New Wilton High booster club seeks separation

Head coach EJ DiNunzio, right, and the Wilton High football team have a new booster club supporting them this season.

Head coach EJ DiNunzio, right, and the Wilton High football team have a new booster club supporting them this season.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

After hearing from vendors who said they weren’t being paid for their services by the team’s booster club, Wilton High football coach EJ DiNunzio asked several parents if they would get involved as part of a fact-finding mission.

The group agreed, and at a meeting of the Wilton Football Boosters Club earlier this year several of the newcomers were appointed to board positions, including vice president.

A few weeks later, however, the new members resigned en masse.

“It was clear that something wasn’t right,” said Artie DiRocco, who was voted in as vice president at the meeting. “We asked for transparency with the financial records and got misdirection.”

Some clarity might have been attained last Friday when Wilton police arrested Bruce Colburn, the former president of the Wilton Football Boosters Club, following a months-long investigation into missing funds from the club’s account. (See story on front page).

Colburn, 50, was charged with larceny by embezzlement in the first degree for an amount greater than $20,000, and forgery in the third degree.

Colburn surrendered himself to the Wilton Police Department last Friday upon being informed of the warrant for his arrest. He subsequently posted a $50,000 bond and will be arraigned in Norwalk Superior Court next Monday (Aug. 19).

Following their resignations, DiRocco and the other parents formed a separate booster organization, the Wilton Warrior Gridiron Club, which has since taken over as the official fund-raising entity for the Wilton High football program. [Due to legal ramifications the Wilton Football Boosters Club remains intact, but in name only].

“We worked with a nationwide company (Parent Booster USA) that helps new booster clubs get up and running,” said DiRocco, who is the president of the Wilton Warrior Gridiron Club. “They streamlined the process and we were operational in less than four weeks.”

DiRocco said financial transparency is among the new booster club’s primary aims.

“There are lots of checks and balances in place. For instance, there is more than one name on each account,” he said. “We’re going to be a more organized, transparent organization.”

“We’re already cash positive,” said Ryan Masterson, the treasurer for the Wilton Warrior Gridiron Club. “We covered last year’s fees for HUDL (a Nebraska-based technology company that provides video reviews and performance analysis for teams), and we covered the money for the recent 7-on-7 league.”

Along with the progress has come struggle: The new booster organization decided to cancel an annual golf tournament fund-raiser that was planned for later this month due to low sign-up numbers.

“It’s been slow in terms of people’s awareness of the situation and that we are a new club not affiliated with the former one,” said DiRocco. “We’re a little behind where we want to be.”

DiRocco remains optimistic that the new booster organization will eventually become an established component of the high school football program, using money from fund-raisers to assist with uniforms, camps, field upkeep, and other expenses.

“Most of us on the board have a lot of financial experience,” he said. “And we are committed to making sure things are different than they were under the other group. They had one person in charge; we definitely don’t.”