MCPS Contends State School Board Should Rule on Turf Field Dispute

MCPS Contends State School Board Should Rule on Turf Field Dispute

Montgomery Soccer Inc. has sued the school system in Circuit Court over its process of choosing which groups get to use its turf fields

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The turf field at Richard Montgomery High School

Jacob Bogage

Montgomery County Public Schools is asking a Circuit Court judge to dismiss a youth soccer organization’s claims that it unfairly chose other groups to use turf fields at public schools, saying the state school board should weigh in on the issue before the court.

Lawyers for the school system filed a motion in August in Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss the claims of Montgomery Soccer Inc. (MSI), the largest youth sports organization in the county, and a judge is scheduled to rule Nov. 18 on the motion.

MSI claims the school system’s process of awarding use rights for turf fields at Richard Montgomery High School and Winston Churchill High School was improper and flawed. In its complaint, the soccer organization claimed the school system’s selection committee and Board of Education “did not follow its own administrative regulations” and called the decision-making process “highly irregular.”

The dispute stems from the school system’s policy of partnering with private sports organizations to defray the cost of building and maintaining artificial turf fields. In this case, MCPS awarded the right to use Richard Montgomery’s field for 10 years to Bethesda Soccer Club for a payment of $1.3 million and the 10-year rights to use a turf field scheduled to be built at Winston Churchill to Bethesda Lacrosse Association, Potomac Soccer Association and the Winston Churchill Booster Club, which submitted a combined bid of $1.3 million.

MSI contends in the lawsuit it made similar bids for both fields and represents a greater portion of the county’s population—which would mean more kids using the fields—but was passed over in favor of organizations that cater to kids of wealthier residents.

Lawyers for the school system contend the matter belongs in front of the state school board, which ruled in favor of MCPS in a different dispute over turf field use in 2009. The motion to dismiss posits that the only result MSI can obtain from state board or court action is a re-do of the process and a re-evaluation of how proposals and new awards are issued.

MSI’s attorney has filed several subpoenas asking for records of communication between the winning bidders and school system and county staff. Each of the organizations has called these information requests “overly burdensome” and is asking the court whether it’s necessary to comply with the requests.

A judge is expected to rule Nov. 18 on the subpoena requests as well as the motion to dismiss.


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