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Verbum Dei Complaint Targets Westchester

November 29, 2003|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Verbum Dei High has filed a complaint with the City Section, alleging that a representative from Westchester used "undue influence" to coax basketball player Amir Johnson into changing schools.

Johnson, who enrolled at Westchester on Nov. 4, is a 6-foot-9 junior who is considered one of the top non-seniors in Southern California. He averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds last season in leading Verbum Dei to the Southern Section Division IV-A championship.

Verbum Dei lodged its complaint earlier this week, after Westchester officials said they intended to let Johnson stay at their school and compete for their basketball team, Rev. John Weiling, a Verbum Dei spokesman, said in a written statement.

"Verbum Dei has done a thorough investigation to insure that we are proceeding in the spirit of truth and fairness," Weiling wrote in an e-mail, responding to a reporter's question. "It is not our intention to try to have Amir return to Verbum Dei.... We only desire that such a transfer be done in keeping with the code of integrity all CIF member schools are charged to uphold."

Verbum Dei belongs to the Southern Section, but the complaint will be handled by the City Section, to which Westchester belongs. Under City Section procedures, the complaint will be sent to Westchester officials to investigate. Then it will be up to Barbara Fiege, commissioner of the City Section, to determine if further action needs to be taken.

The Westchester boys' basketball program could face sanctions if the allegation is proven because the Comets were on probation for an earlier rules violation at the time of the alleged infraction. Westchester is the two-time defending state Division I champion and has won four consecutive City championships.

Johnson is scheduled to make his debut playing for Westchester on Tuesday night in a first-round game at the Hawthorne tournament.

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