Embattled LaPorte athletic director receives two awards for his work

2013-04-02T18:30:00Z 2013-04-03T12:03:09Z Embattled LaPorte athletic director receives two awards for his workMarisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

LAPORTE | Embattled LaPorte High School Athletic Director Ed Gilliland received awards this year for merit and distinguished service, according to the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

The awards were announced at a time that Gilliland faces criminal misdemeanor charges of failure of duty for not reporting an inappropriate relationship between a junior varsity volleyball coach and an underage girl, court records state.

He and head volleyball coach MaryBeth Lebo are accused of having reason to believe a relationship between the girl and Robert Ashcraft, a former girls assistant volleyball coach, was happening but not reporting it to law enforcement or child protective services between August 2007 and October 2008, court records state.

Ashcraft was found guilty in 2011 of three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of child seduction, court records show. He is serving a 21-year prison sentence.

Attorney Tim Stoesz — who is representing the girl's family in a civil lawsuit against the district, Gilliland, Lebo and Ashcraft — said he was upset to hear about Gilliland's awards.

"As a former high school and college athlete and son of an award-winning athletic director, I am personally stunned and disappointed at Mr. Gilliland receiving this award," Stoesz said. "They should have waited until the outcome of the criminal charges."

Gilliland received the Charles F. Mass Distinguished Service Award from the Indiana Athletic Administrators Association and is the Indiana recipient of the State Award of Merit provided by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

Mike Blackburn, associate executive director of the national association, said each state organization selects the recipient of the State Award of Merit. He said the national organization, along with a sponsor, is only the financial provider of the award.

Blackburn declined to comment on the state organization's decision to select Gilliland but said the award typically goes to someone who has been in the profession a long time and works to provide participation opportunities for kids and communities.

Gilliland is a 16-year member and past president of the Indiana state association and currently serves as secretary of its board of directors.

Mark DeHart, second past president of the state organization, is one of the officials who voted for Gilliland to receive the State Award of Merit. He said Gilliland was a worthy candidate because of his professionalism, his guidance of young athletic directors and his leadership in the organization.

DeHart said he was aware of Gilliland's pending criminal charges when he cast his vote.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would vote exactly the same way," DeHart said. "He's a very, very qualified individual. ... For me, he's innocent until proven guilty."

Gilliland's defense attorney did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

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