A group of boys with Newport-Mesa Friday Night Lights, a flag football program, practice on a recent afternoon at the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / March 19, 2014)

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Hatch also wrote in the memo that a few days before Knapp's Jan. 31 resignation, Knapp had been placed on administrative leave "for work performance" unrelated to matters of field allocations.

Hatch wrote his memo in response to a Daily Pilot article about Knapp's resignation in which the departing administrator accused top city management of not following recreation policies.

In that article ["Playing hardball over softball," Feb. 12], Knapp told the Pilot that he had resigned from his position after senior city management decided to jettison a long-standing city softball league and two Group 1 organizations from using the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex on Friday nights. Replacing them was a private flag football program affiliated with former NFL player Matt Leinart.

Knapp argued that it was wrong for the Leinart program, a "Group 3," to displace the softball league and Group 1 users, and said the fact that his interpretation of the policy differed from that of city management partly led to his resignation.

Since Hatch issued his memo, Mahaffy has paid some of the fees and is working out other details, said city spokesman Bill Lobdell.

The program has paid $10,000 so far, in two $5,000 increments sent earlier this month.

"In the meantime," Lobdell added, Mahaffy is "going to meet with city staff to establish how much time he actually used during the fall season, and he'll be billed the balance."

In an email, Mahaffy confirmed that he is working with city staff to "come up with a satisfactory [payment] schedule for this disagreement, and hopefully it will be resolved in such a way that it does not impact the kids."

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Knapp responds to claims

In an interview, Knapp called Hatch's memo a "smear" attempt to use him as "a scapegoat for the poor decisions of others."

He also took issue with the memo's accuracy. For example, Hatch wrote that Knapp and Mahaffy were friends and former rowing partners at Orange Coast College years ago.

Knapp said he knew Mahaffy from his time at OCC, but denied having a close relationship with him since.

"For Tom to ... say that I made decisions on this based on a friendship is ludicrous," Knapp said. "The decisions we've made were based on the documents we received, not based on a personal relationship."

Knapp called the allegations "very disappointing, and I think it's a real true sign of the nature of leadership in our city."

"And I don't mean the council, I mean the fifth floor [of City Hall]," Knapp added, a reference to where the city's top management keeps offices.

Asked for a response regarding the statements about the city's leadership team, Hatch said he could not comment on the personnel-related contents in his confidential memo.

"I can say that I discovered that $48,800 in field fees had been improperly waived for the Friday Night Lights program, and we are now recovering that money," Hatch wrote in an email, adding, "I'm extremely proud of the city's recreation program — it's one of the core strengths of Costa Mesa."

Knapp said he would defend his year-and-a-half tenure at City Hall.

"You want to be somewhere where you can make a difference and do good work," he said. "I feel that most people in the community know I did good work, and that I'm a man of my word."