Lawsuit accuses former KC-area swim coach of inappropriate sexual behavior

By TONY RIZZO, The Kansas City Star

A Jackson County lawsuit filed this morning accuses a former coach with a Kansas City area youth swim team with inappropriate sexual contact with a teen team member.

The suit filed against the Kansas City Dolphins, former coach Robert Mirande, former Dolphins head coach Aaron Dean, and the Dolphins’ parent organizations Missouri Valley Swimming and United States Swimming Inc., alleges a long-term, nationwide pattern of abuse by swimming coaches.

Attorneys for some of the alleged victims in the coach abuse lawsuits say they have documented more than 30 instances since 1993 where swim coaches in the United States have faced criminal charges for sex crimes against minors.

Two of those cases cited in court documents filed in California involved former area swim coaches, one of whom was a coach for another USA Swimming-affiliated team, the Kansas City Blazers.

USA Swimming is the national governing body for the sport in the United States. With about 80 full-time employees and $20 million budget, it oversees nearly 60 local swimming committees, such as Missouri Valley Swimming, which in turn oversee individual swim teams in designated geographic areas.

The suit filed today in Jackson County Circuit Court alleges that from the summer of 2006 to the winter of 2007, Mirande engaged in a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior toward the minor female swimmer that culminated in inappropriate sexual contact.

In 2008, the parents of another minor female swimmer informed Dean, head coach of the Dolphins, that Mirande was making sexual advances toward their daughter, according to the lawsuit.

In May of 2008, the parents of the girl who filed suit today, wrote a letter to Dean, describing the sexually inappropriate activities with their daughter. According to the suit, Dean informed them that Mirande was no longer a coach with the Jackson County team.

The girl’s parents also reported the situation to Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming. Even so, Mirande was allowed to maintain his status as a registered USA Swimming coach.

Since then, the parents of the plaintiff in today’s suit learned that Dean is now head coach of a swim team in Virginia and has hired Mirande to be a coach for that same team.

In both today’s suit and the one filed in California last month, attorneys contend that USA Swimming did not adopt a policy for screening the background of its coaches until 2006.

But that policy, they contend, is “woefully inadequate,” and “passes the buck” onto the local clubs to conduct more thorough background screenings of coaches.

Officials with USA Swimming have in recent days addressed the sex abuse allegations in written statements posted on the organization’s website.

“We cannot shy away from this issue and we are going to need your help and participation,” Wielgus said in a letter to members, coaches and parents. “As a father myself, it breaks my heart to know that there are children out there who have been taken advantage of by their coaches or others in positions of trust.”

Wielgus encouraged those affiliated with USA Swimming to report directly to him any complaints of sexual misconduct.

He said USA Swimming is studying other youth-oriented organizations to look for ways to enhance its existing efforts to safeguard children.

Among things they are considering are an anonymous hotline to report misconduct and a black list of individuals banned for past sexual misconduct, Wielgus said.

The former Kansas City Blazers coach, Craig P. Ivancic, is serving a seven-year sentence in a Kansas prison for having sex with a 14-year-old girl who was a member of the Johnson County team.

Ivancic confessed to the illegal relationship after he was arrested while attempting to meet another 14-year-old girl for sex. That case involved Internet and phone conversations between Ivancic and a member of the FBI’s cyber crime task force, posing as a teen.

Ivancic received a consecutive sentence of five years in federal prison in that case.

Another Johnson County case cited in court documents involved Andrew P. Lovan, who coached swimming at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, and was not affiliated with the Blazers or USA Swimming.

Lovan was sentenced to three years in prison after communicating online with a law enforcement officer, who pretended to be an underage girl. He was arrested when he went to meet the “girl” for sex. He was paroled recently, according to corrections department records.

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