Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith wants answers from the Palmetto Youth Center and hopes to get them at Tuesday’s Manatee County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Smith contends the youth center has lost programming under current Executive Director Reggie Bellamy; that Bellamy is not doing enough to secure funding; and he isn’t fulfilling his salary obligations by working full-time hours. Smith has demanded Bellamy’s resignation.
Smith challenges Bellamy’s devotion to the youth center because Bellamy also maintains a full-time school position and a part-time basketball coach position, and his full-time responsibility to the center doesn’t leave him enough time for the children and to raise the necessary funds for programming. It started last summer with the county’s Children Services advisory board informing Bellamy that his application for $114,000 for the youth center’s Teen Hype program failed to garner the funding.
The county commission ultimately agreed to reverse that decision, but it’s not the only funding the county provides the center. In fiscal year 2015-16, the center received a total of $320,718 for three programs; in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the center received $396,594 in each year for two programs.
Manatee County has a non-profit services agreement with the youth center. Smith points to two items of importance, which include the center’s responsibility to provide necessary information and records within three days of a request. If that agency fails to do so, Smith outlines another provision in the agreement that allows Manatee County to terminate the agreement with 30 days’ written notice. That decision would take the majority of the board.
Bellamy has declined to speak about Smith’s call for his resignation, but he is supposed to be at Tuesday’s commission meeting. The board will take up questions about the Palmetto Youth Center starting at 1:30 p.m.
One of the sticking points has been the youth center’s Trojan football and cheer program, a program Smith said the youth center lost last year to Lincoln Memorial Academy. Smith said the academy now owns the football program and that the center has lost its Trojan naming rights.
Lincoln Academy Principal Ed Hundley said he didn’t know anything about that.
“I know we are the Trojans and I know they are the Trojans and it’s been that way for many years,” Hundley said. “I know we are bringing tackle football back to this school for the first time in 50 years, and we worked with the center to use their field because I know there was not Trojan football at the youth center last year.
“We only serve a certain age group anyway at our school, and the youth center extends their programs from the smaller ages all the way up to ninth grade and we wouldn’t service most of their age groups,” Hundley added. “It’s two different things.”
Kim Riker, chair of the Palmetto Youth Center’s board of directors, said Monday the youth center did not lose its program and that Lincoln Academy did not assume responsibility for the program. Riker acknowledged that the center did not field any football teams last year.
However, she said it was not for a lack of players but rather a lack of coaches who left the center when Bellamy decided to adopt Pop Warner coaching rules.
“We are getting more coaches to fill the teams, and we do have enough people to field those teams,” Riker said.
But Smith said players from the center are leaving because of Bellamy and joining the Lincoln Academy program. Smith said Lincoln Academy offered a memorandum of understanding to use the youth center’s football field for their new team, but that Bellamy refused to sign.
Riker said she is unclear about the details of the memorandum but believes there may have been an assumption that the center would not be using the field when football season starts, “which is not true.”
Smith also pointed to a letter from Anthony Hart in an attempt to show the center’s program is in trouble. Hart is a recruiter and District One vice president for the Mid Florida Football and Cheer Conference.
Hart sent a text message to Bellamy asking about how he can help to start the Trojan program back up and wanted the youth center to join his conference. But Hart said his information came second hand.
Reached by phone Monday, Hart said, “I don’t know what’s going on with that center. I’m a representative of youth football and cheer, and I inquired about the youth center joining our conference for the last two years and I was told they were going back to Pop Warner.”
The board needs a serious makeover. They are my friends, but they are misguided. They need some additional leadership.
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith
Smith said the football program is a big issue for the community, but “the only mission Tuesday is to find out how much (Bellamy’s) making, when he comes to work and when does he leave.”
Smith said he wanted to resolve these issues in December “behind closed doors.” He said he told Riker, “It’s important we meet behind closed doors. There are some things I don’t want to discuss publicly.”
The board offered to meet with Smith in March, but Smith said that was too late and he held a press conference Jan. 22 instead, demanding Bellamy’s resignation. Board members began expressing their support of Bellamy and on Feb. 6, Riker released a public statement saying the board was unanimously behind Bellamy.
Smith told the Herald last week that not only does the center need a new executive director, but also a new board of directors. Smith said they are good people, but are not as “savvy” as prior board members.
“The board needs a serious makeover,” Smith said. “They are my friends, but they are misguided. They need some additional leadership.”