Fambrough: Questions abound and little time for LHSAA to find answers _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine is mad.

Bonine made it clear he’s heard enough about the Louisiana High School Officials Association and its demands for a contract and pay raises when he appeared on WNXX-FM, 104.5 on Wednesday morning.

Perhaps most importantly, Bonine told listeners that his research shows the Louisiana High School Officials Association isn’t following its bylaws and is not a sanctioned subgroup the LHSAA can negotiate with.

“They’ve pissed me off,” Bonine said of the LHSOA after the radio show aired. “You can only put up with so much of this. They’ve chosen to argue their case in the media. And if they want to do that, we can.

“I’m an advocate for kids … that’s why I got into this business. I think my record shows I’ve been an advocate for officials when I need to be. On my previous job (in Nevada) I got a 4 percent pay raise for officials.

“I’m not an advocate for officials. I’m not an advocate for principals. I’m going to make sure that (kids) remains the focus, first of all. Whenever we have adults affecting what could happen with kids, it ticks me off. Of course, none of this gets us any closer to having officials this fall.”

The LHSOA came to the LHSAA in May with its demands, which included raises for football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball and baseball officials. The LHSOA also sent out contracts to all LHSAA schools requiring them to contract for services at the new higher rates, even though signing the contracts violates part of the LHSAA constitution.

Most pay raises are from $5 to $10 per official, and Bonine said it would amount to about $1,800 per school.

Bonine is scheduled to meet with the LHSOA’s executive board at noon Sunday at the Crowne Plaza, but concedes that may not happen.

“We may not make it to Sunday now,” Bonine said. “I’ll meet with them on Sunday if they still want me to. I was originally going to bring these points Sunday, but I may have blown that one out of the water.”

Bonine quoted his research. He noted that Article 3 of the LHSOA’s bylaws states, ‘The LHSOA is a subgroup of the LHSAA, and all LHSAA bylaws will be observed.’ At our last public meeting, their president (Paul LaRosa) said, ‘With all due respect, that handbook is your handbook, not mine.’ So he was out of line when he made that comment. Maybe he didn’t have the chance to research that before speaking.”

Bonine said research of minutes from past meetings and older handbooks show the LHSAA approved the addition of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association in 1972-73 and the Louisiana High School Athletic Directors Association in 1983-84. He said a review of past minutes since 2007 shows that neither the LHSAA executive committee nor general assembly approved sanctioning the LHSOA as an affiliate group.

“I have no problem with giving officials a seat on our board, like we have for the LHSCA and LHSADA,” Bonine said. “But we’re going to do it the right way and follow procedures. Right now (officials) are being represented by a group that isn’t sanctioned to do that.”

Later Wednesday, The Advocate received an email from former Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association President Marlon Harrison, a local attorney, that contained a copy of the LHSOA’s Articles of Incorporation that were filed on Aug. 30, 2010, using an agent in Shreveport.

LHSAA Assistant Executive Director Keith Alexander, who has been working with Bonine to help resolve the LHSAA-LHSOA impasse, is listed as the LHSOA Director. LHSOA President Paul LaRosa also is listed on the documentation.

During the lengthy radio interview, Bonine said he has no magic wand to solve the LHSOA impasse. He reiterated what he said when negotiations broke down June 23, that he offered to work within the LHSAA’s system to get pay raises for officials in seven sports passed in January, along with other key concessions.

The LHSOA and its president, LaRosa, rejected that offer, saying it was too much like past promises that were never kept. The LHSOA’s demands for schools to sign contracts is a violation of the LHSAA’s constitution.

“I’ve heard the argument we haven’t had a raise in the last 20 years and it’s only $5,” Bonine said. “I told Mr. LaRosa specifically I can’t take care of the last 20 years, but I can adjust and take care of the last seven years. It’s what I can do going forward. I have the capability to make that change.

“We can’t just drop (a pay raise) in because those budgets were due on July 1 or before. (The schools) can’t just crap $1,800 or $2,000 or whatever it’s going to be. Give me a chance.”

Bonine acknowledged that football officials have taken the lead role in the fight for pay raises even though basketball, wrestling, soccer, baseball, volleyball and softball officials also are impacted.

“It (football) is the king,” Bonine said. “It’s the South, and I get that completely. But we’re talking about affecting kids now. We’re all going to line up with the LHSOA and we’re not going to officiate. Has anyone on the officials’ side said squat about kids? No.”