The Daily Democrat its taking its annual look at the year's top stories, as chosen by employees of the newspaper. This year, we've decided to stretch out the usual Top 10 to a Top 12 — or 12 in '12.
The unauthorized involvement of a convicted sexual predator in the girls basketball program at South Adams was voted as the Daily Democrat's No. 4 story of 2012.
Adams County Prosecutor Chris Harvey in July issued a probation violation against a convicted sexual predator, Paul Baker, who is alleged to have volunteered his services for the South Adams Lady Starfire basketball team during the summer of 2011 and during this 2011-2012 season.
A probable case affidavit filed with the court alleged that Baker was working as a volunteer for the South Adams High School girls’ basketball team and that South Adams Athletic Director Mike Pries, listed as a friend of Baker’s, wrote a statement under oath stating that Baker had not asked to help in any way with the girls’ basketball team.
Adams County Sheriff’s Department investigator Andy Guise said he talked to Pries on March 9 and the athletic director stated that he has known Baker personally and professionally for 20 years. In his interview, Guise said Pries maintained that Baker did not attend team practices.
However, court documents stated that Baker admitted to being at the school during practices and said he had assisted with stocking the concession cooler and setting up athletic equipment. He also stated in the affidavit that during open gyms other team members would be present and he would stay to help girls during practice. Several players alleged that Baker had been present for practices.
South Adams Superintendent of Schools Scott Litwiller said he first learned of the situation when a parent called and informed him. The superintendent immediately called the sheriff department to report the information. As soon as the information was verified, Baker’s involvement with South Adams sports ceased immediately.
“We are insistent that volunteers submit to a limited criminal history check through the Indiana State Police,” said Litwiller. “All new employees have a full national criminal history check. In the case of Paul Baker, he was not a school board approved lay coach,” continued Litwiller. “When his crime history was learned, I immediately called the Adams County Sheriff Department. From that moment on, the school cooperated with the sheriff department investigation. The result was the affidavit. It speaks for itself.”
The controversy also cost Pries his job. He submitted his resignation on Aug. 10, one day after he had been placed on administrative leave by the school. He was replaced on an interim basis by Rod McKee, former assistant principal at the school.
Jason Arnold resigned as the varsity football coach, effective at the end of the season, to take over the athletic director position.
Pries had been placed on paid administrative leave two years earlier by school administrators. At the time, former school superintendent Cathy Egolf had recommended cancellation of Pries’ contract, citing “immorality,” and “insubordination” as reasons. But after four months of paid leave, school board members voted 3-2 to put Pries back on the job.