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Marijuana Charge Triggers Lifetime Coaching Ban

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
On Dec. 13, 1982, Gary Hapenny was convicted of one count of possession of marijuana. It was a misdemeanor with a $62 fine, but 25 years later he's still paying for it.

Hapenny, now 46, has been banned for life from coaching youth sports after selectmen implemented a new policy in July, mandating all youth sports volunteers go through a Criminal Offense Record Investigation (CORI) check. Under the policy, anyone convicted of any narcotics charges automatically earns a lifetime ban.

That puts Hapenny — a father of six — in the same category as murderers, rapists, armed robbers and child molesters, according to the "Town of Bourne CORI Policy for Use of Town Facilities."

"You wouldn't believe what a joke this is in town, that if you smoked marijuana 25 years ago you're gonna get kicked out," Hapenny said.

But Hapenny said he's not laughing, and is contemplating legal action against the town.

For the past four years he's served as an assistant coach for football, basketball and baseball. He's been coaching youth sports for the past 22 years, first in Minnesota, and then in Wareham before moving to Bourne.

He was looking forward to coaching his 9-year-old son's football team this fall. Having gone through the CORI check repeatedly in the past and been approved, Hapenny said the town's new policy is inconsistent and unfair.

Appeal option

Town Administrator Thomas Guerino said the decision to ban Hapenny was made in accordance with the new policy's guidelines, which state all volunteer groups must provide a list of CORI-approved volunteers to town officials before any permits for field use will be granted.

Each group has a designated person who performs the CORI checks and is trained by the state Criminal History Systems Board. If there is a red flag on an applicant's background check, only the applicant is notified and he then has the option of appealing.

Hapenny did appeal, but said he took issue with how his case was handled.

The policy stipulates "a three-member appeals board consisting of: the Town Administrator's designee, a member of the Bourne Police Department and an authorized person from a non-involved organization."

In Hapenny's case, his appeal was heard by Bourne Police Lt. Richard Tavares, Guerino himself and Recreation Director Krissanne Caron.

When asked why a member of a non-involved organization was not present, Guerino said "there was no one available from one of the other sports leagues."

Another discrepancy appears in Guerino's Aug. 22 letter to Hapenny. In it, Guerino rejects Hapenny's appeal but informs Hapenny he can appeal for reinstatement in one year.

In a phone interview, however, Guerino said "He's (Hapenny) got a drug conviction in 1982 and I know it's a long time ago, but the policy is clear that it's a lifetime ban."

When asked to explain how someone can annually appeal a lifetime ban, Guerino remained vague and said, "This is the first year of the policy and like all policies, we may review it in the future."

Another unexplained discrepancy in the policy states although all narcotics charges are under the lifetime ban category, manufacturing or distributing a Class D substance is listed in the 10-year ban section, Hapenny said.

Other black marks

Hapenny said he believes some other black marks on his record that did not end in convictions may have contributed to the appeals board decision, even though the town's policy clearly states only "confirmed convictions" should be considered when rendering a decision on appeal.

In 2005, Hapenny had a charge of assault and battery and disturbing the peace which were continued without a finding and dismissed in December 2006. In 2001, he had possession of a Class D substance (subsequent offense) and operating with a suspended license charges continued without a finding and dismissed after one year as well.

Police documents from Oct. 11 that year state Hapenny was pulled over in Wareham for driving 62 mph in a 35 mph zone, and upon a search officers found a "partially smoked marijuana cigarette" in his pants pocket, along with a "glassine baggie containing marijuana."

Hapenny was also arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol in 1985. But according to Bourne's policy, the OUI charge would not factor against Hapenny because drunken driving elicits a five-year ban and the crime occurred 22 years ago.

Role of the past

But Selectman John Ford, Bourne's former police chief, said even though the town's CORI policy is supposed to include convictions only, Hapenny's past indiscretions may have played into the appeals board decision and he supports the end result.

"These charges (assault and battery and possession of a Class D substance) were not dismissed, they were guilty pleas because there was an admission to sufficient facts," Ford said. "I think if an individual had a marijuana possession conviction but then wasn't in trouble for the next 25 years they'd say 'go ahead,' but if the appeals board found cause to uphold the ban then I'd rule in favor of the kids."

Robert Collett, president of Bourne Pop Warner Football, said he understands the need for the town CORI policy, but he hopes the selectmen make some amendments to make it more fair.

Collett said three of his coaches have been disqualified under the new policy, and several more did not return to coaching because they feared the CORI checks.

"I certainly understand the intent and the need for the town to have assurances relative to the integrity of the people involved; however, this has caused great consternation for some otherwise very decent people," Collett said. "It's my opinion that youthful indiscretions should be given careful review and consideration when assessing one's eligibility to coach in youth sports."

David Rondeau, the head coach of Hapenny's football team, agreed.

"Gary's been coaching football with me for the last two years, and the parents and kids love him," Rondeau said. "He was 21 years old at the time, and who didn't do that stuff when they were 21? You don't want a drug dealer coaching your kids, but there are circumstances for everything."

Indecent exposure
Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (first and second offense)
Possession of obscene "pornographic" material
Engaging in sex with a prostitute
Felony breaking and entering
Motor vehicle homicide by reckless or negligent operation
Vandalizing a church, cemetery or synagogue
Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs - third offense
All narcotics charges

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: Cape Cod Online
Author: Aaron Gouveia
Contact: agouveia@capecodonline.com
Copyright: 2007 Ottaway Newspapers, Inc
Website: CapeCodTimes.com - Marijuana charge triggers lifetime coaching ban in Bourne
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