Posted by Joe Maxfield
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Bowlers split all the time, but in New York
it has led to a court case.
The U.S. Bowling Congress, the national governing body for
amateur bowling, last year revoked the charter of the New York
state bowling organization after a state manager was charged with
embezzling more than a quarter-million dollars. Now the state group
is striking back in court, claiming the national group is using the
scandal as a pretext to strip its authority.
The legal fight playing out in a Bronx court over the fate of
the New York State USBC Bowling Association has little direct
effect on the more than 80,000 New York members and other bowlers
statewide, many who are oblivious to the litigation. But it could
jeopardize the New York state championship tournament this year,
and it leaves a question mark over who governs bowling in New York.
"Competition is conducted under a set of governing rules and
guidelines. Without it, there's anarchy," said Dennis Light,
president of the state group, in explaining the lawsuit.
Trouble started after Stephen Donahue, a former association
manager of the NYSBA, was accused last summer of embezzling more
than $271,000 from the state organization, much of it from a cash
machine at the Turning Stone casino in central New York. The
Weedsport man pleaded guilty this month to a count of second-degree
grand larceny and faces three to nine years in state prison when he
is sentenced in March.
The USBC revoked the state group's charter on Oct. 18, the first
time they had ever done that with a state group. The USBC said the
state organization's problems went beyond the embezzlement scandal
and that an audit showed NYSBA board members "consistently
failed" to safeguard funds. They said they revoked the charter to
protect bowlers in New York.
The NYSBA sued, saying other local bowling associations got to
keep their charters after embezzling incidents. They claim they
have taken steps to prevent embezzlers.
"What they did was wrong because we didn't steal the money as a
whole," said Light, "A bad person did. And to have that go
against everybody else isn't right."
The real reason behind for the conflict, according to the state
group, is political.
Many of the old gender- and age- segregated bowling groups have
been merging in recent years around the country. Advocates say the
merged groups are better for bowling. The USBC, with 2.6 million
members, dates to Jan. 1, 2005, when the American Bowling Congress
merged with the Women's International Bowling Congress, the Young
American Bowling Alliance and USA Bowling.
But in 2005, the NYSBA board overwhelmingly voted against
merging with the New York State USBC Women's Bowling Association.
New York bowling officials claim the embezzlement incident gave
USBC the pretext to yank the charter of the intransigent state
group and replace it with a new, merged group.
USBC officials deny that, saying they are merely looking out for
the best interest of their bowlers. USBC spokesman Jason Overstreet
said "we definitely want to stress to our bowlers that it does not
Still, a court order bars the national group from transferring
assets or duties from the state group as the case is being argued.
Some prize funds from the 2008 championship have yet to be handed
out and the fate of a state championship tournament in April and
May is unclear pending the resolution of the court fight.
The state and national groups blame each other for this.
"Sadly, the former NYSBA board of directors wants to hold
bowlers hostage to advance their own agenda," USBC Chief Operating
Officer Kevin Dornberger said recently in a prepared release.
With the parties due back in court Feb. 23, the fight has
remained beneath the radar of many bowlers. Those contacted for
this story either did not know about court fight are were only
vaguely aware of it.
"I don't know if it's really affecting the area bowlers," said
Ron Gardner, a frequent tournament bowler from Troy. "Most of them
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