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Signature List Troubles Some Affiliated With Sports Institute

By AMANDA FALCONE, afalcone@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

1:08 PM EDT, June 7, 2012

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A number of people who have past affiliations with the embattled Institute for International Sport say they're concerned that their signatures were among those kept on file by the institute, which has been the subject of forgery allegations.

The Courant obtained a copy of the computerized signature list from a former institute employee. It contains the signatures of 26 people who have all been affiliated with the embattled nonprofit organization over the years. The institute kept a list of signatures on one of its computer hard drives. The file's content is only signatures. They are not attached to any additional text.

There's an image of philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein's signature and of former Mastercard Chief Executive Officer Russell Hogg's signature. The signature of former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch is included in the file, as well as the signature of former University of Rhode Island President Robert Carothers.

"I am quite sure that I never authorized the Institute for International Sport to keep my signature on file," Carothers said this week. "I would hope that all such signatures would now be deleted."

Of those who could be reached for comment, most said they didn't realize the sport institute had a copy of their signature and some expressed concern given the institute's recent problems, which include the allegations of forgery.

"I wasn't aware my signature was there," said Dan Barry, a Rhode Island resident and business owner who worked a few hours a week as the institute's vice president of development until he was laid off in January 2011. "I'm concerned, especially considering the circumstances."

During his time as an institute employee, Barry said he approved many documents that later included his signature. His signature, however, was never supposed to be included on anything he didn't approve, and Barry said he learned recently that his name did appear on several documents that he never signed off on.

The sport institute is a nonprofit organization that is based on the University of Rhode Island campus. It runs programs for teenagers around the world, including last year's World Scholar-Athlete Games and World Youth Peace Summit in West Hartford.

The institute is currently dealing with debt, failed real estate ventures, a government audit and a Rhode Island State Police investigation. Earlier this year, both Ireland resident Michael Healy and former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld questioned the validity of signatures that appear on official institute documents, and they both said they never served on the institute's board of directors despite being listed on institute documents as having held the position of chairman.

Hassenfeld's signature is included in the computer file. He has been one of the institute's biggest financial backers and has served as chairman of the World Scholar-Athlete Games. He could not be reached for comment.

Healy's signature is not included in the file.

Through the Rhode Island public relations firm that represents him, Institute Executive Director Daniel Doyle Jr., of West Hartford, declined to comment Wednesday. He would not say why the institute had the list of signatures.

Those like Feinstein were not pleased to hear about the computer file this week. Feinstein, who gave $1 million to the institute for the construction of its first — and only finished — building on the University of Rhode Island campus, said he doesn't recall ever giving the institute permission to keep his signature on file.

But others said they weren't very concerned, or didn't know what to think.

"I wasn't high up enough on the food chain," said Ramsey Baker, who did public relations and marketing for the institute until he left in 2002 and is now senior director of marketing and communications for U.S. Figure Skating.

Former Providence Journal Sports Editor David Bloss also says he is not worried.

Bloss worked for the institute for about six months in 2006, editing Doyle's book, "The Encyclopedia of Sport Parenting." Although he said he was not aware that his signature was saved in a computer file, Bloss said he's not worried because he has known Doyle for years and because he was never involved with the institute's finances.

Jon Welty Peachey, a former institute employee who is now a sport management professor at Texas A&M University, is a bit more skeptical.

In the mid-1990s, institute workers did sign blank pieces of paper, which were then used as the signatures on letters and mass mailings approved by those people, he said. The technology wasn't available to scan them into the computer at the time, he said.

"I don't know whether I should be concerned," Peachey said. "Anyone would be concerned [if their signature was] used inappropriately."