Gary O’Toole, Whistleblower of Irish Swim Coach Monster George Gibney: ‘I Always Thought Peter Banks Knew Something and Said Nothing.’ Is Tampa’s Berkeley Preparatory School Still Listening to the Sound of Silence?

Published August 29th, 2018, Uncategorized

PREVIOUSLY:

“BREAKING: Peter Banks — Irish-American Swim Coach With Close Ties to Rapist Former Irish Olympic Coach George Gibney and to Questions About Gibney’s American Immigration — Surfaces at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida,” August 24, http://concussioninc.net/?p=13210

“Berkeley Prep School Headmaster Joseph Seivold and Athletic Director Bobby Reinhart Must Make Their New Hire Peter Banks Clear the Air Surrounding Any Association With Rapist Irish Olympic Swim Coach George Gibney’s U.S. Immigration,” August 26, http://concussioninc.net/?p=13214

 

 

by Irvin Muchnick

 

“I met Peter Banks on the poolside a few years back and he seemed rather coy and standoffish. I don’t know whether he was ever a party to George Gibney’s exploits. But I always thought he knew something and said nothing. Which, considering he was a mature adult, is disgusting.”

I featured the above quote in my previous piece on the latest twist in the quarter-century quest for justice for George Gibney, the most notorious at-large sexual abuser in global sports, and for accountability for the Irish and American swimming institutions that enabled and covered up for him.

But I named the speaker only as an Irish swimming source. His voice was too important to be buried in the middle of an article. So I’m repeating and highlighting the quote here.

The speaker is Gary O’Toole, Ireland’s most accomplished swimmer on the international scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

O’Toole — today a prominent orthopedic surgeon — also is one of the root heroes of the Gibney story. In December 1990, on a plane trip to an international meet, O’Toole sat next to swimmer, coach, and journalist Francis “Chalkie” White, who confided his abuse at Gibney’s hands decades earlier and asked O’Toole if anything similar had ever happened to him.

The answer to that question was no (though O’Toole did recall a creepy encounter once with Gibney on an American trip when he was very young, which did not culminate in anything more sinister after O’Toole verbally fended off the coach).

O’Toole set out to privately canvass Gibney’s former and current athletes and devise systems for them to report allegations of abuse to the national swimming association and to the Garda, the national police.

These efforts turned out to be too late to spare the 17-year-old girl who would be raped and impregnated by Gibney on a 1991 training trip to Tampa, Florida, by his Trojan club out of Newpark Comprehensive School in Dublin. But thanks to O’Toole, the cover-up did crumble.  Gibney lost his position as head coach of the Irish swim team, was indicted on 27 counts of illicit carnal knowledge of minors, and in the wake of a controversial technical ruling by the Irish Supreme Court that quashed these charges, fled to the U.S. on a diversity lottery visa.

Gibney is known to have held only one coaching position here, in the Denver suburb of Arvada, before a misconduct allegation there led to the exposure of his Irish past and an odyssey through various non-sports jobs in several states. He was last spotted residing in Altamonte Springs, just north of Orlando.

This year Concussion Inc. posed questions to Gibney’s former assistant coach and another former Irish national team coach, Peter Banks, who during at least his second tour of this country (where he had acquired citizenship and even served on U.S. Olympic team coaching staffs), was coaching for the Tampa-based Pipeline Swimming age-group program.

Earlier this month Pipeline’s owner, Rene Piper, parted ways with Banks and strongly suggested that the separation was prompted by our queries.

Banks immediately landed as an assistant at a private school, Berkeley Prep of Tampa, and the USA Swimming program, the Berkeley Barracudas, operating out of the school’s pool. And where things stand right now is that Berkeley Prep will not say whether the vetting process for this hire included questions about whether Banks, while on the staff of  John Leonard’s American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) during the period of Gibney’s migration, had any role in his 1990s visa or his hire by the North Jeffco club in Colorado.

It is useful to contrast Gary O’Toole’s powerful statement regarding Gibney and Banks with what ASCA chief Leonard has said, publicly and equivocally.

In a deposition in a civil lawsuit by a victim of abuse by an American swimming coach, Leonard was asked about Banks and Gibney. Leonard said, “When the George Gibney information hit the newspapers, I called Peter and said, ‘Peter, did you ever write a letter of support on this guy?’ and Peter said, ‘No.’” However, Leonard said he couldn’t recall when that conversation took place.

This year Leonard claimed to Craig Lord of the swimming news site Swim Vortex that he had documents exonerating himself and ASCA of suspicions that — in the words of a federal judge — the organization had “greased the wheels for Gibney’s relocation.” But Leonard did not produce these documents, and shortly after I pressed Lord for publication of them, he closed down Swim Vortex.

*****

Here is the status of requests for comment from Berkeley Preparatory School.

Headmaster Joseph W. Seivold does not have a listed email address and there has been no response to queries directed to him through Jeremy Canody, the school’s director of communications.

Canody and athletic director Bobby Reinhart issued this statement: “Berkeley Preparatory School’s number one priority is the emotional and physical safety of each child in our care. As we do with all employees, we executed a thorough background check on Mr. Banks, and spoke with references. We believe him to be an asset to our swimmers, and look forward to his work as one of the many assistant coaches in our program.”

Kim Lawless, director of community engagement, has not responded to an email.

The Reverend Brandon Peete, chaplain, has not responded to an email.

Sareet Majumdar, chairman of the board of trustees, has not responded to a fax sent to him at IC INTRACOM USA, INc., where he is president.

Other members of the Berkeley Prep board of trustees: Kristine M. Saltzer (vice chairman), Robert D. Gries, Jr. (secretary), Bennett H. Barrow (treasurer), Allison Casper Adams, Brad Allen, Robert D. Basham, Evan Brownstein, Suzanne Brownstein,, Alexis Ciesla, Adam Diasti, A. Gerald Divers, Scott Fink, Elizabeth Frazier, Monty L. Garside, Drew A. Graham, Matthew P. Hoffman, Hamilton E. Hunt Jr., Emily Kuhlman Ingerick, Jennifer L. Johnson, Jason Pithers, Amy S. Ross, Ed Safee, Mark Sakalosky, Janice Ferman Straske, John T. Touchton Jr., Andrew Wright

What does the Berkeley Preparatory School faculty have to say about the close-mouthed hire of Peter Banks — during the very moment when an Irish politician, Maureen O’Sullivan, is seeking to coordinate Irish and American law enforcement information on Gibney and facilitate his extradition back to Ireland for trial, and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, at O’Sullivan’s behest, has opened an investigation?

Concussion Inc. will get to that aspect of the story next.