RAINIER — The Rainier School Board Monday night unanimously agreed to confirm the hire of varsity baseball coach Mike Wing, who served seven years in federal prison for running a Ponzi financial scheme.
Board members voted after several parents urged them to support Wing and after considering the matter in a closed-door executive session.
“We all echoed the comments that he (Wing) deserved a second chance,” Rainier School Board chairman Sean Clark said after the decision.
“There were plenty of facts coming in, and the public comment added to it,” Clark said.
Clark said school administrators told him of Wing’s background late last week.
Since arriving at Rainier, Wing has led the Columbians to a winning record, and team parents voiced support for him Monday night.
Julie Seybert, mother of Columbians player Tim Seybert, was one of four parents who supported Wing.
“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to my son,” said Seybert, who admitted she was shocked when she found out about Wing’s past. “It really feels like he’s brought the team together.”
Wing, 56, was hired as baseball coach in mid-March. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in 2007. He was ordered to spend 10 years in prison and pay $9.1 million in restitution to fraud victims.
He was released in 2014 after serving time in two separate federal camps. He says he has since been caring for his parents in Tucson, Ariz.
Before this fraud conviction, Wing also settled a lawsuit brought by the state of Alabama, which alleged Wing left it holding the bag for funding of a children’s science camp he arranged as executive director of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Wing ended up agreeing to settle the $7.5 million suit for $500,000.
Last week Wing told The Daily News he previously had been a baseball coach at the University of Colorado and LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, and hoped to be an asset to a small school.
Wing’s past troubles were featured in a Daily News story Sunday.
One woman asked the school board Monday why Superintendent Michael Carter had not briefed the board about Wing’s background sooner.
Carter said the district went through the proper background check before bringing the decision to the board.
Parents said Wing was “transparent” during last Monday’s team parent meeting. He organized a work party to set up a batting cage that’s been in storage for a couple years. He also took his players to Sunday’s Seattle Mariners game, then out to dinner at Old Country Buffet, paying out of his own pocket, parents said.
Wing also informed the players of his criminal record after practice Monday in a lengthy discussion, Rainier baseball player Tyler Nelson said.
“We’ve all heard about his past, but most important is what he brings to the team, which is a love of baseball. It’s been a very positive experience, ” said Nelson’s mother, Jennifer Nelson.
Rainier is ranked No. 3 in the OSAA’s Class 3A and sits at 5-2 with Lewis and Clark League play starting Tuesday against Portland Christian/Columbia Christian.