Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dudley "Scandal" Doesn't Hold Water

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Not to be outdone by the Oregon Catalyst’s John Kitzhaber “scandal,” Carla Axtman of the liberal/Democratic Blue Oregon blog has come up with a “scandal” involving Kitzhaber’s Republican opponent, Chris Dudley.

If anything, Axtman’s entry is even lamer than the Oregon Catalyst’s.

Seems that back in 2007, Don King, the coach of the Lake Oswego High School swim team and also the proprietor of a private swim club in that posh Portland suburb, was charged with sexual abuse involving a girl under 18. Although he pleaded not guilty and eventually was acquitted by a jury, he lost his coaching job with the school district.

The following year, King applied to be reinstated. At a hearing held by the school board, Dudley – whose three children had been coached by King – testified in his favor. Axtman got a copy of the minutes of that meeting and quotes them at length.

“Mr. Dudley’s perception of Mr. King is that he thrives on connection with other people,” according to the minutes. “Mr. Dudley stressed that Mr. King truly cares about his swimmers and strives to ensure that everyone he works with improves. Mr. King coached all of Mr. Dudley’s children, as well as many of their friends. He observed Mr. King having children on his lap, having his hand on the clothed buttocks of children, and pulling children over by hooking a finger on the inside of a bathing suit, as well as other nurturing, emotionally connective interaction with children (boys and girls) of all ages. Mr. Dudley conceded that he would have been uncomfortable observing any coach other than Mr. King perform these actions with his children if he was unfamiliar with the person and/or context.”

The board unanimously declined to reinstate King. About a month later, King abandoned his effort to retain his swim coach credentials with USA Swimming, the body which governs U.S. competitive swimming,” Axtman writes. “He did so after three women came forward alleging King sexually abused them as teenagers” in California when King coached there.

In view of all this, Axtman continues, “Dudley's defense [of King] is odd, to say the least. Especially given how elected officials and members of the community, including a jury, had significant worries about King's behavior. … This is simply terrible judgment on Dudley's part. Either that, or he was easily snookered. Neither is [an] especially great prospect.”

Let’s put aside the rhetoric and look at the facts for a minute. King was somebody Dudley had known for about a decade. He had helped rehabilitate Dudley when he suffered an injury playing for the Blazers. He had coached his children without, apparently, any excessive laying on of hands. The jury (despite whatever “significant worries” it might have had) acquitted King. So Dudley was willing to go in front of the school board and testify for him.

And incidentally, although Axtman fails to mention it, Dudley was just one of five witnesses who spoke in favor of King at that meeting, including people who had worked with King and whose children had been coached by him.

As material for a scandal goes, this is mighty thin gruel. Dudley was not defending sex abuse in general, nor was he defending a convicted sex offender; he was merely telling the board what he knew about King.

I was surprised to read Axtman’s post on Blue Oregon, and I’m disappointed that she hasn’t taken it down and offered Dudley an apology. Let’s leave this sort of thing to the Rush Limbaughs and Matt Drudges of the world, okay?


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