October 24, 2014

Elyria
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Free Kalahari tickets turn into court case for ex-Amherst coach

AMHERST — Former Marion L. Steele High School boys baseball coach Al McConihe is facing a misdemeanor charge for allegedly improperly accepting four Kalahari water park tickets in 2007.

Amherst City Prosecutor Frank Carlson said the tickets were given to McConihe, whose coaching contract wasn’t renewed by the school board in January, by a supplier of athletic equipment.

“It’s an unsavory practice because the reason that the supplier is giving it, arguably, is that he wants to secure a cut of business,” Carlson said.

The supplier, who Carlson declined to identify, has not been charged.

Richard Lillie, McConihe’s attorney, said his client will plead not guilty to soliciting or accepting improper compensation during an appearance Friday in Oberlin Municipal Court.

McConihe, 44, never did anything for the supplier in return for tickets, he said.

“I think (the charge is) the product of a misunderstanding,” Lillie said. “There certainly was no quid pro quo.”

Amherst Schools Superintendent Steve Sayers said that the district was aware of the investigation and knew there was a strong possibility that McConihe would be charged. That led to the decision earlier this year not to renew his coaching contract. Sayers said McConihe continues to teach social studies at the high school. He said the charge against McConihe doesn’t involve children.

“We just didn’t feel that, given the nature of the charge, that placing him on leave at this point would be appropriate,” Sayers said.

That could change once the criminal case is resolved, but Sayers said he couldn’t say what would happen until the case was completed.

According to an Amherst police report, the Amherst Steele Home Run Boosters contacted police on July 5, 2011, because of questionable expenditures that they believed had been made by McConihe.

“They believed some of these expenditures were without the Booster’s knowledge or permission,” the report said. “They also believe the baseball coach may have paid himself during some of the fund raisers for the booster club. Or received compensation from vendors.”

Amherst police Lt. Dan Jasinski said that the Boosters were referred to police by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, where complaints had originally been filed.

Carlson said the investigation had focused on “a number of areas of concern,” but McConihe was only charged in connection with the Kalahari tickets.

Lillie said his client is focused on refuting the criminal charge against him, not other allegations he wasn’t charged with.
“So far as we’re concerned, the only issue is the Kalahari tickets,” he said.

Matt Rositano is now the head boys baseball coach for Marion L. Steele.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.