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Monday, June 9, 2008

More crookedness at the Mud and Grass Volley-Dodgeball Tournament?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2008 at 5:47 AM

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We're just guessing, but St. Peter might have something to say about screwing disabled kids and firemen.
In past years, we’ve promoted Scott Baltusnik’s Mud and Grass Volley-Dodgeball Tournament in our Night & Day section, calling it a “muddy good time.” But this year, we think we’ll pass on the mud-caked keg stands. After hearing identical complaints from a service dog charity and the Cleveland Fire Department (see second item) that Baltusnik stiffed them on promised charity proceeds, it doesn't exactly seem like this event is on the up and up. After Punch first reported on accusations from charity WAGS4Kids that Baltusnik stiffed them an estimated $19,000 (see second item), we noted a strange disclaimer on the event’s registration form this week: “No refunds will be issued; all fees/charges will be considered a contribution to the charity.” This despite the fact that this year’s tourney had no charity listed… The next day, an announcement magically appeared on the website: The event had just hooked up with a charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio. The mentoring charity worked with the tournament in a limited capacity in ’07, selling bottles of water from a tent and keeping their own proceeds. But after the second Punch ran, in which a firefighter claimed to have been stiffed as well, any mention of Big Brothers Big Sisters was suddenly stripped from the site, along with the misleading disclaimer. Punch wasn’t exactly floored to hear from Big Brothers Big Sisters that it had no involvement with the tournament this year. “We haven’t heard anything from him,” says public relations manager Lynne Strah. “We’ve been waiting for his call.” Meanwhile, when it comes to this year’s July 19th tourney, the wheels might be popping from the chuck-wagon. For years, the Winking Lizard Tavern chain has sponsored the event. But something about scamming disabled kids and firefighters apparently doesn’t jibe with the Lizard’s feel-good atmosphere. Writes company president Jim Callam in an e-mail: “We have backed out of working with the Mud Volley Tournament this year due to the negative publicity it has received from the media… I certainly hope he was running the operation legitimately.” For his part, Baltusnik has gone Hoffa — or to update the metaphor, Joe Santiago — on us. In past weeks he’s promised to soon be forthcoming with his side of the story. But now he’s stopped picking up our calls. We haven’t given up on you yet, Scott. – Gus Garcia Roberts

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