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Friday, March 30, 2018 1:00 am

Youth baseball league sues ex-board members

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Two former board members of a youth baseball league in New Haven are being sued, accused of stealing $19,000 from the organization.

The former president of the New Haven Baseball Association, Michael D. DeLong, 42, also is facing felony theft charges. He is accused of spending organization money at electronics retailer Best Buy and on equipment for his son's baseball team, which is not affiliated with the association, according to a probable cause affidavit.

DeLong and former board treasurer Tammie Criswell raided league coffers for things including alcohol and cigarettes, a laptop computer worth nearly $800, a $420 bat and utility bills, according to court documents filed in Allen Superior Court in early February and March 12.

Criswell gave her 8-year-old daughter $150 “for payroll,” documents allege.

“It was pretty evident right off the bat that something was going on,” said Jeff Turner, the league's secretary.

Since discovering the missing money, New Haven residents and businesses have made donations, Turner said. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $10,000, and the New Haven Community Foundation donated $2,000, he said. 

DeLong and Criswell – whose first name is also spelled Tammy in court documents – became board members before August 2017, according to a lawsuit filed by the baseball association.

New board members were appointed that month, and members immediately noticed “significant financial issues,” the lawsuit says.

New Haven police were contacted, and DeLong was charged Feb. 7 with two counts of theft.

No criminal charges against Criswell are pending, according to online court records.

Reached by phone Thursday, she declined to comment. A phone number for DeLong could not be found.

Joseph Kline, a former board president, told police that league bank accounts were flush with cash before DeLong took over. Kline confronted DeLong about the Best Buy purchases, “and (DeLong) was not able to offer a good explanation” but produced the laptop, the affidavit says.

DeLong first told police the computer – which had been reset to factory settings – was used for league business but later admitted personal use, court documents say.

During the pair's time on the board, more than $11,400 was spent on equipment, “which is dramatically more than what had been spent prior to their tenure,” the lawsuit alleges.

Turner said league policies on deposits and withdrawals were tweaked to prevent similar incidents.

The league begins play April 21.

A case management conference for the lawsuit is scheduled for June 12. A hearing in the criminal case is scheduled for April 11.

mleblanc@jg.net