Published On: October 17th, 2019Categories: California News

Canyons Aquatic Club board members repeatedly refused to act on allegations of sexual abuse against a swim coach at the club who was later arrested on child sex abuse and child pornography charges, according to a lawsuit filed against the Santa Clarita club in Los Angeles County Superior Court Wednesday.

David Kuck, a former head coach at the Canyons, alleges in the suit that the club’s board on multiple occasions failed to pursue allegations that another coach, Jeremy Anderson, was sexually abusing young boys at the club. When Kuck persisted in pushing the board to fire Anderson, the club withheld bonuses guaranteed in his contract and terminated Kuck in July, the suit alleges.

Kuck also alleges in the suit that USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, was aware of previous allegations against Anderson but did not pursue them. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office charged Anderson with 19 counts of lewd acts with a child and possession of child pornography in December 2018

Anderson fled the country before he could be arrested. He was eventually arrested in Costa Rica this past June 13 by the U.S. Marshal’s fugitive task force. He died eight days later while hospitalized and awaiting extradition. Anderson had at least 11 victims, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s special victims bureau.

The suit describes Kuck, a former All-Big Ten swimmer at Ohio State, as a “coach and whistleblower who persistently tried to persuade the club to protect its members from a predatory fellow coach whose rampant verbal and sexual abuse of the club’s young athletes had been largely ignored by the club and its governing bodies (including USA Swimming and Southern California Swimming.)”

Kuck is suing the club for wrongful termination and breach of contract.

The suit comes as USA Swimming is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and the California attorney general’s office for its handling of sexual abuse allegations and financial practices related to the organization’s legal exposure related to sex abuse cases.

A Southern California News Group investigation last year found that USA Swimming prioritizing success at the Olympic Games and World Championships and the sport’s branding over athlete safety for decades, ignored, covered up and enabled the sexual abuse of hundreds of young swimmers.

In at least 11 cases either then USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus or other top USA Swimming officials declined to pursue sexual abuse cases against high profile coaches even when presented with direct complaints, documents showed.

Tim Hinchey, who was hired as USA Swimming’s executive director after Wielgus’ death in 2017, told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee in May 2018, “While we cannot change the past, we will learn from it and we will do better. Our commitment to preventing child sexual abuse and providing a safe and healthy environment for our athletes is constant and long-lasting.”

But the SCNG reported in July that Hinchey, Lucinda Roberts, the organization’s chief counsel, and Susan Woessner, then USA Swimming’s director of SafeSport, had direct knowledge in 2017 of sexually explicit SnapChat messages sent by a 19-year-old Stockton swim coach to a 13-year-old female swimmer he was coaching.

The coach, Marco Villanueva, acknowledged the messages as well as other violations of USA Swimming and SafeSport guidelines to Woessner, who characterized the behavior as “concerning and very inappropriate,” according to USA Swimming emails and letters.

Yet Villanueva was not suspended but instead given a written warning that allowed him to continue coaching young athletes, according to USA Swimming documents.

Kuck was hired as Canyons’ head coach in July 2017. He soon became concerned about Anderson’s verbally abusing young athletes and parents, and potential inappropriate behavior toward young boys, the suit said.

Kuck met with Canyon board president Garry Helgeson in October 2017 about his concerns about Anderson. Helgeson refused to support Anderson’s firing, the suit said.

A month later Kuck, having obtained statements from club parents detailing Anderson’s misconduct, met with Kim O’Shea, the executive director of Southern California Swimming, USA Swimming’s local association. O’Shea suggested Kuck contact Woessner, which Kuck did.

Throughout November and December 2017, Kuck continued to raise his concerns about Anderson with the Canyons board to no avail. At one point a board member acknowledged to Kuck that USA Swimming had been aware of previous allegations of inappropriate behavior with young boys against Anderson but declined to act because the complaints were anonymous, the suit alleges.

With Kuck continuing to push USA Swimming and Southern California Swimming to suspend Anderson, Woessner in December 2017 finally reported allegations of inappropriate behavior by Anderson to law enforcement in Santa Clarita, the suit said.

The board continued to reject Kuck’s requests to terminate Anderson, telling the coach the club didn’t want to “appear heartless” by firing him before Christmas. Kuck was finally allowed to fire Anderson on December 27, 2017.

Canyons officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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