Covington mayor: Charges to be dropped against refs

Charges will be refused against two high school referees arrested at a Covington football game last week, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

At a news conference, Mayor Mike Cooper apologized to the officials, and said he apologies for how the incident between a Covington Police Department officer and the referees was handled. He requested that St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed drop the charges and he agreed to do so.

Head referee James Radcliffe and line judge Chris Gambino were arrested for public intimidation during Friday’s football game between Mandeville High School and St. Paul’s.

The Greater New Orleans High School Officials Association stood behind its officials, saying they would refuse to referee the remaining Covington games of the season if Covington police officers provided security.

Early reports indicated that the officials were arrested midway through the third quarter after an exchange of words that began between Gambino and a Covington police officer. The official reportedly wanted fans moved back from the sidelines. Radcliffe intervened and he too was arrested.

They were booked into the Covington jail and held until early the next morning, when they were released on bond.

After Friday’s game, then-interim Covington Police Chief Jack West defended the arresting officer’s actions, saying he acted appropriately based on witness and video accounts. Records show that the officer was Covington police Lt. Stephen Short, whose son plays for Mandeville High School.

A new chief for the Covington Police Department, Tim Lentz, was sworn in this week.

“To me it was a no brainer to do this,” said Lentz, who previously spent decades working for the St. Tammany Sheriff’s office. “We apologize with all our hearts for the events that took place Friday night. It should’ve been handled differently.”