Sport

St James netball row

Calls for Richards to step aside; embattled president vows to remain

BY PAUL A REID Observer West writer

Thursday, June 05, 2014    

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EMBATTLED President of the St James Netball Association Eglon Richards has defended his stewardship of the association in the wake of calls from members of his executive for him to demit office.

Denying a raft of accusations made against him by members of the association, a defiant Richards who has been at the helm since 2008, told the Jamaica Observer West that he will not step down until he has completed the job he was elected to do.

Richards whose term in office should have ended in January, stressed that he will demit office as soon as he is able to complete projects, including the paying over of bursaries to five players in last year's Under-12 competition.

"I can hold my head high. As, after taking over the association in 2008 with about $800 in the account, we have nearly $130,000 in it now and we don't owe anyone one red cent," Richards boasted.

But Gina Haughton, the first vice- president of the St James Netball Association told Observer West recently, that they were having problems contacting Richards, and accused him of commandeering the association's bank books, as well as not having regular meetings.

Haughton said they wanted to start the annual parish Under-12 competition, but did not have access to the bank accounts to undertake the event.

She also accused Richards of not paying over bursaries to five netball players from last year's Under-12 competition who had top grades in the GSAT and are now attending high schools.

The St James Netball Association has over the past few years disbursed bursaries of $10,000 each to the five players with the top GSAT scores.

Richards, however, argued that it was under his stewardship that "the bursaries grew from one, to three to five," adding that the monies were available but he is awaiting information from the respective schools to make the payouts.

He blamed the coordinator for the Under-12 competition, Cleopatra Ebanks, his sister-in-law, who he said had not completed the job of identifying the recipients of the bursaries. He pointed out that Winsome Barnes, the treasurer of the association, has been mandated to get the necessary information, emphasising that the bursaries would be handed over in short order.

The embattled president in the meantime admitted taking the association's bank documents, arguing that he wanted to ensure transparency and proper accounting.

"I am the man, the buck stops with me. I don't want my name to be tarnished over money, I have the books, but I consult with the treasurer when cheques are to be signed, and proper accounting is being carried out," explained Richards.

According to the president who was re-elected unopposed in 2010, "When people talk about accountability... when I took up the

office I brought two things -- accountability and professionalism, and it's one thing that when I am leaving I don't want people to drag my name in the mud and that is what I see them trying to do."

Richards also denied charges that meetings are not held on a timely basis, adding that he had not responded to the calls to start the Under-12 parish competition, stressing that "without a sponsor it would not make sense, given the cost of paying officials and rental of venues for games".

"We have trophies and all that for the Under-12 competition, but the cost of paying game officials... the $500 per person fees and rental of venues are out of our reach because we don't want to deplete the association's bank balance," he argued.

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