we follow up on this, how do we find out?' (The editor) said to go to the Police Department and see if anyone had filed charges. We talked to Sue Fitch and Jeff Cottongame. They said no one had filed any charges.

'They said last time, when it happened with Minton, they turned it over to the Texas Rangers,' Espy said. 'They have the officer's name, where to contact him. He investigated the case, put together what he thought was a concrete case against them, and turned it over to Ellis County District Attorney Joe Grubbs. Grubbs chose not to prosecute.'

Espy said she and her husband went from the Police Department to a local business to discuss the matter with a member of the Little League's board, Victor Garcia.

'Victor told us it had been not a lengthy amount of time, 10 days or so, that the board had met and that Bubba was there,' Espy says. 'And what Victor had told us was that at the time we were sitting there in front of him it had not yet been decided whether money was missing. Bubba had asked for time to get receipts and records for all the money.'

According to Espy, this meeting took place near the end of August or the first of September.

Like others, when contacted, Victor Garcia also refrained from commenting. 'Can't talk about it yet,' Garcia said. 'Not at the moment. Things are still up in the air. Gotta solve this and that. A lot of hear say from people, that's what we're trying to avoid.'

The newspaper office contacted Bubba Torrez, president of the Ferris Sports Association, shortly after the Espys brought up the question. 'If I took $44,000 and ran the Association the way I did,' Torrez said, 'I'd have been doing pretty good.' Torrez said he had collected only $12,000 or $13,000 because not every player was able to pay.

According to Torrez, the distribution of trophies, originally set for Aug. 22, had to be postponed because trophies ordered on the Internet from New York had not arrived. At that time, a new date for trophy day had not yet been set.

'All the rumors are false,' Torrez asserted. 'On trophy day, everyone will be given a financial statement.'

Torrez indicated rumors started after he refused to spend money on the football program. 'I told them if they wanted to do it, someone else would have to do it,' he said. 'I told them we didn't have money for football.'

Connie Webb, another member of the association's board, said rumors have been started by different people that don't really know anything.

'They do not have access to the records,' she said, 'So how would they know if there was money taken out of an account or not? As far as we can tell, there is no truth to the money situation.'

Webb said the trophies have been ordered by Debbie Connell and may already be in.

The association plans a function on Oct. 28 to distribute the trophies. A fall carnival and a beauty pageant also are planned for that day, although the location has not yet been determined.

Although officers for the association are elected to two-year terms, the board held a meeting last Tuesday to elect new officers to finish out the present term. The new officers are Debbie Connell, president; Cindy White and Christi Parrot, vice president; Nicky Allen, secretary; Lisa Day, treasurer; Connie Webb, fund raiser; Patti Hernandez and Stacey Flemming, public relations.

Commissioners are Victor Garcia, baseball; Eddie Duran, softball; Albert Trevino, teeball; Bobbie Lindsey, football; Heidi Wilson, cheerleading; Mark Coffman, basketball.

Garcia said the election was unexpected.

'You know how people are,' he said. 'One person who doesn't know anything says this or that, and somebody else gets mad, and people are yelling at each other.'

Garcia said he did not expect a financial statement to be forthcoming in light of the election of new officers, but both he and Webb indicated willingness to share such a statement with the Ellis County Press.

'The board hasn't got the financial statement yet,' Webb stated. 'But it's a public organization, so there's no reason why it could not be published in the paper.'

Webb said the board previously decided against printing the association's financial statement in the newspaper because of the cost, electing instead to spend the available money on equipment for the sports. 'To get anything like that in the paper, Hatfield's going to have to work with us,' she said if Publisher Charles Hatfield.

Webb offered a few suppositions on the expenditures.

'I think there was a lot more expense this year,' she said. 'Some of the quote ‘sponsorship money' say you're a company and you want to sponsor a team, we were not able to utilize directly.

'The scoreboard itself was donated, but we had to pay an electrician to put it up,' Webb said. 'Bleachers had to be replaced. In Ferris, there is no one person that can afford to shell out the money for the lumber, or I haven't met them!

'We have added bleachers to a third field that didn't have any before,' she said. 'It's kind of difficult to sit on the ground or whatever to watch your kiddo play ball.

'There was lots of upkeep and getting things done that had to be done,' Webb said. 'Bubba and Rhonda are wonderful people.'

Others have also noted Torrez' dedication to the Sports Association, indicating that he took over leadership at a time when difficulties had to be faced and that he had worked hard to see that the Ferris children were able to participate in numerous sports.

Diana Espy said people are anxious to see the financial statements, especially since there was no prosecution in the situation 10 years ago, nor in another money mismanagement scandal involving some of the same people that resulted in the elimination of PTA's in Ferris schools.

'(Torrez) said he can prove it, let him prove it,' she said. 'We asked Victor, ‘If he cannot show where the money was spent will you file charges?'

'He said, ‘Yes.' If it takes us filing charges - we're just tired of all these folks stealing from the kids,' she said.

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