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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'Tried, judged and sentenced'

Mahaffy of Friday Night Lights denied receiving any special treatment from Knapp.

He also said he has been treated unfairly by the city since being asked on Feb. 26 to pay the roughly $50,000 in field-use fees — $24,507.60 for last fall and $24,381.25 for this spring.

He told city officials he was never notified of the council's changes in June to the field-use policy, which knocked Friday Night Lights down from its top-tier Group 1 status.

He also said the city's field-use allocation rules contain a three-strikes policy that was never applied to him.

"It seems I was tried, judged and sentenced without my knowledge of any of this," Mahaffy wrote in a March 4 email to Hatch, city staff and the City Council.

In response, Hatch told the Daily Pilot that this particular instance was unique, and that the usual field allocation rules don't apply.

Mahaffy submitted an inaccurate letter, saying he did not get paid, Hatch contended, and thus, he also forfeited any benefit of the three-strikes policy.

When asked about his compensation, Mahaffy said that as of May 2013, he cumulatively made about $17,000, mostly in reimbursements and consulting work, from his three seasons of participation in Newport-Mesa's Friday Night Lights league.

He said he receives no compensation to operate the program.

"Working Friday Night Lights is a full-time job," Mahaffy said, "but it doesn't pay as a full-time job. It's a hobby."

He said his compensation since last May hasn't been calculated.

Mahaffy also told the parks commission last year, Hatch noted in the memo and confirmed in a follow-up interview, that he was paid $5 per player for additional growth and that some coaches are paid.

Hatch told the Pilot that he had reason to believe Mahaffy, his wife, or both, were being paid by the Orange County Youth Sports Assn., which runs the league. He pointed to the association's 2012 tax forms, which show another commissioner in Huntington Beach making more than $119,000 that year.

Hatch said that even if Mahaffy didn't make $119,000, it wouldn't matter.

"If he got $1, he's in violation of the policy," Hatch said. "I'm looking out for the public's money."

Mahaffy, a former Xerox Corp. executive, recently moved to Costa Mesa from Huntington Beach. He also works with other youth sports leagues, and said he earns income from investments and by selling sporting equipment online.

Newport-Mesa Friday Night Lights came to Costa Mesa in spring 2011 — the parent franchise started in Los Alamitos in 2006 — after the city dropped its flag football league. It has grown considerably since then, Mahaffy said, from 91 kids in 2011 to about 700 enrolled for this spring season, most of them from Costa Mesa.

Mahaffy said he runs a well-organized league that receives positive feedback.

Otherwise, "if we ran something poorly and we didn't do a good job, our numbers would reflect that," Mahaffy said. "Our numbers would go down."