Parent, coaches file charges against each other

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Two volunteer coaches and a parent have pressed simple assault charges against each another over a heated argument earlier this month at the Clarence and Georgiana Davies Sports Complex.

Both basketball coaches from the township recreation league have also been suspended, and one of them has accused township officials of not following code of conduct review committee guidelines approved earlier this year.

Township Committeeman Tim Donohue says the recreation code of conduct board has not reviewed or ruled yet on the Dec. 8 incident.

Coaches Jeff Murray and Clint Freeman and parent Gerald Wright will be in Middle Township Court on Thursday, Dec. 20. Freeman and Murray have pressed simple assault charges on Wright and he did the same with the two coaches.

The incident stems from Wright being called in after his son was one of two sixth-graders who allegedly got into a fight Dec. 8 at the recreation complex, according to Freeman and Murray. Wright could not be reached for comment.

Freeman says that Wright wondered why a recreation staff member made the phone call, instead of one of the basketball coaches. Murray and Freeman say Wright grabbed Freeman’s shirt and then Murray came to Freemans’ aid.

Middle Township Police responded to the incident, according to Freeman.

Freeman says the township is not adhering to an ordinance amended earlier this year that includes a section on a recreation code of conduct board. The review committee is responsible for deciding if a violation happened and if disciplinary action is needed.

“The suspensions will remain in place until the incident is reviewed and ruled upon by the code of conduct board and the pending charges have been adjudicated. The code of conduct board will also be looking into the actions of the parent involved,” Donohue said.

Murray said the township has not given him a written notice of the suspension. He said the coaches are suspended because of the pending simple assault charges.

Donohue said a suspension notice will be arriving shortly. On Dec. 10, Murray and Freeman were told of the suspension, he said.

The code of conduct committee is made up of the recreation director, business administrator, two recreation advisory board members, two parents whose children are involved in the sport and two coaches from a different sport.

Freeman said four people witnessed the incident involving Freeman, Murray and Wright.

Murray said he has been taken off his job, but did not want to say what he does for a living.

Freeman is a part-time Middle Township recreation employee.

Freeman, who has coached for the recreation center since 1998, has coached basketball, football and track, and Murray has been involved for five years, coaching football and basketball.

Murray said he does not plan to return as a Middle Township recreation coach.

“I am really leaning hard to that decision,” he said.

Many parents aren’t happy that he will no longer be coaching at the recreation center, Murray said.

Last year Murray and another coach, Matthew Lindholm, were fired from coaching football. Dozens of residents packed township hall last December to voice support for the two men. Township Committee decided to reinstate Murray and Lindholm.

At the time, then-business administrator Mark Mallett said Lindholm and Murray acted inappropriately. Apparently, the two had argued with each other over parking.

The basketball team practices twice a week and includes eight fifth- and sixth-graders, according to Freeman.

“Both coaches and parents are required to sign the code of conduct and adhere by its guidelines,” Donohue said. “Our policy going forward is to enforce the code uniformly and consistently, to ensure that all our programs are run safely and in a spirit of good sportsmanship.”

Tammy Devitt of the Middle Township Recreation Department declined to comment. Robert Matthews who handles the basketball program could not be reached for a statement.

The code of conduct board is scheduled to meet Jan. 8.

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