Published in the August 30, 2017 edition


LYNNFIELD — Three people affiliated with Lynnfield Youth Football and Cheerleading (LYFC), who are currently being investigated by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office for allegedly misusing funds, have filed a lawsuit against CBS Corporation, WBZ-TV Reporter Ryan Kath, two local officials and five other people.

According to a copy of civil investigative demands filed in Suffolk Superior Court on July 8, 2016, Healey’s office is currently reviewing information “in order to determine whether charitable funds have been applied to charitable purposes and if breaches of trust have been committed in the administration of Lynnfield Youth Football and Cheerleading, Inc., a public charity.”

The AG’s office is currently investigating current LYFC Commissioner Wayne Shaffer; former Selectman and LYFC Commissioner Tom Terranova; and former LYFC Board of Directors member Steve Berardino. The AG’s office has not issued a report on the allegations. 

Earlier this month, Shaffer, Terranova and Berardino along with their respective businesses, The Mortgage Stop, Inc., Terranova and Associates, LLC, and State-Line Graphics, Inc., filed a lawsuit against Kath, CBS Corporation, Selectman Phil Crawford, Fields Director Joe Maney Jr. and five unknown people identified as Pat Does 1-5. According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by the Villager, attorney Bradford Keane said, “(T)he plantiffs were defamed by the defendants in connection with the plantiffs’ involvement in the Lynnfield Youth Football and Cheerleading, Inc. (LYFC).”

The plantiffs are suing the defendants for $67,000.

Keane stated Kath and CBS Corporation’s Boston affiliate, WBZ-TV, “spent many months interviewing citizens of the town of Lynnfield and other individuals in an attempt to create a broadcast narrative (or ‘hit piece’) suggesting the plantiffs, acting in concert or independently, diverted or otherwise improperly mishandled charitable funds held in the name or on behalf of LYFC.”

According to the lawsuit, the plantiffs allegedly told Kath and CBS “their investigation was baseless” and was “defamatory and false.” Keane also claimed Kath’s “ambush interviews” with Berardino and Shaffer “were intentionally designed to cast these plantiffs in a shameful and negative light.”

“The entire theme, pretext, presentation and narrative by defendants CBS Corporation and Ryan Kath was that plantiffs Terranova, Berardino and Shaffer had stolen, misused or were stealing or misusing LYFC money, and revealed the Attorney General’s investigation,” said Keane.

The plantiffs are also suing Selectman Phil Crawford and Fields Director Joe Maney Jr., who were both interviewed by Kath during the “I-Team” segment. Keane said Crawford “never raised concerns of financial improprieties or defalcations from LYFC at any time.” Keane said Maney Jr., who was “silhouetted” during the broadcast, made “defamatory” and “false” statements during the segment.

“As a direct consequence of the defendants’ improper disclosures and false statements, the plantiffs have seen their professional reputations and personal reputations harmed,” said Keane.

Keane also said the “print and television media outlets drawn to the sensational nature of the matter have damaged the plantiffs.”

“The broadcast has created a public belief that the statements of defendants CBS Corporation, Kath, Crawford and Maney Jr. are true, while portraying plantiffs Terranova, and plantiffs Berardino and Shaffer in particular, as evasive buffoons,” said Keane.

LYFC meeting tonight

LYFC will hold a redo of its annual meeting tonight, Wednesday, Aug. 30, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Al Merritt Center, 600 Market Street.

The redo meeting was called after Keane issued a legal opinion stating the meeting on Aug. 7 was improperly conducted. Keane argued the meeting was not properly advertised and LYFC’s board of directors was not properly informed. He also took issue with the meeting’s voting procedures and the use of different colored ballots.

The Villager obtained a document from newly elected LYFC Treasurer Lauren George, who argued the meeting should not be conducted once again. George objected to Keane’s assessment of who was allowed to vote at the Aug. 7 meeting.

“The bylaws state that ‘membership in Lynnfield Youth Football, Inc. is open to any athletic group of the town of Lynnfield that organizes sports programs for youths,’” said George. “This statement clearly appears to exclude the parents of participants in Lynnfield football, which obviously makes no sense. But then how do you define ‘any athletic group’ of Lynnfield? It seemed to be interpreted in the initial August 7 meeting as only the directors of athletic groups in town. Leaders of these other sports were given a blue ballot and allowed to vote. But why? It doesn’t say the leadership of any athletic group. My son plays soccer, and according to the bylaws of Lynnfield Youth Soccer Club, I am recognized as a member of their organization. So am I now considered part of the soccer group, who is eligible to vote for LYF?

“If the definition of member is construed to mean only leadership of the various sports groups, I have counted 75 different individuals who appear to fall under this category, some of whom sit on more than one board, but whom I am only counting one time,” George continued. “I gathered these 75 names based on the leadership listed on their respective websites for the Lynnfield Recreation Commission, hockey, lacrosse, girls softball, soccer, baseball, basketball, and wresting (who was listed with basketball). If each organization only gets one vote, then it would be eight votes by these other sports and presumably one vote for football for a total of nine voting members.”

George cited additional issues with Keane’s legal opinion. In closing, she states “with all these apparent problems, shouldn’t Lynnfield Youth Football just be grateful that four new interested parties are willing to step in and clean up the mess?”

“I would rather you just said thank you and went on your way,” said George.