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Ex-coach names Lehi in complaint

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A former volunteer coach has pitched a fastball at the city of Lehi in the form of a court complaint, asserting that city employees violated his rights when they banned him from participating in the community's youth baseball program.

Lehi resident Bill Doyle, 40, volunteered as a coach in the local program for nearly 17 years until March 27. Then, according to the complaint, Dan Harrison, head of the city's recreation department, told Doyle he was prohibited from participating in the league.

Harrison and Blythe Bray, assistant director of the recreation department, told Doyle he could no longer participate in the youth baseball league for seven reasons, including a petition he circulated regarding the management of the recreation programs.

Doyle said he started the petition because he thought the recreation department's new procedures for drafting players put certain teams at a disadvantage.

"It's unfair," he said. "We were just trying to make it equal for everybody like it should be."

Justin D. Heideman, Doyle's attorney, said banning his client from the league because of a petition compromised his right to free speech.

"Defendants Bray and Harrison violated Mr. Doyle's First Amendment right ... when they prohibited him from participation as a volunteer baseball coach in retaliation for his regularly voicing matters of public concern and for soliciting signatures for a petition in a public setting," Heideman wrote in the complaint.

James Johnston, Doyle's father-in-law, said he thought the idea that Lehi would ban someone for starting a petition is preposterous. He and his wife have posted a billboard on northbound I-15 near exit 284 that says, "Something stinks in Lehi's recreation department" and "Keep them honest" to protest the recreation department's decision. They also started a Web site — www.citystinkers.com.

"Lehi city has wanted to silence any kind of criticism of how they operate their program," Johnston said.

Harrison and Bray could not be reached for comment regarding the formal complaint and potential lawsuit. Lehi Mayor Howard Johnson also could not be reached. But in a previous conversation with the Deseret Morning News on the topic, Johnson said he could not comment because the Doyle family has retained an attorney. Lehi City Attorney Ken Rushton did not return requests for comment.

According to the complaint, Harrison and Bray also stated they banned Doyle because he yelled at league officials and cursed in front of children during games.

Doyle said those accusations are fabricated.

"I think a lot of it was made up," he said. "In fact, I know it was. A lot of it was actually stuff that somebody else has done, but they put my name on it."

Heideman said untrue statements made by Harrison, Bray and another city employee caused harm to Doyle's reputation in the community.

"The dissemination and publication of these and other defamatory statements by defendants has impeached the integrity, virtue and reputation of Mr. Doyle," he wrote in the complaint.

Doyle said he isn't concerned with monetary rewards from any potential civil suit, he just wants to be reinstated as a volunteer baseball coach.

"Money's nothing to me," he said. "I want to do more for the youth and the community."

E-mail: jdana@desnews.com