Lawsuit Against Coaches Prompts Review of Background Check Policy

By Michael Klazema on 8/22/2013

A lawsuit has spurred Brunswick County officials to begin their review of the county’s youth recreation league background check requirements a bit earlier than planned.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 12, alleges that allowing Brian McDowell and William Powell to coach for the county recreation department constituted a violation of the county’s volunteer policy. A temporary restraining order against these two individuals has already been granted, and the lawsuit also seeks a restraining order and injunction to bar McDowell and Powell from further coaching activity.

Under the county’s current policy, all volunteer coaches must complete a criminal background check before being allowed to work with kids. If individuals have convictions for worrisome offenses such as domestic violence or child abuse, they will not be permitted to coach. Repeat offenders will not be permitted to coach for 10 years after the date of their last conviction.

McDowell and Powell both should have been excluded from coaching under these rules. McDowell was a repeat offender with multiple misdemeanors related to domestic violence and driving while impaired on his record. Powell has numerous convictions for driving with a revoked license.

These convictions should have shown up on a quality background check. For example, the county could even have used an instant national background check tool such as US OneSEARCH from, which would return public criminal records mentioning the men’s names and dates of birth. US OneSEARCH searches a collection of 450 million public criminal records culled from state and local databases across the nation, including criminal records for Brunswick county, so it is unlikely that this thorough background check tool would have missed the two coaches’ convictions.

The flaw in the process probably came about when officials reviewed the result of the background check. They may have thought that the convictions were not relevant to the job at hand, or that the men had reformed. However, in this case, they were obligated to follow the county policy instead of their own judgment.

The lawsuit against the county was inspired by the bad behavior of the two coaches and instigated by Richard Hollar, the father of a player who was negatively impacted by that behavior. According to the suit, McDowell and Powell asked one of their players to illegally hit Hollar’s son, Kasey, during a football game last October. Their player was ejected from the game and then praised by his coaches for his illegal action.

Supporters of background checks for coaches would say that the coaches’ history of flaunting the law, as evidenced by their repeat convictions, should have served as a warning sign that they might not respect the rules of the game they coached either.

In response to the lawsuit, county officials have accelerated their review of their background check policy. The goal is to make it harder to individuals with criminal backgrounds to coach or volunteer. Coaching bans will also be lengthened for some convictions. For example, the revised rules would change a one-year ban for driving while impaired and drunk and disorderly convictions to a five-year ban, and a seven-year ban for more serious crimes like child endangerment, fraud, and providing alcohol to a minor to a 15-year ban.


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