Cheerleading organization takes act to court

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2005

A General District court judge ordered a bank account audit Wednesday in the case of a dispute over the funds used in a cheerleading organization.

Judge James Moore ordered that an account used by Suffolk Cheer Attitude (SCA) must be audited to settle a matter in which three women contend that they lost nearly $3,000 combined, given for two national competition trips in March that didn’t occur.

With several past and current members of the cheering squad watching, former SCA coach Star Gilbert told Moore that she and her daughter had helped collect hundreds for the trip, as well as a $200 donation to SCA that she believed would be tax-deductible, as she was under the impression that the organization was non-profit.

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After SCA president Teda Barrows in February refused to give her a letter acknowledging the donation, Gilbert testified, she called the I.R.S. and was told that the donation was not deductible because SCA was in fact not a non-profit organization.

Also in February, Barrows allegedly told other SCA coaches and parents that the team would not be able to travel to either the Disney World event (where SCA won a title last year) or an earlier event at Old Dominion University because of problems with fundraising, according to court testimony.

Gilbert testified that Barrows told her and the rest of the group to contact Barrows’ attorney if they had questions.

Gilbert, who has worked with Barrows for several years, said that she had received a check from SCA for $400 that was returned because the account was closed. Gilbert contended that she was out $923 in totality, while Melissa Hamlin claimed to be out $1,250 and Teresa Walker said she’d lost $480.

&uot;I understand what’s going on here,&uot; Moore said. &uot;I could make a decision that would solve not a whole lot of problems. This is more about accounting problems than legal problems.&uot;

Moore instructed prosecutor William Johnson and defense attorney Ira Steingold to get together and decide on an accountant to audit the account.

&uot;We believe all the expenses were legitimate and that every penny went to the proper places,&uot; said Steingold, who said that he believed that the money went to pay rent of the SCA facility on Progress Road, uniforms and other business expenses.

Gilbert testified that she had helped start Virginia Extreme Force, a separate cheerleading organization, after breaking ties with SCA.

&uot;That was just for the kids,&uot; she said after court. &uot;They primarily do this for fun, and we wanted to give them a place to get on the mat and cheer.&uot;

However, Steingold said that the new organization might have had something to do with the SCA’s trip cancellation.

&uot;We believe that that plan was already in motion (in February),&uot; he said.

&uot;We came nowhere near getting the kind of money (required for the trip), and we believe that other parents didn’t donate because they were told of the new organization. We believe that (the other organization) was something that had been going on for 60-90 days before.&uot;

Steingold added that the audit should take about 60 days.