The mother of a high school basketball player claims she's being harassed by an investigator with the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Remember the Dr. Michael Krop High School controversy? The Florida High School Athletic Association said Krop's top-ranked basketball team had to forfeit its season because it allegedly had an ineligible player.
Court dramas, as in court of law, ensued. Tears, then cheers, then tears again as the team's fate bounced from judge to judge. The Lightning was ultimately forced to miss the playoffs.
Now there's still drama going on, after the FHSAA decided to investigate the school's entire athletic program, figuring if there's one bad apple, maybe there's a bunch of 'em.
That leads us to this scene: it's last Wednesday night, 9:15, a single mom gets an unannounced knock on her door. There's a man she doesn't know standing there, demanding she open up. Sounds like the beginning of a home invasion robbery, but it was an investigator for the FHSAA. He was checking to see if the woman's son actually lives there, within the Krop High boundaries.
"I'm completely blown away by this," says Gina Florio, whose son, Patrick George, wore number 11 for the Krop hoops team. "I don't get it, and on top of that, I don't know how he got into the building."
Florio and her two sons live in a secure Aventura high-rise. She says after speaking to the security guards in her building, she's convinced the investigator used his FHSAA badge, which carries no law enforcement power but looks like it does, to get access to her door.
Florio says she felt "threatened", says he never identified himself, never said he was with the FHSAA, never explained why he was there. She refused to let him in. After he left, she noticed a message on her cell phone, and the investigator's business card had been slipped under the door.
"I'm the one that knocked on your door about 15 minutes ago, I'm still in your building," the voice mail says. The investigator identifies himself as Troy Pumphrey and asks Florio to call him back.
"And if you choose not to, that's fine," says Pumphrey, saying he'll just show up the next day at the private school at which Florio works as a phys ed teacher, "and I will speak with you with your principal and your athletic director, OK?"
"What? I didn't know what one thing had to do with another," Florio says she thought, after hearing the voice mail. "I was very upset."
She shouldn't be angry, according to the head of the FHSAA. This is par for the course.
"When a student-athlete's residence is in question, we usually go by multiple times and at different times of day," said Dr. Roger Dearing, in a phone interview from his office in Gainesville. "We'd also like to see see the student-athlete there and we also check the living quarters to make sure there's clothes in the closet."
The FHSAA says when a parent signs the consent waiver form for a child to play high school sports, the parent is then obligated to cooperate with an investigation. Dearing said in this case, the investigator did everything by the book and certainly did not trespass or misrepresent himself.
"My investigator told me very clearly that he introduced himself and showed his driver's license for a photo ID and showed his badge, so that's not an abuse of power," Dearing said.
Dearing said Thursday, a day after the story first aired on NBC Miami, that the investigator was not actually checking to see if Gina Florio's son lived in her apartment. Rather, Dearing says, he was looking to see if another player was living in her home.
Florio said she has nothing to hide, and spoke to Pumphrey the next day at her school. She says by the nature of his questions, delving into her personal relationships, she can tell the outcome of the investigation has already been pre-ordained.
"They have predetermined their outcome, they're trying to get the facts to match what they believe," Florio says. "This is not what I signed up for when I signed that paper, that one rule that says verify an address let's them enter my building, trespass, scare me, go through my finances, come to my job, maybe even jeopardize my job."
Dearing bristles at the suggestion that the FHSAA is ignoring facts that don't fit its theories, saying, "The only predetermined conclusion we have is there was one student-athlete ineligible because he didn't have the proper paperwork," a reference to Brian Delancy, the player at the heart of the original accusation.
Dearing says there is no "vendetta" against Krop High, and says the investigation will simply go wherever the evidence takes it.
"Typically, an investigation of this nature, where obviously there's covering up going on, falsifying of reports to the FHSAA going on, it could take a couple of months," Dearing said, sounding a lot like someone whose mind is, indeed, already made up.
The FHSAA would not let NBC Miami speak directly to the investigator. Neither the principal nor the athletic director at Krop would comment for this story.
Full disclosure: the reporter's daughter is a student at Krop High School.