Wikipedia has a nice definition of a Kangaroo Court:The name kangaroo court is a disdainful appellation for a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority who intentionally disregards the court’s legal or ethical obligations.
We often hear this term used in political discussions, usually over the disagreement of a judicial outcome. Other times we might hear the term used as someone tries to resolve a dispute in some organization. It was not the first time I had heard ‘kangaroo court’ in context of the OLA. What you need to know is that it is real and it exists for everyone to experience.
Before continuing with my long and sad story however, I wish to raise a couple of points that are key to understanding why I chose to pursue the course of action that I did. I could have gone into the first Zone disciplinary hearing, told them what they wanted to hear and who knows, perhaps my punishment would have been less. Or at least not longer than the year I was to eventually get. The other option would have been to simply drop it all and walk away like so many have before me. Certainly I believe that either option would have been good enough for the Zone Director and Chair of the Zone Discipline Committee, with the latter being preferred.
Todd,According to LTB, you registered for the Box Sector on May 1, 2015 as a Rep Coach with no documents attached so the Club Registrar is waiting for you to upload your documents to approve your membership.
In the meantime, —–Club Registrar—–, please confirm with your Privacy Officer’s list that CRC has been received.
As for the hearing date, the Zone has pre-booked dates as part of a contract so I will find out the next available date which the Committee members are available and get back to —–Club Rep VP—– and yourself as soon as I hear from —–Club Registrar—– that you are registered.
As for the bias, you are implying, this is incorrect. The player’s release was an unconditional release issued by the club and never was appealed to the Zone.
Therefore, all the Discipline Committee’s members are neutral and will not be further debated.
—– Chair of Zone Discipline Committee—–
I could understand the Zone and OLA wanting to ensure I was duly registered and all the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted. Remember, that if I was not an OLA member, I could seek recourse for any of their actions through legal means because I had not waived my legal rights. I had no intentions of doing this since I was convinced that it could be resolved with a fair hearing at the OLA level.
The other aspect is the denial of bias, which is somewhat odd. If someone were to guess that when the father and son were being kicked out of the Oshawa club, that the then Club Rep VP (now Zone Director) and the then Zone Director (now Chair of Zone Discipline Committee) discussed the father and son issue at length, I think that would be a good guess. We know that the then Club Rep VP consulted the Zone Director on club issues such as the qualification of me as the 2014 Intermediate coach. We also know that she copied the then Zone Director and Zone Registrar on emails to the father and son when kicking them out of the Oshawa club. Perhaps such notices were mere formalities and the Zone Director at the time didn’t possess there wherewithal to detect the fraudulent nature of the release.
The hearing was scheduled two weeks ahead of time in Pickering, instead of locally as I had asked since I don’t drive. Any accommodation requests I made were denied (this was to become a pattern) so I sent an email to the OLA VP of Minor, the OLA Executive Director and the OLA President outlining my concerns. Keep in mind that at this point it was my intention of ensuring that a reasonable process was followed given the lack of procedures established by the Zone and OLA. Once the first Zone hearing was completed, I had immediately sent a notice of appeal to the OLA:
The person I had brought along to take notes was kicked out of the hearing;
– I asked questions about the process and received answers from the committee members;
– I made a statement refusing to speak in my defence, given my misgivings of procedural fairness;
– The Zone 6 Disciplinary Committee Chair made a summary judgement (i.e. to uphold the original indefinite suspension);
– The Zone 6 Disciplinary Committee Chair then closed the hearing.
Since then, the Zone 6 Disciplinary Committee Chair has declared that no hearing took place despite the facts above. She then counselled members of the Oshawa Minor Lacrosse Association Board of Directors to remove my volunteer privileges contrary to the provisions for discipline as set out the OMLA Constitution and Ontario Corporations Act. This, in effect, was an attempt to force me into another Zone hearing. I then requested another hearing that excluded the parties previously mentioned for the same reasons as the original hearing and I made reasonable accommodation requests for the scheduling and location of the hearing. I then received emails, which were copied to others, where the Zone 6 Disciplinary Committee Chair ruled on her own conflict of interest status, refused my accommodation requests and made a statement of judgement on allegations of my refusal to participate in the original hearing.
Please note that the subject of her hearing details email was “2nd Zone Hearing.” So one would ask, why on earth would it be called “2nd Zone Hearing” when it is alleged that a previous hearing did not take place at all? In effect, I am being disciplined on matters that the Zone 6 Disciplinary Committee Chair herself has already ruled on and given a summary judgment for.
So enough is enough. This has gone beyond mere inexperience and incompetence with regard to simple disciplinary procedures, is completely unreasonable and is an embarrassment to our sport.
I request that my application for an appeal be enacted today and I am seeking your support to make this OLA-level hearing go forward as soon as possible.
Please let me know your decision as soon as you can.
The response from the OLA VP of Minor was becoming predictable:
Todd, the OLA will not have an appeal hearing on your behalf until you attend a hearing at the zone level. The members who are attending as the committee are do not have any conflicts with your issues. I ask that you attend the scheduled hearing so that we all can move forward with this business.
—–OLA VP of Minor—–
OLA VP Minor Admin
Again, the OLA VP of Minor made a decision based on an incomplete explanation. Not once did she ask for my evidence of conflict of interest, nor did we discuss my concerns about the status of the original hearing, nor anything else. However, it is important to know that as the OLA VP of Minor she could have engaged and settled the question at any time, but for some reason did not. She had moved far past the point of appearing impartial.
As I was readying for my first-but-really-second Zone hearing scheduled for May 25th , the father and son had their own date with the OLA on the 24th. Their appeal hearing would be scheduled to take place shortly after the Board of Governors meeting in Mississauga. Afterward, I talked with the father about the meeting which he described the Zone as vehemently opposing the release from the local club back to Oshawa. He was confident that the OLA would make the right decision, but he would have to wait until the next day to find out.
On the afternoon of the 25th, I received a call from the father and indeed the son was released to play in his hometown. In my mind, that wrong was righted and contributed to the fact that I believed the OLA would act in the best interests of those involved. They did the right thing. However, and it’s important to realize since I was not party to the content of the release hearing, the basis for the request was not because the original release was null and void, it was based on the typical reasons of the son wanting to play in his hometown, with his buddies, etc.
The son being released was a good first step as far as I was concerned, and one would think that it would also play positively into the content of my first-but-really-second Zone disciplinary hearing. Sadly, it did not. In fact, at the start of the meeting, I mentioned the fact that son had been released and was sternly told by the Chair of the Zone Disciplinary Committee, “Don’t go there Todd.” I thought it was an odd comment, but was to see that it was just the beginning of one of the most hostile meeting environments I have ever experienced.
The meeting opened in the usual way with the same persons attending as before. (Prior to the meeting I had asked the club’s VP of Rep to recuse herself on the grounds of conflict of interest, but she refused) I asked for disciplinary standards and rights and obligations documents, of which there were none of course. Then I asked if I could have a copy of the notes the committee members were taking and that request was refused.
Now before I explain what happened in that meeting, I have to skip ahead a few weeks to my appeal hearing on June 10th. In that hearing, when all had finished their submissions, the Chair of the OLA Appeals Committee (also the OLA VP of Rep) asked the Chair of Zone Disciplinary Committee if she had some final thoughts. In her reply she made the following incredulous statement: “I thought a discipline hearing was where you gather the evidence and an appeal hearing was where you heard the evidence.” That was a shocking statement to say the least, but it explained the Zone’s very hostile position at my Zone disciplinary hearing.
In the Zone hearing, the Chair then began to ask questions about the unregistered players, was son on the floor at the time, who were the other unregistered players on the floor during the tryout and so on. Of course, in no legitimate hearing, whether legal, quasi-legal, discipline or otherwise, can it be fair to ask a person to incriminate themselves. This is what they were asking me to do and I told them so. I could not be compelled to be a witness against myself. At this point all three committee members rolled their eyes. Apparently such notions, basic enough to be included in the Canadian Constitution, were worth of scorn.
Then I explained that since they were bringing the charges against me, the burden of proof was on them to provide the evidence and I would answer the evidence they had. With that, the Chair held up a printed email with a list of names, some of them highlighted, explaining she had received this list from the Club Registrar. My reply was that it was an email list with highlighted names, but did not prove than any of them were on the floor. In fact I stated two of the three highlighted names were shown to have been registered at the time and I produced a screenshot from the online registration system proving it. This only increased their hostility.
They then turned to the registration status of the son. I admitted that I had watched the father register his son on his smartphone, but I had no way of verifying if the online registration system was working, had registered him or had encountered an error. I explained that the son had only recently been cut from the Jr. C tryouts and arrived at a busy time during the night. I also explained I did not know if the team manager or the club’s Director of Box Lacrosse had verified anything, taken payment, and so on.
It was clear at this point in the meeting that neither the Chair of the Zone Discipline Committee or the Zone Director, nor any of the sitting committee members had made any investigations to the allegations whatsoever, other than solicit an email from the Club Registrar. It was appalling. Absolutely no investigation was made by them and they appeared to have no idea that when allegations are made against someone, it was their duty to investigate those allegations before taking action.
We then next discussed the tampering charges. I was asked if I knew that the son was a member of the other club and I stated that I believed they thought he was. They took this to mean that I agreed that the son was a member of the other club, they had me. However, I produced the son’s release 2014 release form and explained. Among other things, the situation about the contravention of regulation OR8.05 and how making false statements on official OLA documents was worthy of membership termination. I was completely ignored on those points. Instead, I was told that I could not submit that because it was the private information of the father. I countered that I have worked in the field of access to information and privacy for many years and since I had the father’s permission to use it, there was no breach of privacy at all. They balked at my rebuttal.
Clearly, there could be no fairness achieved in a hearing rife with conflict of interest, where not even an iota of investigation had taken place, and where the hostility was palatable. For me, this hearing was a merely formality, another means to gather facts of incompetence and evidence of a badly broken structure. I had achieved my goals in the meeting and they had their opportunity. I fully expected what their ruling would be, and I had no delusions that it could be anything else. What did surprise me however was what followed shortly after the hearing had concluded:
Good Evening —-Club VP of Rep—-,
In order for the Zone Committee to make a decision, I am requesting that you inquire to —-Team Manager—– that the list that was sent by her to —– Club Registrar—–, which players listed were not on the floor?
—– Chair of Zone Discipline Committee—–
This is completely afoul of all acceptable practice with regard to procedural fairness.
I was ordered to attend this hearing by the OLA VP of Minor, attended in good faith and in the interests of allowing the process to move forward. The Zone has had their hearing, they presented their evidence, I presented mine and was told I would have a decision within 72 hours.
What you are seeking is to gather evidence post-hoc and deny me the opportunity to defend myself against it. You have had almost 4 weeks to prepare your case, conduct a thorough investigation into serious charges, and gather evidence to prove your allegations. You are now admitting you failed to do so by attempting to gathering said evidence after the hearing has been completed. This is an indication of misconduct in your role as Zone Disciplinary Chair and it flies in the face of the good faith I have shown by attending this second hearing tonight.—– Chair of Zone Discipline Committee—–, – you are making a mockery of the OLA disciplinary procedure and denying me due process as laid out in the OLA Code of Conduct per sections II-IV and II-V, by breaking the OLA Code of Conduct and counselling others to do so.
In the interests of transparency, I am copying —– Team Manager—– so that she is aware of the nature of this request and that she is under no obligation to provide further evidence to a hearing that has already been completed. I await the Zone’s decision within 72 hours as you stated in tonight’s hearing.
It is the decision of the Zone 6 Discipline Committee that Todd Powless will be suspended for one year from the date of the hearing on May 25, 2015. Suspension is as stated in MR10.13, suspension of an individual by the Corporation shall cover his or her activities in all phases of lacrosse.
The Committee concluded that Todd was aware of the unconditional release and understood what it meant but it was his opinion that the release was void; disregarded the ineligibility of the player and permitted the ineligible player on the floor for tryouts.
Therefore, under the rule MR3.05, Tampering did occur in regards to the “Any OLA member and/or club found tampering with players or obtaining releases for players or not otherwise complying with the intent of the residence rule regarding releases shall be suspended…”If you want to appeal this decision, please notify —– OLA Administrator—– at the OLA office within 15 days of this date and time and the cost will be $100.00.
—– Chair of Zone Discipline Committee—–
I immediately filed my appeal with the OLA of course. In fact, I had already filed an appeal, retracted it, and sent another. My reason for this was to ensure that the grounds of appeal were as up-to-date as possible and included the events of the Zone Disciplinary Hearings. I wanted to ensure that when I presented my case to the OLA, that it was very clear and concise and weighty enough to inspire change. However, there was a twist.
I was confident – and I still am – that a reasonable person looking at the evidence, without prejudice, would find that I was operating all within the rules, following the right protocols and making sure that the most important person in the story – the son – was not damaged by the vindictive actions of others. He had his release; he was playing with his team in Oshawa. The next part ceased to be about him and became about me.
In the weeks leading up to the OLA Appeal, I prepared a dossier to present to the OLA Appeals Committee. When I sent in my appeal request, I made sure to ask that the OLA VP of Rep be recused in the name of fairness. She had already ruled on the validity of the son’s release, and then sided with the Zone on some key issues, including the potential conflict of interest issues. In fact, when I responded to the Chair of the Zone Discipline Committee regarding her efforts to gather evidence after the Zone hearing, the OLA VP of Rep sent me a note asking me not to copy her on such messages. I found that a little odd.
Part of the dossier I was preparing was a series of OLA Code of Conduct notifications concerning the principals involved: the Zone Director, the Chair of the Zone Discipline Committee and the OLA VP of Rep. In my view, all had clearly breached more than one article of the Code of Conduct, but especially those in Section II:
II. Use their position within the OLA for unauthorized personal and/or material gains.
III. Willfully circulate false, malicious statements, derogatory to any other member of the Association.
IV. Willfully ignore or break the Bylaws, policies and/or rules and regulations of the OLA.
V. Counsel others to ignore or break the bylaws, policies, and/or rules and regulations of the OLA.
There was no guarantee that any of these conduct breaches would go forward or be deliberated on by the OLA Board of Directors. The all involved other OLA staff, one of which was a member of that board. I didn’t have high hopes for success, but at least they could be used to record information about their conduct in case anything like this happened in the future.
Once prepared, I sent the Code of Conduct package out to two OLA Board of Governors members for endorsement per the submission procedure. That is, in order to get a Code of Conduct violation heard by the OLA Board of Directors, one must first obtain the signatures of two Governors (league commissioners or presidents, Zone Directors, etc.) in order to validate the claims. I did so and was surprised at the response: one wished me good luck, but he did not wished to be involved; the other wished me luck, but recused on the grounds of not sufficiently knowing the minor rules and regulations well enough to sign. It was beginning to appear like the ranks were closing. I was aiming to close to home.
Despite the setbacks with the Code of Conduct forms, I included them in the dossier anyway. I figured that once those reasonable OLA people heard my story, they might wish to pursue the conduct breaches on their own. I would present them and leave them at that.
The documents were created, email printed and organized and the dossier completed. I figured it would take about 30-40 minutes to present and go through, even with some discussion about the content, I was certain the package could be completed within the hour allotted for my appeal hearing. However, just in case there was not enough time to present all of the material, I made 5 copies – three for the appeal committee members, one for myself and one for the person I had selected to attend with me to take notes. When June 10th rolled around, I was ready.
Bit of a sidebar: by this time, the Midget team was making plans to move ahead in the season without me. They endured quite a bit of turmoil until a couple of older players stepped up and took over as coaches. This talented, gritty, undermanned team went to the Provincials and won D. Everyone was very proud of their accomplishments despite what had happened to them. The Intermediate team suffered more. The team, which had started out as a promising group of young men, ended up not qualifying for provincials on a technicality which could have been mitigated by the Zone Director and OLA VP of Rep. They chose not to and the Intermediate team was denied a place at the Provincials.
To my surprise, the OLA VP of Minor arrived and announced that she was the chair of the OLA Appeals Committee and would chair the meeting. Any request of mine that she not participate in the hearing was ignored. She then announced that I could not have a representative in with me in the meeting. We tried to argue this point, that I needed someone to take notes while I was actively involved in the discussion, but the protest was denied. She asked us to leave the room while they prepared, so we left. On her way back out of the room, my rep asked another of the appeals committee members about having a representative with me at the hearing and he said, “We don’t do that.” Both I and my rep were surprised to hear this since at previous OLA appeal hearings we both had others come into the hearing with us. I know of others who have had appeal hearings and had others come in the hearing with them. My rep was also an OLA member so we didn’t know the reasons, but complied.
Finally at 6:40 PM the meeting started and I was informed the hearing would only be 20 minutes since the committee members had a Board of Director’s meeting. Representing the OLA Appeals Committee was the OLA VP of Minor, the OLA VP of Minor Field and OLA VP of Promotion. Also present was the Chair of the Zone Discipline Committee. I had earlier asked the OLA VP of Minor if she had a disciplinary procedure or rights and obligations document, and her response was to tell me that they would have a hearing and she would chair it. It was explained that the Chair of the Zone Disciplinary Committee would have ten minutes to explain her side of the allegations and then I would have ten minutes to explain my side of the story. The Zone would then have 5 minutes to respond to my comments.
I wouldn’t explain the feeling as shock as much as I would say it was profound disappointment. The feeling started as soon as the OLA VP of Rep entered the room and made her declarations. At that point, I started to feel all that prior confidence in the honour and respect of the OLA drain away. Instead of a calm and collected discussion about the events, my experiences, and the possible ramifications of the distorted and privileged disciplinary process, I came to discover that this corruption of procedural fairness had made it right into the head offices of the OLA. If I made one mistake in all of this, it was underestimating the sheer depth of the problem.
The Chair of the Zone Disciplinary Committee presented her facts, more or less the same track she was on during the Zone hearing. She also presented a couple of printed pages, purportedly emails from parents of the Intermediate team who saw the son on the floor during the tryout in question. It appeared that the OLA Appeals Committee accepted this evidence despite the fact that I didn’t actually what the pages contained, nor be able to question the person who submitted them. All I could do is make a weak comment about evidence being presented after the fact. It didn’t make much difference.
Then it was my turn to speak. By this time, presenting my copies of the dossier was out of the question as I had no time to properly present them. My year was on the line and I was given 10 minutes to explain. So I explained. I first presented the son’s release request form and pointed out all the inconsistencies including the false allegations made against the father. I then pointed out the fact that the release stated that it was unconditional and that not only was there no definition of unconditional release in the OLA rules and regulations, there was no rule or regulation that specified a player could be kicked out on these grounds. This has the OLA Appeals Committee opening their OLA Guides to verify if what I was saying was true. At one point, the OLA VP of Minor stated that “we have our own definition of what unconditional means.” At that point I knew that whatever I was after would not be found in that room on that day.
So ponder that for a moment: the OLA VP of Minor stating that they had their “own” definition of what the word “unconditional” meant in the context of the point I was trying to argue. I asked if this was written down anywhere and the OLA VP of Minor pointed to her head. It was an incredible moment to say the least, the implications showing exactly how deeply the distortion had reached. Not only did they have to scramble for their copies of the rules and regulations which, given their incredible depth of experience, one would think they would know, but then to turn around and claim to “know” something that just happened to fit the situation before them. It was so absurd and surreal, I had to suppress a laugh.
Throughout my ten minutes, I was constantly interrupted by the other appeals committee members asking questions and then disputing my answers. It was frustrating and hostile, but it had reached the point of a pattern to me. I was familiar with it. When my portion of the chat had come to an end, the OLA VP of Minor then asked the Zone for further comments and, when the Zone had finished, I was allowed another chance to make a final comment. So I asked the OLA Appeals Committee members: “Are you going to allow this garbage to happen to an Aboriginal man? Are you going to deny a Mohawk man access to lacrosse?” The room went silent and after a moment the hearing ended.
At that point, I headed back to the car, grabbed my cold cup of Timmies and took some deep breaths as we made our way back to Oshawa. I took my time to process the events, to look at my possible avenues of appeal. However, any thought I had was crowded out by the concept coming into sharp focus: I had been railroaded by a kangaroo court and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
The OLA appeal committee’s decision is to uphold the decision of the Zone 6 discipline committee. It was based on MR3.05.
Mr. Powless is suspended for one year from the date of the zone discipline hearing, which occurred on May 25, 2015. They also applied rule MR10.13 which states the suspension will cover his activities in all phases of lacrosse.
Should you wish a final appeal of this decision an appeal board would be appointed by the O.L.A. to be comprised of individuals independent of the aforementioned groups as well as: the OLA Leagues, the O.L.A. Board of Governors, the O.L.A. Board of Directors, the O.L.A. Board of Referees or anyone involved in the original disciplinary action. The cost of this level of appeal shall be two hundred and fifty ($250.00) dollars and shall be non-refundable.
All appeals must be submitted in writing (with payment) within 15 days of the previous decision. The results of this appeal will be made known by word within 24 hours and written notice to the individual/club within 3 days.
—– OLA VP of Minor—–
Appeals Committee Chair