Published in the September 6, 2017 edition


LYNNFIELD — Tensions ran high at the Lynnfield Youth Football and Cheerleading (LYFC) Board of Directors annual meeting at the Al Merritt Center on Aug. 30 after a number of parents were prevented from attending.

LYFC previously conducted a meeting on Aug. 7, but attorney Bradford Keene, who is representing the LYFC board, issued a legal opinion stating the meeting was invalid. LYFC submitted a press release to the Villager last month announcing the annual corporate meeting “for the purpose of electing 2017-2018 board of directors and officers.” Interested candidates were informed to notify LYFC President Wayne Shaffer in writing by midnight on Aug. 25.

A poster located in the lobby of the Al Merritt Center said the meeting was “open to all voting members as described in the LYFC bylaws: Incorporators, legatees, Lynnfield Youth Football coaches, Lynnfield Youth Cheerleading coaches, board of directors (and) candidates for office.” There were three women manning a table who had lists containing the names of people who were allowed to attend the meeting. If a person’s name was not on the list, they were not able to attend the meeting.

“It was the first time anyone has seen it,” said LYFC Cheerleading Co-Director Rebecca Drzewiczewski about the poster. “Multiple people had emailed as well as called the attorney, and the attorney said I don’t work for you.”

In addition to preventing a number of parents from attending the meeting, four media outlets including the Villager and WBZ-TV Channel 4 reporter Ryan Kath were barred from covering the meeting.

The board’s decision infuriated parents who attended the meeting and were not let in. There was also a police officer on duty at the meeting, who requested backup from two other officers.

“They said tonight they were electing a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer,” said Drzewiczewski. “There was no vote because people were questioning they were not open and transparent as to who was invited to the meeting.”

LYFC Cheerleading Co-Director Kim Brown agreed.

“They never communicated who was a defined member and who was allowed to come prior to the meeting,” said Brown. “They never communicated to us as cheer directors that current coaches were defined as membership. We didn’t make an effort to make sure all of our coaches canceled their practice to make sure they were there.”

While many parents were prevented from attending the meeting, Drzewiczewski and Brown were allowed in.

According to a source who attended the meeting, LYFC’s board of directors allegedly held another meeting on Monday, Aug. 14 where the board changed the organization’s bylaws.

“It was represented by them that they changed their bylaws on August 14 but no proof was provided,” said the source.

Drzewiczewski agreed.

“Mr. Keene said during the meeting they did make the changes in accordance with the current bylaws, but he didn’t state what they did,” said Drzewiczewski.

“They refused to answer any of our questions,” added Brown. “In my opinion, they completely shut us out to control the vote.”

In an interview with the Villager, Recreation Commission Chairman Rich Sjoberg said he discussed the matter with Keene after he was barred from attending the meeting.

“I asked Mr. Keene how they devised the list for this evening and who is a voting member in the football league,” said Sjoberg. “He said to me the board had a meeting on Aug. 14 and changed their bylaws as to who is a voting member. He said those people are the only voting members at the annual meeting. He didn’t have them with him, but he said he is going to send me a copy of the new bylaws.”

Lauren George, who was elected LYFC treasurer at the voided Aug. 7 meeting, said LYFC’s “bylaws say you have to submit changes at least 10 days prior to any such meeting.” George was allowed to attend the meeting.

“The lawyer said their bylaws were changed on (Aug. 14), and their meeting was on the seventh,” said George. “And on (Aug. 7), it wasn’t defined. Seven plus 10 isn’t 14. But if they truly did that, it wasn’t in accordance with their bylaws.”

Brown agreed with George’s point of view.

“The problem with the bylaws is that it’s sort of a Catch 22 because you need to have the membership vote on the bylaws,” said Brown. “But we don’t know who the membership is.”

Drzewiczewski said current cheerleading coaches “were not notified” about the meeting.

“They didn’t reach out to us to get a roster of any of the current cheer coaches,” said Drzewiczewski. “We weren’t able to notify any of our current cheer coaches that they should show up tonight and their vote would count.”

The Attorney General’s office is currently investigating the financial records of LYFC. According to a copy of a written compliant filed, the Attorney General office’s was requested to investigate Shaffer, LYFC Vice President Steve Berardino, former Selectman and LYFC President Tom Terranova and LYFC Treasurer Jit Lee Billings.

The AG’s office has not issued a report on the allegations.

WBZ-TV “I-Team” Reporter Ryan Kath aired a segment on the investigation in April. Kath spoke with a handful of anonymous parents who expressed their concerns about the program. Concerned parents agreed to share their concerns, but asked that their names not be used because they have children in the program.

While the meeting’s attendees were leaving the Al Merritt Center, Kath approached Terranova to discuss why LYFC did not let parents attend the meeting. The former selectman held up a smartphone in front of a WBZ camera. Kath also chased down Shaffer and Berardino to ask both men to comment on the matter, but neither spoke to Kath.

Drzewiczewski called the situation “emotionally exhausting.”

“It’s so disheartening,” she said. “I don’t know where we go from here.”

Brown agreed.

“There are so many parents who are willing and capable to help out,” said Brown. “They want to help out. They shouldn’t lock out parents who want to get involved.”

In an interview with Kath, Drzewiczewski said she and Brown have been co-cheer directors for the past year.

“We were actually asked via text message about six weeks ago whether we wanted to be on the board,” said Drzewiczewski. “We said that wasn’t a valid way to be elected onto the board and we weren’t going to accept that. We wanted to do it through a meeting. A meeting was held and we were both elected onto that board along with other parents. And they then said that meeting was invalid. It’s very disappointing. I think the people of Lynnfield are ready for change and want to see a new board put in place and want to see our program thriving. Unfortunately, the current board is not allowing that to happen.”

The Villager reached out to Keene to confirm the information, but he said, “I am not going to comment.”